FEATURE: Saigon, Long Time Comin’
Patience is a virtue. Just ask Saigon. Beginning his career with a deafening buzz, the decorated Brooklyn MC has had to play the back for several years without ever releasing a debut album due to a record label tug 'o war and an unwillingness to conform to industry trends. Having stayed active on both the small screen and on the mixtape circuit, the Yardfather has managed to stay relevant to fickle hip-hop fans all the while promising to somehow, someway deliver the classic album that he’s promised. Now taking a backdoor approach to the industry, Sai is continuing to put out music with plans for much bigger endeavors in the wings. XXLMag.com spoke with Sai as he waxed about making an album in one day, ending beef with Joe Budden and opening his own ministry (yes, you read that right).
XXL: You just signed to Amalgam Digital this month and one week later put out an album you did in 24 hours called All In A Day’s Work. That’s hustle. How did it come about?
Saigon: I went to Statik [Selektah]’s studio in Brooklyn to do a joint for the Grand Theft Auto soundtrack that he was doing. You know how producers are, they see rappers and they just start playing beats. Next thing you know, we did like 4-5 songs and I’m like ‘yo, we got an EP right here.’ He was just like, ‘let’s keep going.’ The chemistry was there. We did it all in a day, so that’s [where the title came from.] The album is just an appetizer before the main course. It’s already like #4 on the rap charts on iTunes. It’s just a gift for the people who been waiting and been riding with me. I was just in my New York zone on it. Just something to let them know I’m still in it, still being creative and I’m going to deliver the album that I promised, but in the mean time here’s something to rock out to.
XXL: I heard you guys were hooking up to do another one-day record after this. Any truth to that?
Saigon: Yea, we were just talking about it last night. I was like we should do another one. Call it Another 48 like on some Nick Nolte/Eddie Murphy shit. Like, he’s white, I’m black, fuck it, Another 48. If we can do it, and the music comes out as good or better than the first one, I’m not against it.
XXL: You did your deal with Atlantic in ’04 and your album The Greatest Story Never Told has still yet to see the light. How does that effect you as an artist?
Saigon: It’s hard man. It’s almost like getting drafted to the NBA but never getting to play in the game. You on the bench and can’t show the coach what you got because you don’t get a chance to play. It gets frustrating, it gets disappointing, but at the same time, everything happens for a reason. The situation I was in, it wasn’t a good one. It took me longer to get out of the deal than it took me to get it. Once they give you some money, they feel like they own you. They feel like they bought you. That’s the dynamic of the industry right now. I got caught up in that period where they were going for only radio records. Hip-hop is based on radio songs now but hip-hop didn’t come from the radio. When I was coming up they only played hip-hop at night time. Especially being in the Warner system, that’s what they wanted. I mean, they wanted me to do a record with Pretty Ricky. Come on man, I ain't doing that shit.
XXL: So what kept you motivated during the slow motion?
Saigon: My love for the music. It’s seldom that I hear something and it motivates me. Especially now with everything being so gimmicky. Everything’s Auto-Tune or who has the tightest pants or who has the nicest shirt. What kept me going was traveling, going to Europe or China or Japan where they don’t speak English but they know every one of my songs. It’s bigger than just what we got going on in America.
XXL: You recently squashed the beef with your now label mate, Joe Budden, after a few heated tracks. What made you all dead the feud?
Saigon: Because we started to realize how fucking stupid we were looking. It was stupid. A crabs in a bucket mentality. Like, if we don’t like each other this much, why put on a show for the world? Either you get on the phone and talk about it, go somewhere and square up and shoot 5 minutes, put on the boxing gloves… If we got this much dislike and disrespect for each other, putting it on blast just doesn’t make sense. At the end of the day we looked dumb. Once I made a song, it was solely about hip-hop. It wasn’t about beef or whatever people perceived to be beef. And I think it was a good thing. I was never against squashing it. For the people who [didn’t understand squashing it], what would you rather happen, somebody die or some shit? Then they’d be like, ‘niggas is stupid. This shit is senseless.’ You can’t please these dumb motherfuckers. You still got people who think squashing it was some ‘sucker shit’. Come on man. People just wanna wake up and log onto a computer and see who did what, but if they were in the midst of the scuffle, they wouldn’t know what to do. Even when the whole Mobb Deep thing happened, people were like ‘why’d you run?’ What, was I supposed to stay there and die? It's 40 dudes trying to get me and I’m supposed to just stand there to make you happy?
XXL: So with you back in the spotlight releasing music, what else does this open up the lane for you to do?
Saigon: Producing. I produced the mixtape Warning Shots 2 that’s coming out this summer. I produced the first single off of it and just working with other artists. I’m getting my exec on. I’m not thinking like an artist in 2009. I just gotta find creative ways to stay ahead of the curve.
XXL: You made a lot of fans from your recurring role on HBO’s Entourage. Are more acting roles in your future?
Saigon: Oh yea, acting’s good right now. I just landed a role in a movie called The Spook Who Sat By The Door. It’s a big budget movie too. I think they start production in like may or June. It’s a small role but a big movie so it’s a good way to keep my face out there. I’m excited about it. Should be fun. I’ve been reading a bunch of scripts and the acting shit is fun but, I love music. That’ll still be first and foremost.
XXL: A lot of people just expect rappers to do a clothing line or get a label, but you think outside the box. Are there other things that you wanna do that people might not even expect?
Saigon: You know what I wanna do, and it might sound crazy but not in a religious way, but I want my own ministry. I wanna be like a Bishop Eddie Long but not talk about the bible, just talk about like righteousness and reality but in a non religious way so it's not like you have to be a Christian or be a this, you know? I really wanna talk and give seminars on a big level. It’s a lot of shit I been through in my life. A lot of shit I’ve seen from going to prison to being on the biggest hit show on TV. The difference is like heaven and hell. If you look at America right now, it’s like Sodom and Gomorrah, and I’m not even a religious person but if you look in the bible, you start thinking this shit might be real. It’s crazy. –Anthony Roberts