Next Up: Saigon

HE DOES THIS FOR HIS CULTURE.

saigonnext.jpgSuccess in hip-hop isn’t always just about talent. More and more, it seems, an artist’s prospects rely on a marketable life story. In that light, Brian “Saigon” Carenard should be a sure bet for superstardom. With a degree in street pharmacology, a pair of attempted-murder charges and a seven-year prison sentence on his portfolio (all before he was old enough to legally drive), the 30-year-old New York lyricist has a background that most rappers would trade their six-figure advances for. But here’s the catch: That’s not the story he wants to sell.

“I’m not gonna exploit it,” says the reformed thug of his unseemly past. “Record companies market music to kids. If I’m knowing this, I’m not gonna give these kids a bunch of poison and not give them nothin’ good. If I’m telling you about being a gangsta, I also gotta give you the flip side of the coin.”

Saigon would much rather have fans and label execs focus on his rap résumé than on his rap sheet. Since emerging on the scene in 2001, he has released five heralded mixtapes, been co-signed by everyone from DJ Whoo Kid and Kay Slay to Mark Ronson and Jay-Z, and landed a recurring role as himself on HBO’s hit series Entourage. To top it all off, he’s been signed to superproducer Just Blaze’s Fort Knocks Entertainment imprint on Atlantic Records since 2004. “Everything I acquired up to this point is because of my music,” he says. “I’m not down with no crew. Nobody put me on. I carved my own niche.”

Not surprisingly, Sai’s sense of integrity doesn’t always jibe with the agenda of his record label. For instance, the first single off his long-awaited debut, The Greatest Story Never Told, was “Pain in My Life,” an emotional duet with singer Trey Songz that covers such topics as STDs, child-molesting priests and suicide. In an era of ringtones and catchy dances, the weighty record wasn’t exactly what Atlantic brass was looking for. “It was a big fight, because I believed in the record,” says Saigon. “But it’s the label’s money, and if they don’t feel like they can sell it, they don’t care about what I feel about my music as an art. They care about what we can sell.” The song came and went quietly late last year.

This summer, Saigon finally put the finishing touches on The Greatest Story Never Told, which he expects to have out by early ’08. Armed with a more commercial single, “Come On Baby,” and plans to reprise his role on the next season of Entourage, he believes if he keeps the focus on the music, all the hard work will pay off. “I just made an album for my art,” he says. “What you’re gonna hear from my album is honesty. You’re gonna hear the fact that I care about my people. You’re gonna hear the fact that I care about Black music and Black culture as a whole.”

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  • The Ficial

    Sai’s record will not sell. Not because he isn’t a good rapper (check “impeach the president”), but because he is unwilling to sellout.

  • Ali

    Coming December 4th 2007

    Cop that ish!

  • The General09

    Yo Dec 4th ya’ll need that album!!! I’m gettin like 8 copies

  • dshd86867

    Yo I’m gettin that album, dec 4th ya’ll need to get that album foreal

  • Killer Bee08

    I’m getting that album ya’ll niggas need to get that shit too dec 4th go get it!

  • Snakeyez

    He isn’t exactly knew too me I remember hearing him back in like I wanna say 99-2000 but he is definitely hot. I love everything I’ve heard for the most part. Come On Baby is crazy especially since I love Aerosmith, so we’ll just c how he does, good luck homie.

  • Famous

    Come on man. This site stays sacking this guy. What did Eskay call it? Keeping it Squirrely? That’s exactly what you dumbasses are doing. This waste of Just Blaze beats bitched on his myspace page about not having his cd released and guess what, that shit STILL hasn’t released. Just call it quits Brian. As for Anslem Samuel, Harris-Pub’s Hip Hop Media Messiah, what kind of first sentence is that? “Success in hip-hop isn’t always just about talent.” Dumbass comments like that get people shot. Hip hop is all about the talent. Maybe your dreds are tied a little too tight, dimwit

  • bpomes

    i dont think aerosmith is sampled on come on baby, its J. Geils Band “Southside Shuffle” YN posted streaming audio while ago… anyways i will be buying this album

  • Jordany

    Saigon is already in my opinion one of the greatest MC’s of all-time, i believe The Greatest Story Never Told will be one of the greatest albums of all-time.

  • Gamma

    TO The Ficial he’s not a good MC is that the only song you herd? listen to im in a mess or wake up that niggga got skillz rather if he sells or not he’s still hot!

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  • Kid Kash

    saiyo for real… the color purple hot shit…
    warning shots (the whole cd) hot shit… that track he did with every word starting with the same letter (i forget which one) but it was hot shit. saigon got them skills, but i agree with The Ficial… sad but true

  • FrenchyBlaq

    I don’t know if Sai will sell. all I know is I’m gon’ buy this album. Good Luck man, You’re gon’need it.