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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. “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

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