For the past few years, a rather successful group of people held focus groups, crunched numbers and probably did an assortment of other things to make Saigon [click to read] more palatable to the small group of people who still buy actual CDs. When the plan failed, Sai connected with Statik Selektah [click to read], tweaked the initial strategy and did what the executives couldn’t in about 26 hours.
“The thing about Statik is that he tricks you into recording,” Saigon joked. “The mic is right there by the computer. So you start rapping, then next thing you know, you’ve got the headphones on…It was pretty much like jammin’ in the park, and most of those songs are one-take songs. The vibe was good, the Hennessy was flowing and motherfuckers was getting it in.”
As the traditional methods of creating and promoting Hip Hop albums continue to go the way of the 8-Track, Sai says he wants to stay ahead of the curve. He points to his initial mixtape, Da Yard Father 1 as proof, citing 50 Cent’s G-Unit is the Future and The Diplomats’ Diplomats Volume One as the only other street albums to receive such critical and commercial success at the time.
“The mixtape shit is dead,” he quips. “I was ahead of the curve as far as the mixtapes went, and that’s how I was able to get into the game. Now this digital shit is what’s up.”
Further proof of just how quick the digital landscape has changed can be found within Saigon’s own bars. During a mostly digital beef with Joe Budden, “Da Yard Father” can be heard on “Pushing Buddens” [click to listen] spitting, “How is he lyrical/this coward is pitiful/talkin’ ‘bout he doin’ it big on Amalgam Digital/this nigga is frontin’ listen to my voice/he was dropped/he is not independent by choice.”
Noting that he’s not feeling every aspect of Hip Hop’s digital age, Saigon points to an abundance of wack artists as a drawback. He even admits that the 24 hour turnaround expected for diss tracks between him and Budden became corny to him. Having squashed his beef with Budden, Sai now finds himself in a similar partnership with Amalgam and with one of iTunes’ top five Hip Hop albums. The fact that no money was used to promote the album equals a larger share of the profits for Statik and Sai, and the newly independent emcee is hoping to bring his peers over to the digital side of things as well. Relaxed by the delayed gratification of commercial success, one wonders if Saigon has experienced the upside of anger. However, always equal parts antagonist and activist, Sai is quickly excited when speaking on New York’s recently repealed Rockerfeller Drug Laws.
“Crack is actually a weaker form coke; you’re diluting it by mixing it with water and baking soda,” he explains. “But you get way more [jail] time for crack than you do for [powder] cocaine, because that’s the black drug. Millions and millions of people were affected by the crack era. I know plenty of dudes still in jail today because they sold $75 worth of crack to an undercover police officer. The same government that is supposedly fighting the war on drugs put all this shit here. Are you telling me US Customs are so bad that they’re sneaking tons of cocaine over here right under your nose?”
So while the All in a Day’s Work [click to read] has turned Saigon’s anger away from the record industry, it’s highly doubtful that we’re about to witness a kindler, gentler Yard Father.
“I see the whole emo rap thing,” Sai observes. “What is it called, hippie or hipsters? I don’t condone gangsterism by any means, but I don’t condone being corny either. We’ve gotta find a happy medium. It’s like the cornier and weirder you are right now…America’s just a weird fucking place right now, man.”
That said, Saigon’s non profit organization, Abandoned Nation, is working with In Arms Reach and recently pardoned emcee/producer John Forte [click to read] to help teach music to disadvantaged youth.
“John Forte is a good friend of mine from my old neighborhood in Brownsville,” Saigon adds. “And he’s teaching them how to read music, not fuckin’ sample or use turntables. It’s a great thing. Sometimes all these kids need is a little guidance and for someone to take some time with them.”