Thursday, February 17, 2011

Album Review: "The Greatest Story Never Told" - Saigon (2011)


Saigon is like a better version of Papoose. The dude has been around forever and has been dominating the underground circuit for years, but due to numerous extenuating circumstances, he had been unable to drop a full-length album. The thing is, Saigon had essentially accomplished everything except finally drop an LP. He had dropped a ton of mixtapes, collaborated with countless big-name producers, been featured on a ridiculous amount of songs by other artists, and even made appearances on HBO's show, Entourage.

Due to all of that, you will generally not find a hip-hop fan who will deny that Saigon has ample talent. He has been the underground champ for what seems like centuries now, and his loyal followers had been salivating over the prospect of him actually, you know, releasing an album, for the same amount of time. At last, that time has come, as Saigon put out The Greatest Story Never Told in the second month of 2011.

Now, it's a common assumption that when an artist has his debut album delayed for this long, that the project will suck. However, Saigon did everything he could to avoid making such an assumption a reality on The Greatest Story Never Told, as 16 of the album's 18 songs were either fully produced or co-produced by the legendary Just Blaze. Also, one of the beats that wasn't made by Just Blaze was created by Kanye West, not to mention the fact that Buckwild co-produced one of the instrumentals with JB, appeasing even more rap fans worldwide.

So, given Saigon's pure rapping ability and the fact that he had one of the most renowned producers in the game behind him, The Greatest Story Never Told should ultimately be a success, right? Let's find out.


1. Station Identification (Intro)

Even though this "song" is two minutes and forty-three seconds long, it's nothing more than your typical run-of-the-mill album intro. Next.

2. The Invita Saigon
The first real song on the album contains the type of production that is tailor-made for Jay-Z, as Just Blaze drops a beat that sounds very similar to the one he made for Jay on "Public Service Announcement" off of The Black Album. What makes "The Invita Saigon" better, in my opinion, is the fact that Saigon is rapping over it instead of H.O.V. (not saying I hate Jay, but I just prefer Saigon by a significantly larger margin). Oh, and Q-Tip does the hook. Great way to kick things off.

3. C'mon Baby
Speaking of Jay-Z, he is featured on this cut, which, even though it was released all the way back in 2007, was actually the first single on The Greatest Story Never Told (I guess Saigon felt like he had to keep that Jay feature on there). The beat by Just Blaze is pretty damn effective, and Saigon kills it, actually managing to sound somewhat like H.O.V. (except, you know, better) in the process. Jay sounds pretty good over this, although it does seem like the instrumental drowns out his voice a bit. Swizz Beatz is present on this record, too, as he does his typical Swizzy thing on the hook. Good track.

4. War
This is just a skit.

5. Bring Me Down Pt. 2
Just Blaze and DJ Corbett team up to lace a real nice beat for Saigon on this song, but while the cut is solid for the most part, Saigon's attempt at utilizing the autotune on the hook really knocks this track down a couple of notches.

6. Enemies
This was, by far, the most boring song on the album. D. Allen and Just Blaze co-produced the beat, and I'm really hoping the former had a lot more to do with the actual production than JB, because the instrumental is just flat.

7. Friends
It's a real shame that this cut is under two minutes long, because everything about it, from Just Blaze's introspective beat to Saigon's heartfelt lyrics and perfect delivery, is just great.

8. The Greatest Story Never Told
The title track is definitely one of the best songs on the project. Just Blaze's beat bangs as Saigon explains what he raps for in a very precise and efficient manner. If you're not bobbing your head to this, then I don't know what to tell you.

9. Clap
"The Greatest Story Never Told" transitions into this cut very, very nicely, as the two songs are very similar in tone and actually sound somewhat alike (and that is to be expected when a single producer dominates most of the album). As much as I liked the prior track, though, I liked this one even more. The production is mind-numbing, and Saigon sounds incredibly comfortable over it. Faith Evans makes a guest appearance and adds a nice touch, as well. The only thing I didn't like about "Clap" is that while the actual rapping ends at the 3:10 mark, the beat continues for yet another three minutes with a bunch of adlibs from Faith and some preaching by a pastor over the last minute-and-a-half or so. I really hate it when the happens.

10. Preacher
Ah. Now I see why there was that little preaching interlude at the end of "Clap." That little nugget (if you can call it that) aside, this track sounds pretty damn good. Just Blaze utilizes a vocal sample that shouts "preacher" throughout the entire cut, and some pronounced drums provide a great backdrop for Saigon, who drops one of his catchier hooks on The Greatest Story Never Told on this.

11. It's Alright
This is the Kanye beat, and while I have never been a 'Ye fan (and I'm pretty sure I've made that known before, and if I haven't, well, now you know), he drops some heat for Saigon, who touches on various subjects, here. However, like "Clap," "It's Alright" runs much, much longer than it should have, as while the actual song finishes up at the 3:55 mark, it continues for another two minutes-plus with a hoard of adlibs from Saigon. I just find that whole concept stupid, and it occurs far too often on the album. Marsha Ambrosius is featured on this, by the way.

12. Believe It
"Believe It" was The Greatest Story Never Told's second single, and it is certainly one of its most commercial tracks, as it features more autotune from Saigon and a radio-friendly instrumental from Just Blaze. That said, the deep subject matter suits Saigon well, and the beat is engaging enough to keep me interested. Also, somehow, the autotune manages not to ruin this song.

13. Give It To Me
This is going to come as a complete shock to many, but this is my favorite song on the album. Yes, the lyrics are incredibly sleazy (it is a sex rap, in case you were wondering) and the beat (co-produced by Just Blaze and SC) is clearly built for the radio, but the overall product is just too damn good to diss. Also, Raheem DeVaughn drops what is easily the best hook on the project and, actually, one of the best hooks I've heard in a long while. Sick, sick track.

14. What The Lovers Do
It might not have been a very good idea to put two sex raps back-to-back, but here we are. In any case, "What The Lovers Do" is a bit "classier" than its predecessor (that's not to say it's devoid of crude content, though), and the Just Blaze and Red Spyda-laced production is much more subdued. Devin The Dude does the hook and sounds pretty effective in doing so.

15. Better Way
Just Blaze puts down one of those "full of meaning" beats for Saigon and guest artist Layzie Bone (of Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony) here, and both rappers oblige, as Saigon lays down some great bars and Layzie croons a very nice hook. This isn't one of my favorite songs on the album or anything, but it still works.

16. Oh Yeah (Our Babies)
I really, really dig this one. Saigon comes through with one of his most impressive lyrical forays in his illustrious career of lyrical mastery, and the Just Blaze and Buckwild-produced instrumental, particularly the vocal sample, something which I have always been a sucker for, is outstanding. This is certainly the track on The Greatest Story Never Told that I envision the good majority of hip-hop heads gravitating toward the most.

17. And The Winner Is
I found this record to be incredibly pointless, as it is merely a remix of "Enemies" (which I stated was, by far, the most boring song on the album) with a verse from Bun B (of UGK). Also, remember when I said that tracks carrying on for far too long was a running theme on this album? Well, it happens again here, as while the rapping stops at 3:05, the instrumental carries on for over three more minutes, and there aren't even any adlibs on it.

18. Too Long
DJ Corbett lays down a solid beat for Saigon and guest artist Black Thought on "Too Long," which, unsurprisingly, turned out to be a success, as both rappers capitalized on the nice production. Nice way to conclude the album.


Well, Saigon's long-awaited debut was a major success. The production is great, the choice of guest artists was mostly stellar, and the raps were on point, as expected. I wasn't sure whether or not Saigon knew how to construct a full-length project, as that has proved to be an issue for a lot of mixtape artists, but he clearly had no problems doing so on The Greatest Story Never Told.

Although 2011 looks like it could be a monster year in hip-hop if each scheduled release actually drops, I am fairly confident in saying that Saigon's debut will end up being a candidate for best album of the year; it's that good. There are very few weak points on the record, the most notable one being how Saigon lets a number of his songs run longer than they should, and that really isn't even that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

I also think The Greatest Story Never Told will have a much larger impact on the hip-hop landscape than it appears to on the surface, as it may provide a formula for mixtape artists trying to figure out exactly how to make it in the industry (think Papoose, for one). That said, not many rappers out there possess the type of pure talent that Saigon has, but I'm sure there are numerous underground artists out there that can match the competence of Saigon's first LP.

The Greatest Story Never Told did nothing but confirm the fact that Saigon is one of the better rappers in the game, especially when he is sticking to a particular topic. Saigon is able to wholly apply his ability and paint vivid pictures for his listeners when it comes to rhyming about deep subject matter.

Not only that, but Saigon was also able to reach all audiences at different points on this album, hitting the commercial circuit with tracks like like "C'mon Baby" and "Believe It" and touching on countless societal issues on most of the other records on the project for his fans that simply enjoy his raw style, not to mention a couple of love/sex raps (which almost every album really has to have).

Anyway, in wrapping things up, I will say that The Greatest Story Never Told was a pretty big surprise to me, as I never expected Saigon to come this strong after enduring that many delays. To take it a step further, I wasn't even sure Saigon was ever going to actually release an album period. Thankfully, he proved me (and all of his cynics that thought along the same wavelength) wrong. Very wrong.


1. Give It To Me
2. Clap
3. The Greatest Story Never Told
4. Oh Yeah (Our Babies)
5. C'mon Baby


And The Winner Is

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