It’s no secret that rapper [lastfm]Saigon[/lastfm] owes his fame in part to a four episode stint on HBO‘s Entourage, in which he played an artist struggling to get a record deal. Memory escapes me on whether the [lastfm]Saigon[/lastfm] on TV ever got his big break under Turtle’s management, but I remember assuming his non-televised hip hop career would skyrocket after his exposure during Entourage‘s peak seasons. However, all things [lastfm]Saigon[/lastfm] went quiet after his storyline wrapped, and, excluding a well received mixtape Warning Shots and street album Abandoned Nation, the hotly-tipped newcomer failed to capitalize on his time in the limelight. Close to six years later and with more delays under his belt than Heathrow during Christmas season, [lastfm]Saigon[/lastfm]‘s major label debut, The Greatest Story Never Told, finally gets its deserved release.
Just a glance at the linear notes proves the wait was worth it: both the production credits and guest list read like a “best of” for hip hop, featuring talent that defined both the 90s and 00s. [lastfm]Just Blaze[/lastfm], [lastfm]Kanye West[/lastfm], [lastfm]Buck Wild[/lastfm], and [lastfm]Red Spyda[/lastfm] share production responsibilities and span styles from crate-dug, soul-sampled beats (‘The Greatest Story Never Told’), to synth-heavy club bangers (‘Believe It’). [lastfm]Just Blaze[/lastfm], the leading producer on the record, waves the old school flag high in favor of the former aesthetic, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with his skill on the MPC. Another highlight of The Greatest Story Never Told is the occasional bit of comedy sprinkled throughout the interstitials and track outros that lighten the mood and keep you tuned in. ‘War’ features radio star Miss Info introducing a stereotype “white guy” discussing weekend plans to go sailing; ‘Preacher’ ends with a sample entreating listeners to “come on up so Jesus can put you on a payment plan.”
[lastfm]Saigon[/lastfm] is a native New Yorker, hailing from Brownsville, Brooklyn, and invites fellow NYC MCs to share the mic. The names speak louder than the content, however, as [lastfm]Q-Tip[/lastfm]‘s slick flow grows languid on the halftime feel of ‘The Invitation,’ and [lastfm]Jay-Z[/lastfm] offers a forgettable verse alongside [lastfm]Swizz Beats[/lastfm] on ‘Come On Baby.’ When it’s [lastfm]Faith Evans[/lastfm] and [lastfm]Black Thought[/lastfm]‘s turn, however, their contributions successfully complement their respective tracks. [lastfm]Faith Evans[/lastfm] catapaults the infectious ‘Clap’ from a bog-standard radio-friendly affair to a multi-faceted energizer jam. [lastfm]Black Thought[/lastfm] of [lastfm]The Roots[/lastfm] steals the pensive album closer, ‘Too Long,’ with some of the finest lyricism on the record. [lastfm]Saigon[/lastfm] shines when he’s unaccompanied: ‘Preacher’ couples the best beat on the LP with the Yardfather’s impressive enmanship, and ‘Enemies’ shows the versatility in his flow, sounding enough like underground legend [lastfm]Immortal Technique[/lastfm] I had to double-check the linears for his name. First single and album namesake, ‘The Greatest Story Never Told’ features another soul-chopped beat reminiscent of [lastfm]Jay-Z[/lastfm]‘s sound on American Gangster and a scratch solo that would make even [lastfm]DJ Premier[/lastfm] blush.
The Greatest Story Never Told is a grab-bag of hip hop styles, both past and present. The 16-track length makes listening through a bit tedious, but the stand-outs are so immediate it will take only a few skips to find the gems. Maybe the six-year wait was just long enough?
1. Station Identification (featuring Fatman Scoop)
2. The Invitation (featuring Q-Tip & Fatman Scoop)
3. Come On Baby (featuring Jay-Z & Swizz Beatz)
5. Bring Me Down Part 2
8. The Greatest Story Never Told
9. Clap (featuring Faith Evans)
10. Preacher (featuring Lee Fields & The Expressions)
11. It’s Alright (featuring Marsha Ambrosius)
12. Believe It
13. Give It To Me (featuring Raheem DeVaughn)
14. What The Lovers Do (featuring Devin the Dude)
15. Better Way (featuring Layzie Bone)
16. Oh Yeah (Our Babies)
17. And the Winner Is… (featuring Bun B)
18. Too Long (featuring Black Thought of The Roots)