Producers: The New Rappers

Way before the hit-and-run sneak attack on Prodigy and snaking Turtle on Entourage, Saigon was one of my favorite underground rappers. With each Alchemist-produced banger he concocted, the one constant that stood out despite his label, legal and personal fuckery was his seemingly innate ear for picking out good beats. Teaming up with Just Blaze was akin to mixing chocolate and peanut butter together, and when he claimed that his debut long-player, The Greatest Story Never Told would be entirely produced by the in-demand beatsmith I thought it was the greatest combination since a producer from Texas linked up with a rapper from Boston.

We all know the story afterward: Sai would see his album, label situation and music career (complete with a quarrel with another artist suffering from similar setbacks, Joe Budden) pushed back farther than Jamie Foxx’ hairline, while Just Blaze would take an interest in a nomadic, highly talented, avant-garde emcee from New Orleans and seemingly falling back on Saigon the way everybody else did. With Just’s supposed departure my interest waned as well, as I’d now become enamored with his ethereal production style more than Saigon’s lyrical dexterity.

Eventually (miraculously?) Saigon managed to find a way out of the black hole of the music industry and will finally drop his years-delayed debut album a week from today (or – thanks to the Internets – now), with Just Blaze still in tow. I scooped up an “advance” copy late last night and, despite its age, it is one of the most sonically cohesive projects I’ve heard in a very long time. Just Blaze treated The Greatest Story Never Told in the same manner Pharrell and Chad did for Clipse’ Lord Willin’: attacking it with recklessly creative abandon, and the end results are aurally spectacular.

Saigon can rap, don’t get me wrong, but I’m solely listening to his album for Just Blaze’s soundscapes. Whereas some may listen to lyrics to evoke some sort of nostalgia-ridden memory, I get my throwbacks, energy and emotions from the backdrops surrounding the rapper’s vocals. Some may shit on current wunderkind Lex Luger for his beats that all sound the same [1], but suffice to say those elementary sounds are creating havoc in your local nudie bar, Al Bundy-style. As long as rap continues to change (whether it’s evolving or regressing is up for another debate), the sounds that surround its sound will always garner my attention.

[1] Lex Luger is the 2011 version of the 1998 Swizz Beatz. Quote me on that.

  • Sdot

    Great read man. These days I check for the producers as much as the rappers if not more. I remember back in the day, I’d listen to anything the Neptunes, Dilla, or Timbo put out. Even if it was with an NSync or Britney, you were almost guaranteed to catch a beat. Nowadays it’s more about Boi-1Da, Just Blaze, Ye, XV, but still the same thought.

  • Sadr

    Yup. I listen 4the beats mostly too. Best example is kno-death is silent. Nice shit with the music being the attraction.

  • Simple like ABC, 123

    [1] Lex Luger is the 2011 version of the 1998 Swizz Beatz. Quote me on that.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Yeah but Swizz Beatz > Lex Luger

    • Anthony

      @Simple like ABC, 123

      Your comparison is so damn true.

      Swizz Beats mediocre stuff is better than Lex Luger’s in my opinion.

  • ZANGIEF

    you got me with the Al Bundy reference… that’s my shit

  • Phil

    Sorry, I need BOTH. Fire in the booth and on the boards. If that was OJ the joo-man all over those beats, it would be unbuyable.

  • Anthony

    On the case of Just Blaze, he has some classic productions in his repertoire. I like the production he did for Jay-Z and Memphis Bleek, and this Saigon album sounds excellent so far. Great article Meka.

  • DIZZLEMAN SR

    I THINK LEX LUGER IS THE 2011 LIL JON. REMEMBER WHEN EVERYONE HAD TO HAVE A LIL JON BEAT?????

    • BuckBack

      FUCKING WORD. LEX LUGER- HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW.

  • mike j

    bro why are you writing in this flowery-ass language. alright bro we know you’re smart you don’t gotta try so hard.

  • aa

    he ain’t that smart. suffice IT to say.

    journalist.

  • http://www.bc-tw.blogspot.com bc-tw

    It’s a shame that people say writing in plain English is a “flowery-ass language” just because they cannot understand it. Log off the Web and read a fucking book!

  • http://streetscholar.net spoon

    Anyone else think its strange that the label Sai and Just were finally able to get their ish out on is Suburban Noize? It takes some punks (in the Sex Pistols sense) from the west to get this kind of quality hip hop released. Never been a fan of all the Kottonmouth Kings stuff but I give them respect for making this happen.

  • cmon son

    lex luger shit sound all the same. hottest new producer is araabmuzik

  • mutada mullah atari

    swizz changed his entire sound away from the Dame Grease clone tracks he did in 99, developed his own drum programming style, call and response ad-libs and style, went on to produce nearly all of Beyonces second album, became a super producer in his own right and bust nuts in A-Keys every night, here’s to Lex Lugers future, BTW – let the you kid live

  • marvin say

    I prefer the Rza,remember when he was in Gravediggaz?

  • KS

    I wouldn’t call Lex Luger a producer…he’s a beatmeaker. There is a difference. Yes the person who made the beat can also be the producer, however you can be the producer and not make the beat. distinguish between the two.

  • Ali P

    Alot of rappers are like that. They are so much better when they’re rapping over good instrumentals. There’s only a few artists out there who can kill it on any beat, just with their flow and lyrical ability. I’d say Jay Electronica is a good example, since his first mixtape Act I: The Pledge is to a movie soundtrack without any drums. But he still manages to stay relevant and interesting. Even his acapella raps catch my ear just because of the content that he talks about. I question more rappers than I’d like to on the idea that without a dope beat, would not be too great. Currensy is one of my favorite, but he’s being produced by Ski Beatz. I didn’t like any of the music he made with young money. Production was lame. But he sounds 100 times better when he’s backed up with beats that feature live instrumentals and samples. But then again that may just be his style. He’s a laid back guy with a calm style, he knows how to go in on beats like that.

    I find Lex Luger to be adding fire to the flame when it comes to trap music. It’s a personal opinion but unintelligent babble about drugs and violence is not needed in music. He has made some quality beats such as “See Me Now” for Kanye West, Beyonce, Charlie Wilson and Big Sean, but he usually is getting trigger happy with that horn effect.

    We should focus on more producers like Bink! and Exile. Although there are still alot of good mainstream producers such as Timbaland and Yeezy.

    All I’m saying is Producers are just as important – if not more sometimes – then the rappers themselves.

  • Scudm

    You’re just now getting into the music rather than the lyrics? This isn’t a new trend, you dumb shit. Producers have been putting out instrumental albums for years. There are already kids that go to shows to see these producers play their music without the MC’s.

    You’re WAAAAAY behind the times, especially if you’re just now getting into Blaze’s productions.

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    I appreciate knowing that he feels that way. Clearly that means he’s still actually listening to music.

    @RemiATL
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