Saigon: A New Beginning

What a difference a day makes. Before the release of his Statik Selektah produced album All In a Day’s Work, Saigon was one of

the many new school MCs struggling to fulfill their potential amidst label woes

and ever-changing consumer attitudes.

 

Over the past year, the Yardfather

tried everything from a dramatic MySpace retirement blog to a humorous, pro

wrestling-styled Youtube clip against rivals. But now

with a successful Top 5 debut on iTunes with his digital, one week promoted LP,

Saigon now has the attention back on what should matter most, his music.

 

 

AllHipHop.com:

Congratulations on the new project. Previously, the fastest I’ve ever heard

someone doing an LP was seven days with the Makaveli

album. What prompted you to come up with the idea to create a full album in

just 24 hours?

 

Saigon: It

actually wasn’t planned. I went to Statik Selektah’s studio which is like some basement in Brooklyn.

He called me to do a record for Grand Theft

Auto, so I thought I was just doing one record. After we did it he was like,

“Yo, I’m going to play some beats.” And every beat he

played sounded like a Saigon beat. I was like I’d destroy these so he said, “Let’s

do it.”

 

He doesn’t even have a booth in his s**t. The mic is literally standing right next to where he’s at with

the computer. So I just went in there, cracked a few bottles open, and I just

started to rap. I did like three songs and I’m like, “Yo

Statik these s**ts are

coming out kinda tough.” We get up to six and we can

do an EP. They were still coming out good. Once we got to eight he was like,

“We might as well do two more baby!” And we had the album and did the last two.

It was all in a day’s work.

 

AllHipHop.com:

You mentioned cracking open a few bottles. Was there anything else you did to

help keep your energy up? There’s no audible sign of fatigue on the LP.

 

Saigon: We did

cat naps but that was about it. The “yack” had me up.

And Statik’s energy, he’s all day, he’s a beast. His

work ethic is retarded. If it wasn’t for him saying let’s do another one

[constantly], I probably would’ve stopped after two or three. He’s was like, “C’mon,

c’mon, c’mon.” His energy was something new and fresh, and had a real Hip-Hop

sounding feel. I was like f**k it, let’s just keep going. People’s reception so

far is good. We were number four on iTunes on the Hip-Hop charts. I’m seeing

dudes whose real albums didn’t chart that well over their first two days.

AllHipHop.com:

What songs took the bulk of the time to complete over the full day?

 

Saigon: Probably

“Loser” and “I Warned You.” I didn’t like “I Warned You”,” the bonus track. I

tried a few times [on it] and was just like, “Yo I’m

not feeling it.” And Statik was like, “Yo, trust me!” We argued about it for mad long. So finally

when he mixed everything and sent me the product it sounded a little better. So

I told him if he wanted to put it out there it was cool. I really was against

it but now people like it.

 

AllHipHop.com:

Was your dislike due to the way the beat sounded or the overall structure of

the song?

 

Saigon: I didn’t

feel the structure. Everything else was like a marriage, [but] that one was

sounding a little forced at first. Everything else you knew right away that was

it. This one was like, “Ahh I don’t know.” Once I do

that too many times I scrap it. But nobody else wanted to scrap it, and was

saying it’s hot.

 

AllHipHop.com:

Last year you had posted a blog stating you were tired of the industry and

wanted to quit…

 

Saigon: Pulled a

Kid Cudi, baby! Or he pulled a Saigon really. [laughs]

 

AllHipHop.com: What

prompted you to change your mind?

 

Saigon: I was

stopping for all the wrong reasons. The record label politics drove me so

insane. I was trying to leave and they wouldn’t let me. I was like, “F**k it,

I’ll stop rapping, what will you do then?” The contract would be null and void,

anyway. But then I thought about how I didn’t come into this s**t for that. So

I’ll just ignore it and do what I love. I love to be creative and I love the

power of Hip-Hop. People don’t know how to use the power, but when it’s used

correctly we can reach the next generation with this s**t. It can send some motherf**kers to college and help

kids to make better decisions through this Hip-Hop music. We already teach them

how to dress and what’s cool. The power is incredible. I figure if I’m gonna be a part of it, I’ll add on instead of take away.

 

AllHipHop.com:

You admitted that before you felt foolish having to do some of those YouTube

promos, especially the one where you’re flexing…

 

Saigon: Yeah

[laughs], but I knew it would stir attention. Unfortunately we live in that

situation where it’s the music business, but the business is everything but the

music. I was putting out freestyles and dope records regularly, but people

would talk about it for a day and then that’s it. So when I do something

ignorant and act like a buffoon, it makes for great

conservation and then I’m all over people’s minds.

 

I knew that before I even put it out. I knew exactly what I

was doing flashing cars and money. Let me try some ignoramus s**t and watch me

attract the masses, and it worked. Since ’09 I’ve been taking swings. That was

my way back in quick and get people talking. That was what started the whole

Joe Budden beef. He lit a spark under me, I can’t

even lie. He got me back on. If I was a boxer I’d feel like I’m training again,

ready to go back out there and get some good fights.

 

AllHipHop.com:

You mentioned that it got you a lot of attention. But then you hit them with the

album that got the focus back on your skills…

 

Saigon: Exactly!

Yes.

 

AllHipHop.com: Do

you think you can put tactics like that behind you now, or does it need to be

pulled out occasionally?

 

Saigon: I don’t

like to play that card, but I will in a heartbeat. If I see it, [I’ma say] ok, it’s time for some buffoonery. Because I

learned a wise man can play the role of a fool but a fool cannot play the role

of a wise man. It’s easy to act like a f**king idiot.

For some reason the masses, especially Americans, have the tendency to

gravitate towards buffoonery. They love it.

 

Look at reality TV these days. All these girls are trying to

date one dude. She watch him kiss another b**ch right

there in front of you, wouldn’t you not want this n***a no more? No, you love

him more. But we sit around and are so entertained by this s**t, the same s**t

over and over because we’re so easily entertained. That’s why I’m like if I gotta dumb down my level of conscious to get people’s

attention, every now and then I gotta do it. But I do

it for a reason.

 

When I was in prison an old-timer told me if you put a

Playboy cover on the Bible more people would read it. He had a good point.

Remember dead prez’s video for “Hip-Hop?” At the

beginning there’s a fat ass walking. And then it goes, “Now that we got your

attention!” It’s like that it a nutshell.

 

AllHipHop.com:

Regarding Joe Budden, you surprised a lot of people

in the way you rallied towards the end of that battle. It earned you a lot of

respect. Throughout history, anytime there’s a good battle on a lyrical level

the MC involved develop a mutual respect even if they continue to not like each

other afterward. When you went through it with Budden,

did you develop that same respect?

 

Saigon: Yeah,

definitely! I never paid attention to his music or anyone else’s. I’d be in my

own world unless it’s the obvious like Jay and Nas.

When the whole s**t was going down it made me do a little bit of my history and

research and I came to find he’s extremely talented. I was oblivious to the

level of his talent. I’m man enough to say that s**t. He shocked and surprised

me.

 

AllHipHop.com:

Amalgam Digital was successful in promoting and releasing your album in just a

week. Do you see any benefit of going to a major again, or is that completely

dead for your career?

 

Saigon: For me to

go back to a major they would have to break the bank and back the money truck

up so much that it would be an offer I could not refuse. They want too much for

the little bit they give you. Nobody is gonna give

you a million dollar advance without feeling like they own you. The contracts

are like 82 pages, and the one we care about is how much am I getting paid?

What’s my advance? We don’t understand that it’s a loan, an advance on your

royalties, and the money you’re gonna

pay us back times 10!

 

Right now with these new 360 deals they want merchandising,

publishing, touring, all that! And [they want] a percentage of your record

royalties. So you’ll hardly make a dollar, especially with the climate of

record sales now. You’ll never make no money. I’d

rather build my fanbase and get my little 150,000

diehard fans that will keep supporting me. I’ll rock out with them. Then I’ll

gain more and more. The best form of promotion is word of mouth. You keep hearing

about something, it’ll arise your curiosity to check it out.

 

“When Kanye beat 50 in

that sales thing, Hip-Hop went all the way hipster. That pretty much put the

end to the gangster s**t. [The labels] were like, “Oh

he beat 50! Let’s sign a bunch of bootleg Kanyes!”

 

AllHipHop.com:

For years critics and fans have said that Hip-Hop albums would benefit more

from the one producer-one artist model. You’ve been one of the few to actually

put that theory into practice. What is your overall stance on this idea?

 

Saigon: I believe in the overall cohesiveness of an album. All the greatest albums aside from Illmatic and Ready To Die were overseen by one producer, like RZA with all the

Wu Tang albums, Premier with Gang Starr, and Dr. Dre

with Snoop. To have that cohesiveness on an album and not just bunch of

songs, you need that same guy to oversee the project. You get more bang out of an album like that. A lot of people just take 10

songs and throw them together and call it an album. One song don’t got nothing to do the other song, and them s**ts don’t last long.

 

AllHipHop.com:

You’ve always been a critic of the misogyny in Hip-Hop directed against

minority women and Black on Black violence. Do you see that changing in Hip-Hop

this year and beyond with the influx of a lot of alternative and avant-garde MCs?

 

Saigon: I see it

changing but I’m not sure how impactful that new sound [will be]. One thing I

don’t like about the new era of rap is that it’s almost too sensitive. A man

still has to be masculine to an extent. We have to differentiate men from

women. When you can’t do that no more, we have issues.

 

It doesn’t have anything to do with homosexuality. When men

go overboard with fashion and caring about how they look, how they dress, and

get manicures and pedicures, that’s a little overboard. What’s the next group

of young men going be like if all we have to look up to are these metrosexual men? Who’s going raise

the next generation of strong warriors? Because we’re going

to need warriors.

 

That’s what I hate about the marketing aspect of music. It’s

become more about marketing, gimmicks, and promotion then the actual music.

It’s more about [an artist’s] hairstyle and what he had on. It’s becoming like

Hollywood almost and it was never like that. Corporate America is sucking it

dry and they’re not going to let go until there’s nothing left in it. It’s up

to us to take back the music.

 

I like to use the analogy of slavery times. Before we were

taught how to read and write, we would communicate through drums. That was Hip-Hop

in its early stages before they realized they could promote, market and sell

it. Once it became corporate, all the artistic value in it became diluted.

 

AllHipHop.com: A

good example of your point would be De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. They were

considered alternative MCs but there was never any doubt about their manhood.

 

Saigon: Exactly!

Especially De La Soul because they did their thing but would be the first guys

to pound you out. People didn’t realize. They don’t come off as aggressive, but

they demanded your respect. So when a person can come off like that, I respect

it.

 

There’s got to be a balance in everything. It wasn’t just

all Native Tongue s**t. If you like more hardcore you still had your N.W.A, Eazy-E, and Kool G. Rap. It

wasn’t all one way or else. That’s what it’s become now. Ok, this is the in

thing, [and] everybody has to do it because it works.

 

Three, four years ago it was gangsta,

gangsta, gangsta. Now the gangsta sh*t is played out. You

come as a gangster no one wants to hear you. Again, when you’re dealing with

record companies they’re only going to focus on what’s working at the moment.

When Kanye beat 50 in that sales thing, Hip-Hop went

all the way hipster. That pretty much put the end to the gangster s**t. [The

labels] were like, “Oh he beat 50! Let’s sign a bunch

of bootleg Kanyes!”

 

AllHipHop.com:

Let’s talk about the song on the album you have called “The Reason.” You give

respect to the pioneers but also mention points where you feel they made career

mistakes. You referenced the song Rakim did with Jody

Watley [Ed.

Note: 1989’s “Friends”]….

 

Saigon: [sings] Frieeends

will let you down!

 

AllHipHop.com:

Good memory! When you look at this generation of Hip-Hop, especially in New

York, this is the first time where the older guard has yet to be pushed out by

the younger MCs. So, it is the older guard that is carrying the music. Do you

think this is due to label politics against the newer MCs?

 

Saigon:

Absolutely! They’re gonna milk it until it’s dry. If

you have an artist that you know will sell you at least a certain amount,

you’re always going to put him before a new guy you’re not sure of. That’s not

the smart thing, but that’s what they do. If you keep giving the same thing

over and over, where’s the change and growth? If a

f**king caterpillar never turned into a butterfly he’d be a furry f**king worm

his whole life. You got to evolve. They’re going to keep milking these artists

until they’re no longer any good to them. And then they’re going to say, “Oh s**t,

but f**k it we got our money.” They don’t care about the culture.

 

AllHipHop.com: If

you had to select a new generation of NY artists to take over for Nas and Jay, who would you select?

 

Saigon: I pick

me, then Tru Life. I feel he can lock down the Latin

market. He’s very dope. Even back to the Fat Boys, there’s always been a big

Latino presence. They’ve been there since the very beginning of Hip-Hop. He can

hold down the Fat Joe/Big Pun spot. I figure…hmmm…damn New York ain’t got that much to offer. I think Sha

Stimuli is dope and can get a spot. Maino would be

the goon, super goon. We need a fly, flashy motherf**ker to be the new Jay. There’s no one replacing him at the

moment. I like Uncle Murda. I’m

also liking this kid Nino Bless. I’m really liking

Jay Electronica even though he’s not from New York.  He’d definitely get a spot.

 

AllHipHop.com: Do

you think Hip-Hop has evolved, or rather devolved away from female MCs?

 

Saigon: Oh yeah,

the female element is lacking right now because it became all about sex. It

goes back to whole label thing with marketing. All the female rappers just

became sex symbols. They’ve become porn stars or strippers that rap. Back in

the day you had Nikki D, MC Lyte, these girls were

fully dressed and really rapping. Salt N’ Pepa was as

sexy as it was getting back then. And they were a really talented group.

 

The artistic part is suffering so much. That

why I’d like to see where it goes from here. When you can blatantly

copycat and bite somebody’s sh*t and get no flack for

it, that’s almost like snitching. Biting in Hip-hop was like snitching in the

gangster world. To call yourself a gangster and you are a snitch is like

calling yourself an MC and biting somebody’s style. There’s a sign on the door

no biting allowed. I can’t stress that enough. Remember “Ain’t

No Half-Steppin’?” [Recites] You have emcees coming out sounding so similar/It’s quite confusing for

you remember/The originator/And boy do I hate a /Perpetrator/But I’m much

greater.

 

You weren’t allowed to just bite somebody’s sh*t! Look how many people copied the auto-tune s**t. I

give T-Pain the credit because he was the only one doing it at the time, but now

it’s hard to get away from it. That’s called biting.

 

AllHipHop.com: Do

you have a set date when you’ll drop Warning

Shots 2?

 

Saigon: Warning Shots 2 is coming in late June,

early July. We’re going to start working the single a little bit more, and give

more of promotional push than this one got. There is a buying population for my

music so we’re going to start working the single in April and take it from

there.

 

AllHipHop.com:

Everyone should be aware that late last year you celebrated the birth of your

daughter. How has that affected the direction of your music and you as a

person?

 

Saigon: Man, that

had an affect on the way I’m taking my life. I’m 30 and I just had my first

child. My life is not mine anymore. For 30 years, my only responsibility was to

me. If I decided to jump off a building, sure my people would be sad, but there

was no one depending on me. Now I have that with this little girl. This little

girl is my whole world. Even the way I talk and treat women I have to be more

cognizant of now because I wouldn’t want anyone to treat my daughter that way.

 

AllHipHop.com:

Any final thoughts?

 

Saigon: I just want to thank AllHipHop

for the love for all these years. For years you’ve been riding for me. And for

everyone that put my joint in the Top 5 [on iTunes], thank you, thank you very much. The best is yet to come. Look for the

real album soon.

 

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