Warning Shots

Artist: SaigonTitle: Warning ShotsRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine

Saigon is the most hyped MC set to blow since 50 Cent’s bootleg banner year in 2002. The difference between the two may be experience and, of course, that critical Eminem endorsement. While Kanye has proclaimed himself as the link between Tribe and Jay, Saigon offers a new intersection of real Hip-Hop and street power. Saigon’s rhymes reflect a man who doesn’t accept the industry standards of the moment, but still keeps it very street. Warning Shots is NOT the album everyone is waiting for. That will come next year. What Warning Shots in fact is are the catch-up episodes to plug everyone outside of the loop into Saigon’s chokehold. Perhaps Saigon aspires for the same balance that the Geto Boys mastered: loved by all, feared by many, completely Hip-Hop. He may not deliver complete proof of this quality but this album reveals a man who is well on his way to vindication.

If it weren’t for the album’s mixtape structure, it might not have been able to recover from its lackluster beginning. Saigon provides pretentious sing-a-long Pop choruses to run of the mill lyrics, delivered like every rapper you meet at the bus stop. However, just about mid-way through the album, things start to make sense. Saigon shows himself as the man with potential to be accepted by Hip-Hop luminaries from yesteryear as well as new-jacks. “We Want In” is a fiery collaboration between Ali Vegas and Saigon, on how badly they want success. Ali Vegas, who was once in Saigon’s position, delivers an impressive verse, as does the Yardfather himself. Saigon’s shining moment of his unsigned career comes in the form of “Kiss the Babies.” This is a man with a solid flow, a new angle, and a bridge between street and poet. While Saigon does present his lyrics in the very common slow fashion, he shies away from the weaker cadences that plague radio rap right now. You’re more likely to be moved by what Saigon says, rather than how he says it. These impressive messages generally attack the status quo of Rap, and society. This is a great dosage of street consciousness in the vein of Tragedy Khadafi: great accusations of government mixed with a street savvy delivery. Saigon’s presentation comes in many forms. At times, he pushes too hard for club and radio efforts that aren’t working. After all, if they had, wouldn’t have Saigon been a national star by now?

The production on this album is a step better than expected for a mixtape or artist preview. There are original compositions from Alchemist (who provides some of his finest work as of late), Scram Jones, and EZ Elpee. The sounds of this album are a bit skewed towards the soul vocal sample trend (a la Kanye), but not completely over the top. Saigon never spits over a bad beat. However, many of the choruses water down the tracks. Other tracks are freestyles, jacked for beats.

In one of these freestyles (perhaps a little too good for the claim), Saigon attacks Lil’ Cease, Lil’ Mo, Lil’ Kim, and every Lil’ rapper out until he shows respect for M.O.P.’s Lil’ Fame. While that may win big with many Hip-Hoppers, it’s urged of Saigon to show and prove this more. On this sort of LP, he is just as much synonymous with Lil’ Cease as he is with Fame. Saigon’s aggression and fearless attacks are his best assets. With his words, he takes big risks…winning some. His tracks delve into resurrecting the “concept” track for the mainstream, another winning touch. All together, Saigon is a likeable character. Like Joe Buddens, he delivers himself as one part vulnerable rapper, one part unscrupulous gangster. That balance, along with his vision to shake things up will carry Saigon into 2005, and this album serves as the conversation piece.

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