FEATURE: Saigon, Switch My Style

As an underground artist, Saigon has bumped his head on a concrete ceiling. He’s done it all, from dropping classic mixtapes (Return of the Yardfather, Warning Shots), to signing to Atlantic Records, then briefly resigning from rap. He’s had reoccurring appearances on HBO’s Entourage under his belt, and even recorded a soulful, stellar album with Statik Selektah (All In A Day’s Work) earlier this year, in just 24 hours.

So how does Sai plan to plow his way through the tarmac? He’s taking a page from that Obama guy’s book, and making some changes. His first order of business: Collaborating with OJ Da Juiceman. Here, the Yardfather discusses fine-tuning his under-wraps masterpiece Greatest Story Never Told, and overhauling his sound for Warning Shots 2.

XXLMag.com: “Gotta Believe It” leaked over a year ago, yet you still decided to shoot a video for it, for Warning Shots 2. Does the track have a special significance to you?

Saigon: Yeah, I leaked it myself ‘cause we knew we had a hit. And the people all championed it. That record is the grandfather of [T.I’s] “Live Your Life” and [Maino’s] “All Of The Above,” because Just [Blaze] wrote all three, but my record was first. Maino’s did extremely well, T.I.’s did extremely well; my record never got a chance to come out until now, because I guess [Atlantic Records] didn’t see the vision… If we had seen eye-to-eye, my project would be double platinum right now.

XXL: Ah, the fabled Greatest Story Never Told. Whenever the album finally sees light of day, would you make any changes?

Saigon: I’d tweak it up a little. Probably one or two records I would take off. I did a song with Bun B I was going to put as a bonus cut; I’d probably put it as an original now. Going back and listening, this record could be so much better if we put Bun right here and put one with just me as the bonus cut. Probably shorten up the intro, the skit, and mess with the mixes a little bit. That’s probably about it. Other than that, it’s certified.

XXL: Would you consider dropping it on an indie label?

Saigon: Yeah, if I get the right finances behind it. Major labels have a lot of connections—where they come in [providing] the finances to get your music everywhere. These songs don’t play on the radio 1,000 times a week because the people are requesting it. Gone are the days where people championed something to where it blew up, and it’s sad because people don’t really have a say-so. We just gotta take what they give us.

XXL: Drake’s buzz seemed pretty organic. He was rocking Billboard charts without a label deal.

Saigon: I don’t know. Because it’s easy when you have a cosigner named Lil Wayne who’s on five songs on your mixtape, and he’s the hottest in the game. It’s almost like when G-Unit was hot. When G-Unit was at their peak, it was so much easier to accept Lloyd Banks and Young Buck, because they were the “it” thing. Not to take anything away from their talent, because they’re extremely talented, but now they’re seeing the struggle—how hard it is without that co-signature. Drake is talented, but he kind of got that easy. I never had that. I had to scratch and grind my way from the bottom. So I think 50’s buzz was more organic than anything we’ve seen recently.

XXL: Warning Shots was celebrated by fans, but with Warning Shots 2, you step outside of your comfort zone. Why choose to go in a different direction for the sequel?

Saigon: ‘Cause you know, the time is different. Music has changed a lot, hip-hop has changed, so I’m just trying to give people good music and stay on par to the times. But at the same time, stay in my lane so it don’t sound too crazy.

XXL: Was that difficult?

Saigon: Yeah, it was challenging, because I had to step outside of myself, sometimes. You gotta think about fans who love you for one thing, and if you’re going to piss them off. At the end of the day, it’s just me trying to grow as an artist, try different things and expand my fan base. I’m always going to make records like “Pain In My Life” that touch people’s hearts, and now I want to expand my level of talent and put myself to the test. See what I can do.

XXL: One interesting song is “Fatherhood (Rayne Dior),” a dedication to your daughter. There are not many positive portrayals of fathers in hip-hop.

Saigon: Yeah, it’s special to me because my daughter’s nine months [old]. She’s my first child and I just got a chance to shoot a video with her. I think it’ll be something great for her to see when she gets older. Because she’s my heart, she’s changed my life already. So I documented it so it’s here forever, so she’ll always have that reminder.

XXL: Longtime fans’s eyebrows collectively hit the ceiling when the Warning Shots 2 tracklist surfaced with “For Some Pussy” featuring OJ Da Juiceman.

Saigon: It’s just comical fun, man. You can’t be too serious because OJ, he’s going to lighten up the situation anyway. Down South, they like to have fun. That’s what I really like about the Southern markets. It’s serious, but you gotta enjoy your life. I wanted something on Warning Shots [2] for everybody, so I went and did a fun record. It’s not meant to be taken serious. Because if you take it too serious, you might be like, “this is the worst thing Saigon ever made.” But when you look at the fun aspect, you’re going to be like, “wow, this guy is a genius.” –John Kennedy

  • abdulnasir

    FIRST… I think Saigon is one of the most hardest (II) underappreciated artists out there. Loved his “favourite things” song on that D.J Envy mixtape 4rm ’04

  • AZ40

    Love his music, just hate that Just Blaze did the autotune thing I have fundamental differences with autotune…I hope he gets to put his album out I felt he shoulda been went indie when atlantic dropped the ball…He right about the drake shit and the fact that companies pay to have records and videos played and fans don’t have shit to do w/it, its a bunch of bullshit to think you calling and requesting something is even real

  • BeerGangsta

    Saigon shitted all on Joe Budden. When Joe heard the song. He had to call Saigon and say he was sorry. What a Bitch!! Starting beef and then crying like a Bitch in the long run. Saigon is Underratted! Lot of people in the other Coast don’t know who he is. He need to do songs with other Artist from the other Coast.

  • $ykotic/Don McCaine

    Good read. This might be Sai’s time right now.

  • mdb

    saigon is a moron, he says drake has it easy because he has the lil wayne co-sign, but 50′s buzz was more organic, even though he had eminem and dr. dre’s cosign

    • Enlightened

      MDB-

      I feel you. That was my first thought, but then I re-thought it. I think he means 50′s buzz before Em picked him up.

      He was buzzing pretty heavy off just his mixtapes. Remember as the story goes, Em was listening to those mixtapes, and Em even said in an interview back then 50 Cent is my favorite rapper right now – before he got in touch with him.

  • RDS

    Did Sai forget he had the joint with Jay-Z as a single? Even if it was remixed single, he can’t really speak about whether anyone else had anything easy. Don’t get me wrong, I like dude’s music. But the difference between Drake and Sai is Sai has really failed to maintain any moment to capitalize on ANY buzz he’s actually had.

  • Teddy

    wayne was on his songs because wayne and everyone else has been jockin him cos his talented as hell even if saigiddy had all the co signs drake did he still wouldnt be popping i mean he was on entourage had just blaze doing all his shit and jay on a lead single when jay was still hot proda which out weighs 5 weezy features easily its more like 40 weezy features to 1 jay feature from the back in the day jay

  • Teddy

    enough with the boo hoos already, get hot already

  • caino

    been waiting on his album for a long time now!! Cut the red tape and just release that shit already !

  • Technique

    I agree with about everything this dude said.

    Saigon is ill. He has been since he came out, and in my opinion, waaaayyy better than Drake ever thought of bein.

    Just my opinion though. i will 1000 % be gettin a copy of sai’s shit. (if it ever drops)

  • gavin m

    saigon’s a talented dude. only thing i wonder is whether his buzz is organic when he was on entourage before he was known by a large mass of people. just a question.

  • matty21

    “my project would be double plat. right now” ??? na, i don’t think so…always got sum kind of excuse or sum sht….i love saigon too n love how he won’t change for anyone else…and love how he talks about da problems going on everyday in the real world and in peoples lives, tough sht dat people go through everyday, he keeps it real…double plat. a lil’ crazy tho, i hope he was jus exaggeratin n doesn’t really think that, cuz if he does, he’s livin in a fantasy world 4real….and he needs to quit makin excuses n jus be great….also hate how dey put dat damn auto-tune on da chrous of his new single/video wit just blaze, dat jus ruins sht….can’t believe dey actually had da balls to put dat out after dey listen to it, its so obvious dey do that jus becuz it worked in da past n dey think its wat radio records/hit records are all about n its so not true….dat sht worked in da past n was da sht 4 a while, now move on n quit wit da gimmicks n followin da trends of da game(like jay-z said in his bout me interview)….dat single would b tyte too, cuz saigon kills it, but dat damn chourus comes on wit da fake ass, gimmick ass auto-tune n it ruins it….its like da auto-tune filled chourus is just screaminggg: no matter wat i say on dis chorus, its gonna be a hit record becuz of da auto-tune(soooo not true)…it seems like sum cats in da game think a hook dat goes “i scratch my balls all day n fall when i walk down the hallway” in auto-tune will be a automatic hit record….?? quit it pleaz, ur killin sht…let it be artistic naturally