Saigon | Greatest Story Never Told (Suburban Noize)

Saigon destroys all expectations by growing into a much more diverse artist, one capable of carrying an album.

High expectations can be a challenge for a musician when based off of buzz and not their previous work. In hip-hop, artists like Saigon can make a name for themselves with mixtapes, guest appearances, and stints on Entourage (playing themselves). But if this buzz isn’t followed up, it can be damning to a career.Even in 2007, Saigon’s first album was hotly anticipated. Sadly, that anticipation turned into apathy as all of the momentum Greatest Story Never Told accumulated was lost when it sat for four years on the shelf. It’s unfortunate that this album isn’t receiving more attention, because it surpasses the hype it originally built.
It has always been obvious that Saigon has talent. All it takes is one listen of “The Letter P,” where he outshines legend Kool G Rap, to know that. Of course, a lot of rappers with talent have failed to put it together into something more than hype. For every success story like Eminem, there are 20 stories like Canibus’—those of talented MCs who never quite put it together. Saigon destroys all expectations by growing into a much more diverse artist, one capable of carrying an album. That was in doubt from his mixtape appearances, and while he didn’t lose his edge, he did mature, and it shows.
At its best, Greatest Story Never Told is nearly perfect. This is the case with the first three songs, “The Invitation,” “Come On Baby,” and “Bring Me Down Part II.” The production is indicative of the overall sound, which is soulful with a lot of vocal backing, and lyrically, Saigon is outstanding. He especially holds his own on “Come On Baby” against Jay-Z, setting the tone for what the album delivers. He’s turned into an expert storyteller and one capable of displaying emotion, best shown on the title track. He says exactly what needs to be said about the album in his best vocal performance to date.
You can tell this album was produced almost entirely by Just Blaze. Besides featuring his signature sound, it oozes the quality he’s known for. The sound is cohesive, which is nearly impossible to do with the number of tone, content, and pace changes present. However, it works; nearly every beat is a standout and fits the track perfectly, particularly on another highlight, “Clap.” Really, if you didn’t know this album was almost four years old, there’s no way you could guess by listening to it.
The only complaint I have is one that many musicians don’t get; length can be a bad thing in music. While I appreciate that the mandatory hip-hop overabundance of skits is left out, at 18 tracks, Greatest Story Never Told is a bit long. When you combine that with the fact some of the songs are upwards of six minutes, it can be a bit tough to get all the way through and not skip anything. I’m not sure what I’d trim other than the length of some of the songs, though, as it’s not an issue of quality.
Judging from the early sales of the album—only 16,000 in the first two weeks—this is going to be overlooked, and that’s a mistake. While not quite as diverse or groundbreaking as last year’s albums from Kanye West or Big Boi, it is firmly seated as a contender for hip-hop album of the year, regardless of what else comes out. Hopefully, the buzz about its quality will continue to grow until it gets the recognition it deserves. A | Brett Berliner
RIYL: The Clipse, Nas, Beanie Sigel

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