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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.

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