INTERVIEW PART 1
I feel wonderful, man. I feel good.
You just dropped The Return of tha Yardfather. Where does this mixtape stand against your others?
I think it’s right up there with all of them. If it’s not better than Abandoned Nation and The Yardfather Volumes 1 and 2, then it’s just as good as them. I got the important music on there and the fun music. It’s real hip-hop. If you don’t fuck with it then you’re just really not into rap like that.
I’m so proud of this mixtape. I got a bunch of other records that aren’t on the album that I might put out another mixtape before the album drops. Shouts out to Kay Slay and Clinton Sparks on this. This shit right here moves mountains. It’s worth whatever you’re spending on mixtapes. There’s no recycled beats. Scram Jones did the majority of the production.
Are you happy with how The Return of tha Yardfather came out?
I feel good about it. We had a lot of records lying around. The mixtape people have been waiting for it and a lot of the songs on there aren’t for my album. A lot of them are songs I’ve had laying around for years. A lot of the songs are three or four years-old. I’m just putting it out there for the people. It’s good music.
What are your goals for The Return of tha Yardfather mixtape?
I read a lot on the internet and a lot of people say, “What’s up with Saigon?” They say my buzz is gone. I could put out five mixtapes right now if I wanted to. My music is hard to digest. It takes longer to digest. A lot of times you have to keep beating people in the head with it. My music takes longer for people to get so I let them sit with it for awhile.
You quote 2Pac on “Desperado” and you mention him on “Dreamz.” How much of an influence is 2Pac in your life?
As a person, a lot. As an MC, not a lot. As a person, he stood for a lot. I appreciate what ‘Pac was trying to do. A lot of people don’t really study 2Pac and they try to judge him off of his music. ‘Pac was trying to be an activist and revolutionary. He died at 25. That’s very young so he never got to do a lot. But he had bigger goals than just being a thug and a gangster rapper. He was about the unification of people and I have to respect that.
‘Pac always talked about seeing an early death. You’ve also said things of that nature in the past. Do you still feel that way?
Of course I do because whenever you go against the establishment, that’s the ultimate sacrifice you might have to pay with. You’re going against the grain and they don’t want that. If you look at history and study history, anybody that went against the establishment died untimely somehow. You don’t be a real person that’s effective going against the establishment and the powers that be. You’re not going to last long. If somebody is doing that and I’m in power, I’m going to eradicate them if they get too much power. We have to remember that this isn’t our country. Like that dude Kramer said, 50 years ago they would be hanging us. That’s not that long ago. The average black person doesn’t realize where they are. All they care about is being entertained and Mike Tyson and Jay-Z and Beyonce’s personal life and the Super Bowl, the World Series or some new blockbuster movie and all this other entertainment shit. Nobody really focuses on real life anymore.
You’ve expressed your frustrations with the black masses in our past interviews.
That’s because we have a lot of power and we don’t know how to use that power. We have a lot of purchasing power. We spend a lot of money and none of it is channeled back into our community. We’re the only people that think like that. That’s some backwards shit. That doesn’t make sense. We’ve been here long enough to understand that if we want to have unity, we have to stop tearing each other down to be stronger. Look at the rap world. Everybody has beef and they’re like, I don’t like that nigga. If black people across America knew the concept of unity, we would be unstoppable. What we do with popular culture, trends and sports, all the things that we do and all the money that we generate, if we started using that for our own empowerment, we’d be off the hook.
But nobody’s teaching that. We’re not teaching our children that. We’re teaching our children to be gangbangers and Bloods and Crips and hustlers and you should try to hustle your way through life. When you were young, your mother would tell you a hustler is not what you want to be. The hustler was the nigga playing 3-card molly in front of your house trying to steal your money. They always told us not to grow up to be hustlers or pimps. Now we advocate that shit in our music like it’s cool. Everybody’s a hustler and a pimp and that shit was exactly the opposite of what we were taught as children.
Blacks in America are responsible for starting a lot of trends and “approving” certain trends before they are accepted in other areas. Looking at that, why are black people not in a great state today?
Because we as the masses have no leaders. There’s a bunch of sheep but there’s nobody to lead everyone where to go. You need a shepard. We don’t know where to turn. You have to have a leader. The most influential people we have are entertainers. We turn to entertainers for guidance. Look at what they tell us. They tell us to get money. If you ain’t got no money, you ain’t worth nothing. They tell you that money can get you a nicer car and a bigger house, but they don’t tell you what to really do after you get the money. Then what? It’s all about who you are as an individual.
Is this a cause you are willing to die for?
I’m willing to die to try to get people to wake up and understand that we have to have unity if we want a fair chance at a decent life. The reason why it’s so hard for us is because we don’t make demands and there’s no unity with black people at all. At all. There is none at all. If you go to any place and their schools are fucked up and things aren’t going right, they’re going to stand up on cars and say, “No! You have to fix this!”
We don’t do that. We come together when the police kill somebody or when a white guy says “nigger.” Meanwhile we overlook all the corruption going on in our neighborhoods. Now they’re saying rappers are going to stop saying the word “nigga” in their raps. Come on, man. Niggas need to get their shit together. We need to be more responsible as a people. I hate to say it but most black people are lames. Imagine if Nat Turner never took a stand and said, “Fuck that! I’m not going to fight.” Imagine if Harriet Tubman was a coward and never started the Underground Railroad. Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr. never stood up and had balls. You have to have some balls. Somebody’s got to have sine balls. Somebody’s got to step up.
People are like, You have to pay the ultimate price if you step up, so they’re shook. They got this perception of life that everybody has to get married and have kids and all that. I don’t believe that’s everybody’s destiny. I don’t have kids for a reason. I don’t want no kids. That way if I have to lose my life, it’s just me. If I have any kids, especially boys, I’m going to teach them to follow the same shit I’m doing and their life is probably going to get stopped short as well. You have to stand for something at one point in your life or you’re going to get old and die and nobody’s going to know that you ever even lived. The only people that are going to know you ever lived are going to be your friends and family. You’re going to mean nothing to the history of the timeline. You’re going to mean nothing. Nat Turner, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Tupac and Martin Luther King’s names live forever. We still talk about these people. They’re still in books. They get streets named after them. At least let me get that. At least let me get the Saigon Boulevard.
On “Dreamz” you also talk about wanting to be a boxer. Did you ever step into the ring?
I used to love fighting a lot. I never really did it technically with a trainer. I used to do it a lot in the street. I wanted to be a boxer. The way I used to get my shit off was picking fights and fighting at school and doing all that crazy shit.
You said in one of our past interviews that you were going to knock out a rapper as promo for The Greatest Story Never Told. Is there any chance of you knocking anybody out?
I don’t know. I already have rappers making diss records to me on MySpace. Don’t diss me and then smile when you meet me and try to shake my hand. If you’re going to make a diss record, be ready to fight me when you see me, point blank. Dudes are trying to get their name out there and they think the way in is to start dissing people. That’s wack. Get your bars up because nobody’s going to pay attention to you if you’re not popping. If you’re trying to use the next nigga’s hard work as a springboard to get your name out there, that’s wack and everybody’s going to see through that as a gimmick.
You also shout out Khalid El-Amin on “Dreamz.”
That was my dude on UCONN! I was in prison when they played Duke in the championship game (1999). I used to always root for him all through the years. He was chubby and he was the underdog. Niggas were like, He ain’t shit! I was like, Nah, I’m telling you, son, he’s official! Duke was smashing everybody that year and then they went got smashed by UCONN. I won like 20 packs of cigarettes off of that game. Shout out to Khalid El-Amin wherever he’s at. He’s probably playing overseas now.
“Saigon Sings the Blues” has a similar vibe to “Favorite Things.” Those songs both seem real simple at first listen, but they both have a lot of substance. Can you talk about the making of “Saigon Sings the Blues”?
That’s another one of my jazz songs. I made it with a melody that was familiar to people so they can grasp onto it easier. When you listen to the words, you can hear the shit. It’s a great melody, great lyrics and it’s catchy. I wanted to put it on my album but we’re having sample issues with it. It still might make the album. I don’t really know. I thought it would have been a good fit because my album is based around reality and that’s a real record. It’s definitely on the mixtape though.
“Don’t Do That” was the first real taste of you and Just Blaze together, because G. Rap was also on “The Letter P (Remix).” Are you happy with how “Don’t Do That” did?
People slept on that record so hard. That was a good song. We really did that for Entourage, but it was still a good song. I was not mad at “Don’t Do That” at all. It’s a good song and it’s on the mixtape as well. People can revisit that and see how good of a record it was. I listened to it the other day like, Damn, this shit is hot. We never really pushed it. It was solely for Entourage and we never really planned on pushing that. It’s nowhere near a taste of what me and Just got.
You’ve never been one to flood the market with your music or do interviews with every website and magazine. Is overexposure a concern of yours?
I look at it like this: In the music game, you’re only one song away from being important. You don’t really have to do too much because you’re only one dope record away from being important again. I don’t really mind making people wait as long as I’m actively doing something else that’s going to benefit my career. If I didn’t have Entourage, I would have been more nervous about coming out. I’m still in the current issues of XXL and The Source. I have a song on the radio in my home city and it’s about to go to video. It’s time to roll out the album.
The thing certain people don’t see is there is a certain structure to this music industry. People don’t think my shit is coming out, but this shit is like a comet. It’s going to smash the Earth. I really don’t think people know what I got. I don’t even think Just and them know the power of this shit. I don’t think Just and Hip Hop even understand how powerful this music we got is. I don’t think they’re getting it.
I go on the street and I got gangster niggas in Chicago, LA and Philly and they tell me that they need the shit I’m spitting. They tell me they need a balance and they need somebody to tell the other side of the story. They need somebody to let them know that shit is still real. If you listen to most artists, you would think that life was one big party and everybody was just fucking bad bitches. I’m here to tell them, “Look, put the guns down. Let’s come together. Let’s get our own schools and hospitals like the Jews. Let’s come together. All the power and influence we got as black people in this country and we don’t use it.”
That’s the thing I love about Hov. Jay-Z could start his own religion if he wanted to. Fuck his money. His influence is so strong. This dude could say, “Yo, it’s not hot to drink Cristal no more” and niggas don’t drink Cristal no more. Jay shut that shit down. I know their stock is fucked up. When you went to clubs, you used to see yellow bottles everywhere. You don’t see that anymore. He made everybody rip up their throwback jerseys. Niggas were paying $400 to $500 for throwback jerseys and now they’re just taking up space in closets. Jay came and said, “That throwback shit isn’t cool anymore.” When you have that kind of influence, you can do a whole lot of shit. Fuck money. That influence is power.
Do you see yourself having that kind of influence one day?
No, because they’ll have to kill me because I’m going to use my shit on some “let’s take over this shit.” Fuck taking over, let’s get our shit right. Our shit ain’t right. Black people in America, the ones that got money think they’re better than the ones in the hood. Black people in this country are so powerful. We were the third people here. There were the Native Americans, the white people came and then they came and got us.
If you go to the black community, you’re going to see ten Chinese restaurants, you’re going to see the Arabs’ Kennedy Fried Chicken spots and you’re going to see the Dominican nail shops. You’re not going to see hardly any black-owned businesses. If you see any, it’s probably the Jamaicans or Haitians. African-Americans don’t own shit in our own communities. That makes no sense. We tear down our own communities. We’re like a cancer to ourselves.
Look at Magic Johnson and his movie theaters. What the fuck is a movie theater? We’re too entertained. He needs to open up a school. We need more jobs. Fuck a basketball center. You do that and you’re just teaching kids how to be basketball players. We both know that a motherfucker has a better chance of becoming a lawyer or doctor before you become a basketball player or movie star. All this entertainment is fucking us up in the first place. We’re too entertained. When Christmas comes, motherfuckers’ kids get a bunch of toys. If I have a child, I’m going to give him educational shit. I’m going to teach him that he has to work before he plays. It’s not the other way around. We feel like the foundation of life is to have fun and that’s not true.
Do you see yourself putting money back into black communities?
Hell yeah. I feel like if I’m going to be out there in the public’s eye, I’m going to lead by example. I can’t say one thing and do another. If I’m talking about building up the community, I can’t not do anything. I have to be active and be out there doing things. I can’t just talk it and not walk it. I don’t think people realize how fucked up things in the hood are.
I’m in Brooklyn, Newburg, Spring Valley and I see the mind-state of the ghetto and how fucked up people’s mentalities are. I see people pick a dime up off the floor and then I’m with rich niggas who spend $900 on one meal and think nothing of it, they just corporate-card it up, I’m like, I was just with a nigga yesterday who was scrapping up change. The person spending $900 on a meal could have fed that other person for three months off that money. It’s like, Damn, America’s crazy. Then you realize that part of the problem is that this is a capitalistic society. Shit is fucked up, man.
How are you with your money today?
My family, growing up, was super-poor. I don’t watch every penny. I was never good with money. I spend money loosely because I don’t value it that much. I don’t really know the value of money. I’m so simple. I grew up in prison. Nobody was making money in there. You don’t really care about money in there like that. At the same time, you don’t want to be so broke that you can’t pay your bills. I don’t penny-pinch but at the same time I don’t splurge. I’m right in the middle.
You were supposed to be on The Roots’ Game Theory album. What happened with that?
The beat that we had was a J.Dilla beat. Unfortunately Dilla passed away and the beat went on the Donuts album. ?uestlove said they weren’t going to use the song anymore because Dilla had put it on his album and it wasn’t right to use it. I wasn’t mad at that. It was cool. I love The Roots though. Black Thought is one of my favorite MC’s.
You were recently supposed to go on tour with Method Man and you pulled out of that and now you’re going on tour with Lupe Fiasco. Was that a good move?
That goes with the record label not really knowing what’s good. All they see is what’s current. Method Man was the biggest artist in the Wu-Tang Clan. Wu-Tang has a huge tour following. They pack arenas. I thought it was a good look for me to be on a tour with Method Man. I did one of the dates.
Another reason I didn’t do it was because the money was funny and it didn’t make sense to spend so much. The label would have had to pay $100 grand to keep us out on the road. It was good promotion but what was I promoting? I didn’t even have the single out. Tours are strategic. You go on tour to promote something. I couldn’t promote an album that didn’t have a street date.
I’ve never had a street date for my album. Atlantic Records never heard my album. They don’t even know what I got. Just heard it and Hip Hop heard it. Craig and Julie and Kevin Liles haven’t heard my album yet. That’s another reason why they’re not so gung-ho in promoting me right now. They don’t know if I got a dud or The Greatest Story Never Told. They might say, “Hell no. We don’t want to put that out.” That’s a possibility. They may also say, “This is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Let’s put the whole building behind it.” I don’t know. These are things I don’t know.
“2 Hour Banger” was finally officially released on The Molemen’s Killing Fields album. Do you still love that song as much as you did when you made it three years ago?
That’s timeless music. I’m telling you, it’s still hotter than most niggas’ new shit. People come up to me and tell me that’s their favorite song. Same with “The Letter P.” Those songs are still hotter than most of the shit that’s come out in the past three years. I got a lot of songs like that. Wait until you hear my album. People can say a lot of things about me, but one thing they can’t say is that my album is not great. They’re not going to be able to deny it. Musically, Just Blaze came with it. I came with it lyrically. It’s undeniable. It’s like a nigga saying he doesn’t like pizza. They’re like one out of a gazillion people saying, “I don’t like pizza.”
What is it about your music that gives it that timeless feel?
I think it’s just because it’s from the heart. I don’t want to sound cliché or nothing, but I make my music from the heart. I don’t sit down with a pad and a pen and think about what people want to hear. I think about what I’m going through and what’s happening in my life and with life, period. That’s what I do.
My single is called “Chillyboom.” The reggae artist Baby Cham is on it. I was thinking about how I could get out there without compromising myself. I was like, I’m going to write a fun song and make a song about digging broads out because I like that. It’s kinda like for all the girls that like rough sex. You have to spoon-feed the people. They’re not ready for me to come out with a bunch of “Pain In My Life”-type songs and a bunch of real records just yet. I’ll just be like a bunch of other good artists who never got a chance to break past that level. I think I could be more effective if I do it this way. Trust me, I know how to walk the thin line without compromising my message and compromising what I’m trying to get across. That’s what a lot of artists can’t do. They want to tell real shit but they don’t know how to make the other kind of records that appeal to the masses without totally selling their ass and selling out.
Sickamore made some comments in his XXL blog about not knowing what’s going on with your project. What did he mean with those comments?
That’s because Sickamore kept on telling me to leak songs and I kept on telling him I was good. He said we needed something out there but he knows we have a lot of records. He’s a DJ and he knows we needed something out there. But Sick also knows we have records that are going to smash the world. Sick knows I have some of the best records I ever made in the stash. It’s not like I’m second-guessing my music. The reason why my music ain’t out is because I don’t want it out yet. My label never heard my album yet. I don’t even have a street date. My time is coming. Timing is everything. I knew Jay and Nas were coming out and I knew all this stuff was happening. If I would have come out before, nobody would be talking about me right now.
Is it ever hard holding your music back when you know you have hits?
No. It’s never hard because I know my music is timeless. I could put it out in ten years and people are going to understand it because it’s real. I’m not fantasizing and I’m not talking about the car that’s hot this year. If I rhyme about a Maybach and that car gets played out, then that rhyme is played out and it’s no good any more.
Click HERE to read Part 2 of Saigon’s HipHopGame interview.
Saigon’s The Return of tha Yardfather mixtape is available at http://mixunit.com