Watch What You Say
Who would’ve thought a simple blog could cause so much trouble? On June 1, Saigon posted a rant on his MySpace page expressing his frustrations with his label, Atlantic Records. With his long-awaited debut disc, The Greatest Story Never Told, sitting in limbo for three years, The Yardfather lashed out against the powers to be, claiming Atlantic didn’t have “the desire” to release his LP and the label was “belittled down to a home of ringtone making artists.” The source of Sai’s discontent stemmed from the politics surrounding his lead single, “Don’t Cha Baby.” The song was being held back by a sample clearance that was taking excessively long for Saigon’s comfort and he felt the label was just dragging their feet. Atlantic Records’ Co-President Craig Kallman allegedly took offense to Saigiddy’s comments as he was reportedly working to get the sample cleared personally. A few days later, super producer Just Blaze, who signed Saigon to his Fort Knocks Entertainment imprint in 2004, responded with his own MySpace blog, expressing his disappointment with Sai airing out the label’s dirty laundry in public. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the conflict deflated when Saigon posted yet another MySpace blog apologizing to Just for his actions. With so much drama surrounding him, XXLMag.com sat down with Saigon to discuss the fallout from his controversial blogs, signing with Violator and his new mixtape, Moral of the Story.
Did you know your MySpace blog would cause such a media frenzy?
Nah, hell no! I was actually answering the dudes who send me messages on MySpace. I get so many questions a day about, “What’s up with the album? How come it’s taking so long?” I figured I would just answer everybody [at once] instead of individually. I had no idea [it was gonna cause] all this shit.
In a way, though, this has to be somewhat beneficial for you because it’s created such a huge buzz.
Yeah, it definitely panned out to be a good thing. It let people know that we are still around. We haven’t put out any music, so a lot of people forgot I was still rappin’. It has its pros and cons. I would say it was more good than bad, actually. This shit was all about a sample that was holdin’ up the record that got cleared since then. That happened, actually, yesterday [June 20]. So things are actually going into motion.
Do you feel coming out publicly like that helped speed up the process?
I don’t know if it was a coincidence, because we had been waiting for a while for the sample to clear. I wouldn’t encourage somebody who’s having an issue with their company to go public with it right away. That can really backfire and lot of times you can offend people. Luckily I’m cool with Craig Kallman. Me and him spoke on the phone and there’s no hard feelings. I respect Atlantic Records and their legacy, but my situation, at the time, could’ve been handled better. I know they got a lot going on, there are so many artists up there, but I felt like I [was] being overlooked. So we got back on the same page. When things get hectic you lose sight of things. But I would never encourage an artist to take that route and lash out at their company. You should go internal first.
Sounds like a total contradiction from what you did. Was this a chess game between you and Atlantic?
It’s become like a chess move, but that’s not why I did it. I didn’t do it like, “Okay, if I do this, then they gonna move.” I did that shit out of pure frustration. I ain’t gonna front, right after I did it and I seen everybody talkin’ about it, I was like, “Ahh, I fucked up.” I didn’t mean to cause all of this, but at the end of the end, me and Just are good—we were in the studio last night. I’m still good with everybody at the company. Now that everybody is aware that I was that frustrated enough to do that, they’re more prone to move like, “Okay, at least give this guy a fair shot. If we believe in this project like we tellin’ him, let’s show him.”
In your last blog, you apologized to Just Blaze. Did you feel you owed him that?
I apologized for not calling him, for putting it out in the public eye. I felt like, us being friends and being cool, I owed him enough to give him a phone call, because I didn’t even bother to call him and ask him what’s up [first]. We cool. This isn’t just a dude who I make music with. Over the past few years, we established a friendship. So I felt like I owed him more than just airing our dirty laundry out in the public eye. That’s the only reason why I apologized on MySpace. I did that for a reason. If I can sit here and put my personal qualms with you out to the world, then I’m man enough to apologize in front of the world. It’s funny how the negative went further than the positive. I don’t see everywhere that I made amends with him, but it’s all good. That’s just the media. They feed off the negativity. But me and son are good. That’s my boy.
What about your standing with the top brass up at Atlantic?
I was just speaking what I felt—I felt like my situation was being overlooked a lot. I might have been wrong, I might have been right, but we’ll see. I can’t really gauge Atlantic Records until I put an album in their hand and they start to work it. So I can’t really gauge their commitment until we get to that stage of the album, because right now we’re still in the A&R process of creating the album.
So it’s definitely coming out this year?
It’s coming out this year. That’s definite. I already know that 100 percent.
You recently signed with Violator Management. How did that come about?
I was with this management company—The Firm—and they were so big that I ended up being a little fish in a big pond. They really didn’t care about street level hip-hop. Their only other clients in hip-hop was Snoop and Ice Cube. So an underground rapper who never put out an album before, who needs that hands-on nurturing, they weren’t there for that. They were based out in L.A. and I didn’t even have a day-to-day person out here in New York. I was pretty much managing myself for the past few years. I needed a switch, so I hollered at my attorney, who works close with Chris Lighty. I was like, “Can you get me a meeting with Chris?” So he hooked up the meeting and Chris actually heard a lot of my album. He came through and I played him six or seven songs and we spoke, I told him my vision, he told me what he brings to the table. We sat down and agreed to do it.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned so far being under Violator?
One thing I’ve learned about is managerial duties. I really didn’t understand that. A lot of things I was doing I didn’t need to be doing. I was pretty much a one-man everything. Now, I can focus on the art part of it instead of worrying about, “Oh, I gotta get this to the DJ, I gotta book my shows, I gotta call Green Lantern…” I was out working everybody but I realized I didn’t have to be. That’s where good management comes in. They take a load off your shoulders so you can go focus on your craft and get your music tighter. Me and Chris, this is brand new, but I already know that this dude is on point. He was around Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest, and for him to still be the most relevant manager in hip-hop today shows a lot. The proof is in the pudding.
What do you think it says about the state of East Coast hip-hop when talented artists such as yourself are sitting on the shelf?
It’s the climate of the rap game. These labels want the instant money. A lot of money is on ringtones now. They are like, “Give us the catchy hook so we can sell ringtones.” That’s what they’re gravitating towards. In the long run, an artist who is really into his art is going to make you more money but they don’t look at the long haul. A lot of these DJs feel like they have to play what’s popular to keep their job instead of doing what a DJ used to do and break records. It’s like hip-hop is being simplified across the board. But I think my album is going to be the changing of the guard. I really believe that in my heart. That might be what’s takin’ my shit so long, but the reward at the end is going to be well worth the little stagnation.
Tell us about your new mixtape, Moral of the Story.
Moral of the Story is coming out next month. I’m trying to put it out on my birthday—July 13. It’s gonna prepare people for what my album is gonna be like. It’s gonna be my best mixtape by far. We gonna start leaking some of the Just Blaze shit because me and Just never put out a lot of music. We wanted to wait until now. When we start dropping these bombs, people are gonna be very aware that it’s a different situation going on. That’s why I kinda like the state of the music game because now I feel like I can be more impactful. I don’t see nobody standing in my way. If you know you’re a good fighter and they got you studying tape of a bunch of bums—a bunch of people you know you can knock out easily—you start lickin’ your chops. I’m gonna knock these bums out easily. Musically, lyrically, social commentary, all of that, I don’t see nothin’ out or nothin’ that’s came out in the past few years that really competes with what we’ve created.