INTERVIEW PART 2
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A lot of people are expecting a classic in your debut album, The Greatest Story Never Told. Are you feeling that pressure?
Yeah. I feel it because it took so long. It’s been so long and people are waiting. I’ve never put out anything sub-par and I can’t do that now. I have one of, if not the, best producer in the world. We came up with something phenomenal. Just Blaze is a musical genius and I’m pretty good at what I do, so together we made that real shit. My shit is a classic, not just in hip-hop but musically. It’s a great piece of work.
How is The Greatest Story Never Told coming?
The album’s finished. We’re just starting the mixing this week. It’s real, real different. The album is solely from my heart. I didn’t go in there and say, “I want to make pop records and radio records.” I just went in and made the album from my heart.
Did you get the best from Just Blaze?
Absolutely. Me and Just, we recorded about 15 records. All of them would have made the album but we can only have a certain amount of records on the album. I think Atlantic only wants 14 or 15. They put a cap on you. I also got Kanye on there, Cocoa Chanelle, Buckwild did one, Red Spyda and Stevie E. Other than that, Just did the whole album. A lot of my favorite producers aren’t on the album right now because Just gave me so much heat. They have to come with something better for me to take something off. As of right now, Alchemist and Scram Jones didn’t make the album. Those are two of my favorite producers right now. Just has so much heat on there that they have to come with something better for me to take off one of these Just records. So far it hasn’t happened. I got one more session with Alchemist and one more with Scram Jones. If we can’t come up with something better, it’s looking like it’s going to be 90% Just.
Without giving away too much, what kind of production did you get from Just Blaze for The Greatest Story Never Told?
To me, I got some of Just Blaze’s best beats ever. He made beats that fit my style. He didn’t give me anything that I would sound fucked up over. Everything sounds good and everything fits well. It’s a beautiful thing.
At one point you said that Just Blaze might not even make the album. How has your relationship with Just Blaze grown over the past year and a half?
That’s absurd. That’s the man who signed me. How couldn’t he make my album? I was probably just mad when I said that. I don’t ever remember saying that, but whatever. The thing with Just is that he works at his own pace. He’s a superproducer and I like to work faster. He works a lot but he does so much. The dude’s phone doesn’t stop ringing. He has my project and he has to do his Just Blaze thing to keep his lights on. He works slower than I would like but his quality of music is so good that you forget you were mad at him. You don’t mind that you waited.
Are you on the same page now with Just?
Absolutely. I consider Just Blaze my friend, He’s a good dude and I want to congratulate my brother right now. He pretty much brought New York back. Jay’s album almost went 700,000 the first week. Just Blaze did both of those singles and he did new Puffy’s single. He has the best tracks on Game’s album. He has a lot going on and for him to be doing all that and still give me a 10-mic album, the dude is super-talented. Just Blaze is special. We’re so close that sometimes we fight like brothers and sometimes it’s all love. I wish him the best. The kid is not going anywhere. You can’t name another producer that’s as consistent and as on-point as Just Blaze in hip-hop right now, period. You just can’t.
You go back with Scram Jones to the Yardfather mixtape days. How do you feel about him not being on The Greatest Story Never Told?
It hurts. We did “Shot in the Booty” that was going to be on the album. We recorded more and more, but they got bumped because Just was coming with so much heat. Me and Scram weren’t working as much as we used to work. We used to bang out on a regular basis and do four or five songs a day. We didn’t have that many songs to choose from anymore. Me and Just did all those records and they came out fire. There’s other stuff that Just did that I can’t really use. I feel bad. I’m going to do a lot of albums and Scram and Alchemist are two of my favorite producers and I’m going to be working with them a lot in the future.
How did Scram take the news?
Scram understands the business side of this. At the end of the day, I’m trying to make the best album possible. All that personal shit goes to the side. It’s all about who’s coming with the best beats. It’s not about whose name is on the shit anymore. If they were bringing better beats than Just Blaze, then they would have more songs on the album than Just Blaze. I’m not being biased. I’m not picking all the songs. I got Hip Hop and Just and we all go in there and collectively say which songs are better and give reasons. The album is a body of work. A lot of people have wack albums because they just throw songs together. My album is The Greatest Story Never Told and each song fits into the other songs.
How have you grown as an artist working with Just Blaze?
I’ve grown a lot. He’s taught me a lot of shit. I understand song structure better now. There’s one song on my album that we argued for weeks about. He argued that I needed to shorten my verses. He showed me what he meant and I understood what he meant. Him, Hip Hop and Gee Roberson are geniuses. “Pain In My Life” was 100 bars straight with no hook. Gee Roberson was like, Nah, put a hook in it. I wrote it and then me and Trey put the hook in there. It’s little things like that that mean so much. Us together, we’re unstoppable. I need to find another name for my shit. It’s not hip-hop. It’s evolutionary music. We need to put on our thinking caps. We need to use our power and use our ideas for more than just making everybody else rich. Black people are like the oil in the engine of America. They can’t work without us. We’re so important to the economy. If black people went one week without using electricity or eating out, the stock market and economy would crash. You’re telling me we can’t get guns and drugs out of our community if we have all this power? You’re telling me we can’t have better living conditions? That doesn’t make sense.
From when you started, you’ve always made music your own way. How has it been getting input and opinions from Just Blaze and others involved in the project?
That was hard to adapt to. One of me and Just’s main problems was him telling me to change something that I really believed in. At the end of the day, I always do it, but it’s like, Yo, man, this is what I do and this is what I feel. This is what I feel is right. He was always like, Nah, you can do it like that. We go through that. I go through that with the label every day. They want to make their money and they invested in me. They’re not looking at if I’m going to have a career and if I’m going to change the world with my music. They don’t care about that. They look at it like, How are we going to get our money back? Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Lionel Ritchie were on Atlantic and they weren’t saying, “We need that catchy radio jingle.” They had it, but they didn’t have to say that. Marvin Gaye was putting out singles like “Mercy Mercy Me” and “What’s Going On?” They weren’t caring about things like “We need this to sell.”
They (the labels) tricked us. They got us feeling that if we sell anything under 100,000 records the first week, then we didn’t do well. Get the fuck out of here. I just made you a million dollars in one week and you’re going to treat me like I flopped? How the fuck didn’t I do well? They’ll make you feel like you flopped. Ready to Die sold 36,000 records its first week. That album went on to go multi-platinum. Same with Wu-Tang’s Enter the Wu. Now hip-hop is all about your first week. If you don’t sell out the first week, people will assume that your record didn’t do good. That shit is wack when fans are talking about Soundscan and BDS. When fans are talking about BDS, that’s when you know the music is fucked up.
Especially when kids know more about BDS than PE and A Tribe Called Quest.
Exactly, because back then it wasn’t really about that like it is now. It was, “Is the music hot?” You have to make classic music in order to stay in this game. M.O.P makes classic records and people are always going to give them a deal because they know what they can do. Not everybody is going to get $500 million like Jay-Z and 50 Cent. If that’s your goal when you get into this game, you got it all fucked up. You’re setting yourself up to fail. If you’re thinking you’re going to have a Mercedes and Maybach, you got it fucked up. What’s wrong with having a normal house and a normal car and taking care of your family? The diamonds and ice are only reality for a few people. I’m not in it for that.
What were your goals when you first started?
I love hip-hop. I grew up on hip-hop my whole life. My whole thing was to get a record deal. I was like, Damn, am I good enough to get a record deal? I wanted people to recognize me for being a dope MC. Then once I realized that I was touching a lot of people, I started caring more without being too preachy. I just wanted to kick some game. If I see shorty doing the wrong thing, I’m going to school him and tell him not to do that and that there’s consequences to what he’s doing. A lot of old dudes will put the battery in a kid’s back and tell him to go do something. I’m trying to tell shorty that if he does something stupid, there are going to be consequences. I just try to relay that in my music. I can’t fucking wait ‘til this album drops. I can’t wait because this shit is phenomenal.
Do you want any guest MC’s on The Greatest Story Never Told?
There is only one other rapper on the album. That’s the big homie. Everybody knows who the big homie is. I don’t have to say his name. Other rappers are doing hooks but I wrote them all, except the Cham one because that has like a reggae hook (“Chillyboom”). I got Q-Tip, Cham, Trey Songz, Fatman Scoop and Layzie Bone on the album too. I don’t sing. Sometimes you want a melodic chorus, so I’ll write the words to it and have somebody else sing it. This is a Saigon album.
Is there a reason Tru Life is not on The Greatest Story Never Told?
Tru is my brother from another mother, but it’s a scheduling thing. I’ve been working on this album for two years. There are times when I don’t even go to the studio for four or five months. The songs that I have on my album are pretty much the songs that I first recorded with Just Blaze. Then we just did songs here and there. The scheduling with him working on his album with Snoop and Jay and me working on my album, we just never got together in the studio with a beat. Every song we’ve done has been on the spot. It’s never been planned out.
You said you wanted Flavor Flav on your album in one of our past interviews. Do you still want him?
That was before Flavor of Love. I wanted Flavor Flav from Public Enemy.
How did that show change your perception of Flav?
It is what it is. Any way that these networks can exploit us for money, they’ll do it. We all have a price tag and we can all be bought, and if they can do it, they’ll do it. That’s black exploitation to me. So many people are into it because of the irony of it. Growing up in the ghetto, one of the most popular jokes was saying, “You look like Flavor Flav.” Now he’s a sex symbol. This is a dude who, by society’s standards, is an ugly dude. It’s the irony of it that makes it interesting.
I would call Flavor of Love, like a lot of hip-hop, a minstrel show. When these guys all look back, it’s going to look like blackface. Music is a weapon. Music is powerful. Music touches people’s hearts. Look at the radio. In urban radio, every top 10 record is an exploitation record. I don’t want to name any names, but go look at the top 10. Urban radio is different from Top 40 radio. Urban radio is targeted in the cities to black and Latinos. A lot of that stuff won’t get to the mainstream. It’s all just black exploitation to me.
You said Fatman Scoop is on the record. Does Saigon have club songs?
I don’t know. I can’t really say. There are records where people may say, “What the fuck is Saigon doing?” You have to be versatile as an artist and we are in the business of selling records. People might say, “This is not ‘The Letter P’ or ‘True Story.’” If you only make songs like that, you’re only going to have a lot of backpack fans. You won’t have any chicks as fans. If you can still be lyrical and make a happy-go-lucky record, you can have the best of both worlds like Jay-Z or Ludacris. I don’t have any “Money Maker” or “Show Me What You Got” records, but I do have some fun records.
What kind of power does The Greatest Story Never Told have?
Man, my album is crazy. Man. The power that my album has shows that you can make music from your heart and make it meaningful. I had everybody telling me not to put out “Pain in my Life” as my first look. Everybody told me not to put it out but I put it out. If you go to Hot97.com right now, my song is No. 19 on their playlist. That says a lot for a record like that to be there. I’m talking about safe sex and things of that nature. To get that many spins on that record shows me that you can still say something and that you don’t have to follow a formula to get played. A lot of artists should acknowledge that.
Ten years from now, will The Greatest Story Never Told be looked at as a classic?
Absolutely. It will absolutely be looked at as a classic. It’s the best hip-hop album ever.
That’s a big statement.
Yes it is, but I stick to that. It’s the most important record in rap, ever. I think I took it back to Edutainment and songs like “Slow Down” from Brand Nubian. That’s a classic song. Brand Nubian wasn’t caring about BDS. They were caring about a message. I’m proving that you can still make records like that. My rap sheet tells my story. I don’t have to get on records and remind people that I’m tough and that I’m hard. All you have to do is type my name in on the internet and my rap sheet will pop up on you. That tells my story. I don’t have to try to get street credibility because I got that shit. I got too much of it. I’ve been in the street doing dirt, shooting up shit, doing that shit my whole life. Any real nigga that’s done that shit doesn’t have to remind people that he’s hard. Did I mention that I was hard? That makes me not believe you.
Most artists who don’t get spins say things like, “People don’t listen to the lyrics.” Do you feel that way?
I think people listen to the lyrics in my songs. People say, “I love the message in that song (“Pain In My Life”). I love the fact that you talk about people dealing with pain.” They don’t talk about my beats. I don’t have the gimmicky hook on that record. Shout out to Kay Slay for telling me to put that one out and not to let it go to waste. I make timeless music. My music sticks to the ribs. That’s why I don’t put music out all the time. You got microwave rap and you got the good rap. The good rap stays with you for a long time. It’s not here today and gone tomorrow. People still talk about “Letter P” and “Stocking Cap” to this day. I still perform those songs. I have a lot of music and I don’t have to put out music all the time to maintain a buzz, which is a blessing.
When you’re not putting music out, fans are quick to say, “Saigon’s disappeared. He’s got no buzz.” How do you feel about that?
I read about that every day. My buzz right now is bigger than it’s ever been. I’m on HBO and I’m on the radio and I’m doing a Thank You, New York concert with Ludacris, Chris Brown and Akon. Come on, man. I’m the only one on that bill that’s never had a multi-platinum record or a huge song out. For me to be on that tells me that somebody’s acknowledging what I’m doing. You’re only one song away from a street buzz. It’s not like I fell off and I can’t rap anymore. If I put out one record, everybody will be back. Timing is everything. I just had to wait for the opportune time for me to come out. I think we, and I mean hip-hop, is starting to become relevant again.
All the buffoonery in this is getting out of control. People are starting to know. If we don’t sustain an artistic level in hip-hop, it’s going to go away and die like rock and roll. It’s not going to be that popular anymore because hip-hop fans are different. The labels try to target the music to the youth. They say it’s a youth thing. I wanted to do a song with K-Ci and JoJo and the label said no. I’m not Barney, motherfucker. I’m not rapping solely for kids. That’s why certain hip-hop artists can’t have long careers because the fans aren’t loyal like rock fans. U2 can tour the world whenever they want and the Rolling Stones can tour the world forever. In hip-hop you have artists who go five-times platinum and they can’t even go gold the next time. The fans forget about you. I’ve seen that happen.
Are you happy with the response to “Pain In My Life” so far?
Yeah. They (Atlantic) told me not to put “Pain In My Life” out at all. The people at the label said I was bugging. They didn’t want to shoot the video. Luckily Julie Greenwald at the label looked out. They let me shoot the video. We’re about to bring the video to the networks this week.
At any point were you hesitant to put out “Pain In My Life” as a single?
Yeah, because the label was like, We’ll give you one shot. If you ever give them a suggestion and it doesn’t work, you’re dead. They’ll be like, No, we listened to you last time and you fucked up. I feel like I made a good decision. If it didn’t work, my opinion wouldn’t be valid anymore, even though it’s my career. It worked and people respected it. It’s doing it’s thing. It’s not a top 40 song but we shot the video for it and we’re going to the networks this week for the video. For us to be added in New York City, that’s the biggest radio station in the world. Hot97 has the biggest audience than every other radio station across the country. For me to be added there says something because “Pain In My Life” is a great hip-hop record.
Were the stories in “Pain In My Life” true?
I saw what I saw when I heard the beat. They weren’t true stories. They were fictional, but it’s something that you see every day. You see young, promiscuous girls catching things and you never understand why some dudes are alkie’s. A kid can be molested by a relative or an authority figure and they never understand it. That’s why I put that song out first. No matter what I do after this, I want people to know that I do have a serious side and I am a serious artist. I don’t want to come out on a party record or some other shit. My man Memphis Bleek told me that Jay used to tell him that people are always going to remember you for your first song. It’s very hard to make a first impression a second time, so I was like, Fuck it. I wanted my first record to be a real record.
Are you happy with how the video for “Pain In My Life” came out?
I’m real happy with how the video came out. It’s hot. You can go on my MySpace and go behind the scenes and see the making of the video. Big shout out to Trey Songz for coming through. My man Abdul Malik Abbott shot the video. He shot a lot of Jay-Z videos. He did “Where I’m From” and the Streets is Watching DVD. He directed the movie State Property. He knows what he’s doing and the video came out hot. I can’t wait to see what it does. I think the video makes the song even better.
To tell you the truth, out of all the new albums coming out that I’ve heard, I personally think my mixtape is better than them. If I’m putting out this kind of heat, what type of heat am I holding for the album? We did it again on this one.
You’ve often described your music as being powerful and your pain translates great to your records. Is that something you had to work at or is that just a part of who you are?
That comes from being musically-inclined. I love music. I really love music. I like to translate the way I feel about everything in society in my songs. A lot of people have been through some shit. I’m not the only one who’s been to jail or lived a fucked up life. There are a lot of us out there. I just think I’m more in-tune sonically to the sound of music and what sounds good.
You said in a previous interview that you wanted to shoot a video for “The Color Purple.” Do you still want to do that?
Yeah, of course. I still want to do that. That’s one of the things that I feel like I have to do in this game. There are two things that I have to do, and that’s one of them because I feel like that song is timeless. As long as there’s Bloods and Crips, that song will be relevant. It will never get old. You will always need peace between black people. I talked about all gangs in that song. If you’re going to bang, bang for a reason.
I got a song with stic.man from dead prez on my new mixtape, and he said, “The O.G.’s say the gangs used to be about something.” Now it’s just like they’re throwing up gang signs and have a flag in their pocket but they’re not representing anything. What are they representing? Do they stand for unity or revolution? If you’re going to be a part of an organization, you’re supposed to stand for something. Every gang member that I’ve ever spoken to, they can’t really tell me anything. They’re always talking about their hood. They don’t even own anything there. They pay rent there. Are you ready to die for a street that you don’t even own anything on and you have a landlord who can come kick you out whenever he wants? I’m not dying over that.
You have the reputation for being a loose cannon. Has that hurt you on the industry side of the game?
Yeah. A lot of rappers don’t like me. A lot of people don’t like me. That’s what happens when you’re brutally honest. A lot of people say they want the truth, but when you give them the truth, they get mad. That’s just life. Nobody wants the truth.
Jay-Z has perfected relaying complex ideas in a simple way. Nas, on the other hand, can be really confusing at times. How do you walk the line of relaying complex ideas and making them so everyone can understand?
That’s what I think makes a great MC dope. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it and make people grasp it. If you can say things in a way that a person who’s not too bright can grasp, then you’re dope. Certain artists are hot for certain reasons. Big was hot for a reason. Big was clever and witty. He didn’t have the metaphors and punchlines, but it was straightforward and to the point. Then you have a Nas who’s going to be more introspective with his lyrics. He’s more of a rapper’s rapper. He knows how to do the average rap but he really excels at being complex. I think I got the happy medium in this. I can say things so people understand them. It’s like putting steak in a blender for a baby. You can’t give a baby steak. You have to chop it up.
The masses are slow, real talk. The masses are slow in what’s going on in life. They’re not abreast in politics and they’re living for each day. They’re like the cattle and the government is the shepard. It’s crazy. If you can turn on the television and see two men kissing, that’s crazy. You couldn’t see that when I was young. You can turn on the TV and see homosexuality like it’s the norm. Little kids see that and they’re like, Damn. It’s not rare to have two fathers at the PTA meeting nowadays or to have two mothers picking their kid up from school. That was a big deal when I grew up and I’m only talking ten years ago. Now it’s the norm for two men to have a family. What’s it going to be for the next generation? That’s why these got to be the last days. I can’t see society going on for another twenty years. Even with technology, where are we going to go past the internet? They got GPS on a person’s phone now and you can tell wherever they’re at if they have it. Ten years ago, that was unheard of. Just Blaze has a phone where you can see the person he’s talking to. That’s crazy. What’s next?
Have you received any negative feedback from homosexual groups for your comments?
No. It’s just the little gay dudes on the internet. I can tell which ones are fags because they’re like, Saigon is so homophobic. They ask, “Why are you so homophobic?” It’s not about being homophobic. It’s about right and wrong. If I see a person who’s barbaric and eats flesh, I’m going to say something. That’s not natural. I don’t care how many cannibalism groups say that it’s ok. It’s still not right. If I see something that’s not right, I’m going to speak on it. That’s my right as a human being. If I have opinions, I’m going to voice my opinions.
Another controversial topic you spoke on is organized religion. Have you received any negative feedback from “Preacher”?
No, but I’m sure I will when the record comes out. The record really hasn’t come out yet, but I’m sure I will (“Preacher” made one mixtape two years ago). What I said in “Preacher” is true. I talked to somebody the other day whose mother couldn’t go to church because she couldn’t pay her offering. When it gets to that point, it’s really like, What’s up with the money thing at church? You have people like Bishop Eddie Long and Creflo Dollar. Those dudes are millionaires and they don’t pay any taxes. You think rappers are getting paid, you should see these guys. It’s like, What’s going on here?
We as black people, we are very deeply rooted in religion from slavery and a lot of us don’t take time to question anything. One of the big things is you’re not supposed to question The Bible. You’re not supposed to say, “If it was only Adam and Eve, where did everybody else come from? Isn’t it incest? How did they keep on producing?” People overlook certain shit and they’re just like, It is what it is. The same book tells us incest is wrong. That shit is confusing. To me, that shit is a gimmick. It’s a characteristic of control. Religion is another method of control. It divides the masses and makes people think they’re different from one another. People could fall in love and never get married because they have different religions. That’s crazy.
Do you practice any religion?
I don’t practice no religion at all. Religion, to me, is a method to control people. If you can pit people against each other, they’ll be easier to control because the chances of them unifying are slim to none. I’m a spiritual person and I believe in a higher power and I believe in the laws of the universe. If you’re a positive person, I believe positive things will happen to you. I think if you’re a negative person, negative things will happen to you. I’m a righteous person. I believe there is a God and I believe He understand that I try to do more right than wrong. That’s what I believe.
You have a lot of white fans and a lot of those fans are at your shows. Is that ever an issue with you?
No. Public Enemy sold three million records with “Fight the Power” and that was clearly going against the government and the establishment. A lot of white people supported that and they know what’s going on. A lot of white people know what’s going on. They realize the reality of the situation of blacks in America. They’re down for what’s right. They know a lot of this shit is bullshit. When they see a rebel that takes a stand for what’s right, they’re right behind them. The thing is, a lot of these artists are cowards. They get so comfortable in their situation that they don’t use their voice for what it’s really for. The voice is for the struggle. It’s not about the bread you’re making. If you sold ten million records, we know you have money. You’d be an asshole to not have money. All right, we established the fact that you have money. What else are you putting out in the atmosphere? Music is power. This shit is powerful. You’re going to see. My mixtape alone is powerful. A lot of songs like “The Color Purple” and “True Story” go over people’s heads. I think I simplified this music enough for people to grasp it.
Omar Cruz, a rapper of Mexican and Colombian descent, wasn’t happy with how you were portraying Spanish gang members on The War Report. How do you feel about his comments?
He could take it however he wants to take it. I did that in a joking manner. If you watch the DVD, what I’m saying is, “Don’t wear a white t-shirt or a Mexican is going to shoot you.” That’s ignorance. Me talking in the tone I used, that’s me clowning. It’s a cliché Mexican accent. It was all in fun. I didn’t mean that personally to any Mexicans. They’re telling us that there’s a war going on with blacks and Mexicans and that they’re pulling up on black people and randomly shooting them on the highway. Do you think that’s going to prevent me from wearing a white t-shirt? That wasn’t nothing personal. I don’t know Omar Cruz and he can say whatever he wants, but in no way was that a racist gesture. It was all in fun.
If a Spanish dude did what you did with a black accent, would he receive negative feedback?
Hell no, because we’re all the same. A Mexican and a black dude are the same. We have the same problems. They kill each other like we kill each other. If they said, “What up, son?” that shit wouldn’t offend me. I know who I am. It’s almost like the word “nigger.” You have this dude Kramer who says the word and it’s all over the news. So the fuck what? There are so much bigger problems than that. What about genocide? What about the fact that nobody can account for all the guns being in our neighborhoods? What about the fact that so much cocaine is being snuck into the country? See how fucked up niggas are? If a white person says “nigger,” they lose their mind, but they don’t address what’s real. Thousands of people are dying from firearms that are too easily accessible. I have twenty friends that died from guns. I was counting it the other day. And so many people are concerned with the word “nigger.” There are a lot bigger things going on than somebody saying the word “nigger.”
Behind closed doors, black people always have white jokes and white people always have black jokes. It’s about how you treat me. You call your wife a “bitch” because you want to hurt her feelings. You don’t really mean that. Meanwhile, somebody’s saying, “Let’s cut this school budget.” Whether he’s saying the word “nigger” or not, I have an issue with him. I have an issue with who’s building these prisons up and who’s going to be sending my sons and nephews, when I have them, to jail. I have issues with the ones setting them up to fail. That’s the person who I have an issue with. “Nigger” is just a word.
You have to understand your history. We were brought here as slaves to make the economy work by picking cotton. You have to understand where you’re at. We just had Thanksgiving and you know about the science behind Thanksgiving. It’s like, Thanks for giving us your shit. They gave them blankets with smallpox and killed people off and took their land.
That’s what AIDS is. AIDS is population control. If you could fuck any girl you wanted to and not have to worry about anything, there would be a lot more babies being born. It would get out of control. They got this shit on smash. This is the most corrupt government ever. It’s worse than the Roman Empire. It’s worse than Osama bin Laden. It’s worse than Saddam Hussein. This is no joke.
Have you ever thought about leaving the United States?
Yeah. I think about that shit every day. I would love to live in Australia. I’ve been out there and I love it out there. I could live out there. They don’t have the bullshit that we have. They don’t have the guns out there. A fight broke out where we were at and I was like, We have to go. They were like, There’s no guns, mate. You don’t see that shit over there. I was like, If this shit was like my hood, a lot of my friends would be alive.
There’s been a lot of songs made about how no one uses their hands to fight anymore.
I know. That’s because dudes are cowards now. I used guns a lot when I was younger. It’s crazy, man. A real old-timer will tell you that you were a coward if you went to get a gun back in the day when somebody wanted to fight you with their fists. Now it’s like, I bust shots. I wasn’t going to let anybody beat me up so I was going to shoot them off the grid. That was when I was a kid. Now everybody has a gun. You have to have one to feel even. It’s crazy. Guns are for cowards, real talk. You know how assed-out the police would be if they didn’t have guns? They always front on niggas because they have guns and they have permission to pop our ass if we get out of line. That’s why they use the tone they use. The gun is the whole difference.
What is your solution to the gun problem?
That’s a huge problem. I can name twenty people I knew that died from guns. I can’t name twenty people that I knew that died from anything else. I can’t name twenty people that got stabbed to death and there are knives everywhere. It’s easier to point the gun and pull the trigger. Where’s the gun control? There’s supposed to be a war on drugs but I don’t see this war on drugs. I see crackheads every day. Where are they getting this crack from? Wait until people hear this Fatman Scoop song. That might be people’s favorite Saigon record.
Do you arm yourself today?
Nah. I don’t carry a gun. If I get caught with a gun, they’re going to lose me in the system. I don’t have enough money to keep me out of jail. A lot of the times there are guns around me, but I don’t carry a weapon because of my record. If I could, I probably would for my personal security. It’s not like before when I was out in the streets. I lived that lifestyle before and that got me nowhere but prison. I hurt myself and I hurt my family. Nothing good comes out of that. When these artists glorify that shit, it makes me sick because they’ve never had to deal with the harshness of that reality. They sing about it like it’s some good shit, but it’s not. It’s fucking stupid.
You had that run-in about nine months ago when some dudes tried to rob you. What’s your perspective on that incident today?
At the time, I was happy that I still had my jewelry because I had just gotten that chain. I was happy. The niggas tried to do some bullshit and I fucked them up. They caught the worst end of it. I realized I had to move more strategically. That was an instance where me not having a gun could have gotten me killed. I lost three pints of blood fucking with those dudes. Looking back, that was a warning and a sign that I have to move more carefully. I can’t be out there with $25 grand worth of jewelry on. People are still hungry and that’s a come-up for some people. It might not have even been personal. They had to eat and me wearing that was almost me rubbing it in their face.
That’s why I can’t understand why people buy into rappers telling them how much money they have and how much they spent at the club last night. This dude I know who’s just getting by was playing one artist’s record and I asked him if he downloaded it. He said, “No, I support.” I was like, Damn, he’s supporting somebody who’s got millions and he doesn’t have nothing. He needs the artist’s support more than the artist needs his. The rapper is good. He doesn’t need nothing. He didn’t need my man’s check. I’m sick of rappers telling me how great their life is. That’s not real music.
People like Jay, I look at his music like it’s more of a rags-to-riches story. He went from the Marcy projects to the Def Jam offices. When you hear his story, it’s not that bad to listen to because he does it so well. He doesn’t rub it in your face that he’s rich. He’s more like, Look what you could do. His shit is inspirational. Sometimes he goes in with it, but he does the shit so well. That’s his lane and that’s been his lane. When he says he’s a hustler, everybody says they’re a hustler.
How do you feel about Jay’s Kingdom Come?
It’s always going to be hard to top your best work. It’s definitely not his best album, but it’s not his worst album. When Jay had “What More Can I Say?” on The Black Album, I was thinking the same thing. What more can he say? What more can he say to keep the people interested when he’s said so much? I was like, How is Jay going to excite people this time around? He did it. He’s going to have the highest-selling album of the year and of his whole career. His promotion is crazy. He’s grinding like a new artist but on another level. He’s out there promoting himself crazy and he’s getting the results in the record sales. I like the records Just did on Kingdom Come. I like the “Lost Ones” record. I had to listen to the album because everybody was like, Jay fell off. Jay didn’t fall off, it’s just that they were expecting so much from somebody who’s so great. Anything less than fantastic and it’s like, It’s not fantastic. It’s like when Jordan came back, you expected him to drop 50 every game because it was Mike. You expect so much from Jay.
Do fans have some of those same expectations for you?
I’m not going to front. There is pressure on a lot of us. There is pressure on me to sell records and to make a dope album. There’s pressure on Just because it’s his first time ever executive-producing and overseeing a full album. There’s also pressure on Hip Hop and Gee because this is their first release under their label deal with Atlantic Records. This is a first for all of us. I’m going to do everything I can do to make it work. The music is already there. Now we just have to do all the other things we do to make the shit sell.
What is your relationship with Jay?
My relationship with Jay is cool. I really love him for signing my brother. Tru Life is my brother. He put my brother in a better position. I think I got my deal because of Jay-Z. A lot of people ask me why I say that. Jay went in public and said I was one of the hot young dudes coming out. That got a lot of people to pay attention to me and it probably helped get me the Entourage shit. This girl Dream Hampton introduced me to Jay and I played him some music. He called Hip Hop into the room and listened to my joints. I don’t even think Hip Hop liked the shit because he just walked right out, but it brought attention to me. Then Hip Hop ended up signing me. If Jay didn’t do that, who knows if Hip Hop would have even taken an interest in my shit.
You and Kool G. Rap have made some great music together. Are you still in touch with him?
Yeah. G. Rap is a good dude. We speak every now and then. I was supposed to get on his wife Ma Barker’s mixtape but my schedule was so hectic that I never got a chance to get on it. G. Rap is phenomenal. He’s still putting out good music.
Do you stay in contact with up-and-coming MC’s like Papoose and Maino?
Yeah. I’m cool with everybody. Me and Pap just got cool. We kept bumping into each other. Everybody thought we would have animosity for each other. He’s from Brooklyn and I grew up in Brooklyn for a large part of my life. It’s love. Kay Slay is my man and Pap works with him. There’s a lot of respect there. I’m cool with Jae Millz and Maino’s my nigga. I’m cool with everybody. I want to see everybody win. Tru is my brother and I want to see Tru win. His album is crazy.
That’s why I’m glad Jay came back. Jay added another five to ten years for this hip-hop shit. Those Budweiser commercials help all of us because now these big corporations will want to fuck with us. Plus they got money to burn. I’m glad Hov came back. I want to see everybody win. ’07 is going to be a good year because it’s put up or shut up time for all of us. Everybody that came up with me like Pap and Maino who have been brewing the past few years on the mixtapes, we have to come out this year. We have to. I can’t be most anticipated in ’08. I can’t be.
Tru Life and the Dipset have been going back and forth for awhile now. What do you think of that situation and will you get involved at some point?
These niggas know each other. I met Jim Jones through Tru. Anybody in the world who knows Tru knows that he is a stand-up nigga. For anybody to say they know him and act like he’s not a real nigga, they’re fronting. Tru is a 100% stand-up nigga. I stay out of it because I’m not with that rap bullshit. If I go on record and say, “I’m going to kill you” and then you end up dead, I incriminated myself. I’m not going to do that. As far as them disrespecting each other on wax, I’m not getting caught up in that. But if my brother ever needs me or calls me on some G shit, I’m right there by his side.
How much time do you spend on MySpace a day?
Not a lot. I just read the comments.
Does it ever surprise you how many friends you have on there?
I’m on the biggest TV show and most of that shit is Entourage people. The good thing about it is that they can see that I’m a real artist. A lot of people thought I wasn’t a real rapper. Now they can do a background check on me and see that I’m a real artist. That’s one thing about being on that show. It introduces me to a whole new demographic. A lot of people thought I was an actor playing a rapper.
No matter how big somebody like Babs ever gets, she’s always going to be remembered for being on MTV. Are you ever worried that some fans may not see past the Saigon on Entourage and take you seriously as an MC?
Nah. People are going to think what they want to think. I don’t think it was that big of a deal where it pigeonholed me because they were playing my real music on the show. It didn’t get to the point where it hurt me and I don’t think it’s going to confuse people. I think some people may just be in the store and see my CD and remember me from Entourage and get it. Just the fact that the name rings a bell in your head from something else is a good thing. I’d rather have it then not have it.
How much did HBO’s Entourage help you?
Entourage helped me a lot. I’m going to always find a way for me to keep my name in the public. That’s the thing I’m good at. I’m not just sitting around on my thumbs looking for something to do. I always keep myself on my toes. Entourage helped me out tremendously. It exposed me to a whole new demographic. Before Entourage, I was an underground mixtape rapper. Now I’m on red carpets with camera flashes in my face. People are like, I love your show, like I’m the creator of the shit. That’s another stepping stone to doing movies.
You left Turtle in Season 3. Are you being written off of Entourage?
The show is loosely based on reality. What happened is we kind of hit a brick wall in the show. I got a deal and the show caught up to my real life. I can’t blow up on the show and be a huge rapper and not have an album out in real life. That wouldn’t be a good look. They’ll be writing me in when my album is coming out. If my shit duds, they can write me in like I bricked. If my shit goes through the roof, they can talk about me being a platinum artist so the show stays current. They can’t have me blowing up on the show if I’m not blowing up in real life, and vice versa.
I didn’t even get into this game to be on Entourage. I got into this game to put out classic records. When my album drops, so many doors are going to open. I got so many endorsement deals on the table from Entourage. Entourage did way more than I expected. I was supposed to be on one episode and I got in two seasons. I overachieved. It kept me relevant. It kept me current and it exposed me to a whole new group of people. A lot of people downloaded my music after they saw me on the show. Whether they like me or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s phenomenal. I love them dudes for that.
How involved do you get in the writing of Entourage?
They’ll write it and then they’ll ask me if I’m comfortable with it. They let me improv and all that. I have some input.
You’ve talked about possible endorsement deals. Some rappers will endorse anything while others won’t endorse anything. How careful will you be when considering what products to endorse?
You have to be very careful. Perception is reality. I’m not going to be endorsing something that I wouldn’t particularly use unless it’s so much money that I can’t refuse to say no. I was in negotiations with Remy Martin but then I was like, Damn, would I want to do this shit and go and promote a liquor brand? I drink this shit, but I don’t want to make it seem like it’s cool. You have to find a happy medium where if you’re an adult, it’s ok to drink, but you do all things in moderation. You have to let people know to drink responsibly and not to drink and drive. There’s nothing wrong with alcohol in moderation. You just have to pick and choose. I wouldn’t endorse just anything. Certain things I would be like, Fuck them. Other things I might do. You have to keep your lights on at the end of the day.
What’s going on with your artists on Abandoned Nation?
I don’t like to call them my artists because we’re all family. It’s a group I put together in prison and these dudes are monsters on the mic. You should give me a Saigon Week on HipHopGame so you could hear this shit. Y’all are going to be like, This is the best shit in hip-hop. We have the hottest shit in hip-hop right now. For everybody talking about my buzz being dead, watch me revive my buzz in one week. I do it every year, but this time I’m not going to let up. I put out one mixtape a year but I put them out like albums. I’ve been out six years and I’ve put out four mixtapes. I’m one of the most relevant artists out. Back in the day, we had to wait for a new Jay verse. We couldn’t just go get a Jay mixtape. I came up in a different era. I would listen to Ice Cube shit for six months, not two or three weeks. People are still banging Warning Shots and that came out two years ago. This new mixtape, I’m not letting up because my album is coming at the top of the year. My single is called “Chillyboom” featuring Baby Cham. It’s crazy. It’s a New York club record. It’s not the typical Scott Storch song. You can tell when people are trying to make something authentic and that’s how it came out. I didn’t go in there saying, “Let me make a good club record. It just came out that way.
What are your plans for Atrocity?
These dudes are ready-ready. To me, Atrocity is on Pun’s level. He’s a Spanish kid. I told him, “I think you can fuck with Pun.” He said, “That’s saying a lot.” This dude has to be the illest Puerto Rican rapper in the world. He’s lyrically-inclined like a motherfucker. The kid is a beast. He’s a problem. Rough is a problem too. These dudes are hip-hop.
At this point, what do you have to do to get a release date from Atlantic?
All I have to do is play my album for Atlantic and I get a date. They said, “If you come in right now and play your album, you will get a date.” I’m so confident in my shit. I don’t care. The timing has to be right. The more shit I hear coming out, the more confident I am in what me and Just Blaze put together. We’re going to kill them. We’re going to crush them. I’m going to steal a lot of people’s fans on this go-round.
Are you making any sales goals for The Greatest Story Never Told?
Yeah. You have to do that. I’ll be happy with a gold record the first time out. If I go anything less than gold, I’ll be upset. I’ll be happy with a gold record. My label will look at me like I’m crazy because they shoot for the stars. There’s no formula for this shit. Who would have thought G-Unit would have sold so many records their first time out? You can have the biggest song in the country and not sell any records. The fans fuck with the artists and the fans have to fuck with you. Jay-Z is bigger than his music and people like him as a person. People make dope records, but the fans have to buy into them as artists and support their careers.
How involved will you be in the marketing of The Greatest Story Never Told?
Very involved. I am who I am. I’m a hard person to market because when you market someone, a lot of times they try to create an image. I am me. Of course if you want to sell something to the people, you have to market. They should just tell people that I’m Saigon and that I got a story to tell. As far as making me a certain way, you can’t do that. If you put yourself in a certain box, that’s how people will look at you forever. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But regardless of whether or not it works, you’re still stuck in this one box. If you do something else, people will say, “You can’t do that.” Look at Joe Budden. Joe Budden is so dope lyrically, but people look at him as a party artist because he came out with “Pump It Up” and then “Fire.” Then when he made serious records, nobody took him seriously because they thought he was a party rapper. The label dropped the ball on him. If they would just let him do him, it would be a lot better.
You’ve probably got about five months for The Greatest Story Never Told to drop. What are you going to be doing from now ‘til February?
This mixtape. We’re putting the songs up on HipHopGame so they can hear what I’m giving them and they can know that I never went anywhere and that I’m turning it up. I’m back on my grind. I’m about to change the world with this album. This album is the most important album in the history of music, period.
What do you want to say to everybody?
My album is going to destroy the world. It’s going to change the face of hip-hop music, guaranteed. Guaranteed. It’s the greatest story never told. There’s a reason for that title. That’s because that’s what it is. I’m not even being braggadocios. I’m like, Damn, this shit is on point. My shit is as relevant as The Bible. This is The Bible for all black people. If you’re black and live in America, you should have this album. I should go 33-times platinum with this one.
I want people to know that I think my album is the best album ever. I want people to get in tune with The Yardfather. If you’re not up on your history, go get those old mixtapes and get in tune.
Saigon’s The Return of tha Yardfather mixtape is available at http://mixunit.com