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Over the years, countless rappers have gone head-to-head with their major label benefactors, many times ending up with their albums being shelved or simply being dropped from the roster. In the case of Atlantic Records alone, we’ve seen many of underground rapper at odds with the label, such as Apathy, Little Brother, Lupe Fiasco, and perhaps most famously, Brooklyn’s Saigon. Saigon’s Just Blaze produced LP, The Greatest Story Never Told almost lived up to it’s title, as the album was shelved by the label, staying in limbo for a period of five years. Miraculously never leaking, Saigon finally released it independently in 2011, and follows up with it’s sequel to close out 2012.

While this may seem like a quick follow-up, we can’t forget that The Greatest Story Never Told was vaulted for over five years, so it only seems that way to us. However without the major label backing this time around, Saigon’s sequel doesn’t quite pack the budget of it’s predecessor, thus leaving Just Blaze’s involvement as only an executive producer this time around, producing two of the album’s tracks, rather than the whole LP. While Saigon doesn’t *need* Blaze to make a good album, in comparison to it’s predecessor, his presence is definitely missed.

Still, Saigon holds his own for much of the record, and despite it not having the cohesive nature of his debut, he still has produced a pretty dope LP with many stand-out moments. Saigon is probably the most honest rapper to come out of Brooklyn since Blackstar; a not quite conscious, obviously street dude whose rhymes are laced with gems that leave the listener with plenty to think about. “Rap Vs. Real”, one of the two Just Blaze tracks, is a brilliantly penned track that unabashedly separates various topics into the title’s two categories, such as a lapdance (“that’s rap”) and a stripper that’s been molested since she was a little girl (“that’s real”). We find a similar moment of poignancy on “Blown Away”, which finds Saigon running down a list of assassinated historical figures, stabbing in the hook after each example. On “The Game Changer”, he gives the full tale of his time at Atlantic, revealing a humorous anecdote about collaborating with Trey Songz, while balancing street and conscious styles on “Not Like That” and “Brownsville Girl”.

While the first half of the album has much of the best tracks pushed up front, things do stray off course at times as the album progresses. Much of the second half of the album is littered with syrupy R&B hooks, a risk that only pays off half of the time. “Relafriendship” is a pretty easy concept to grasp, but after the album’s first half dealing with political prisoners and inner city violence, this track seems like a trite, heavy-handed attempt at getting some radio play. The same can be said for “Best Thing That I Found”, an almost Eminem-esque rock-tinged crossover track dedicated to his loved ones. While respectful, again it seems like he’s traveling a bit outside his lane. And not to be nit-picky, but Saigon never really explains what “Bread and Circuses” refers to, he just tells fans to “Google it” at one point on the album.

While Saigon is without a doubt one of the most outspoken emcees in hip-hop today, with one of the most important messages, it’s possible he set the bar too high on his debut. To call this a sequel was a bit of a risky move, because while it will reel in fans of the original Greatest Story Never Told, they will also hold it to that standard. Truth be told, Saigon is making better music than a great percentage of rappers holding major label contracts at the moment, yet on this record he still has to compete with himself.

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7 Responses to "Saigon – “The Greatest Story Never Told Part 2: Bread & Circuses” – @@@1/2 (Review)"
  • Franklin J Moneypockets says:

    3.5 is generous. Who wants to hear Saigon over soft beats with awful R&B hooks? No one. To be fair, I didn’t get through the whole album. By track 5 or 6 I was forcing myself to keep listening, by 9 I give up and started skipping through tracks just hoping for a hot beat or something. As a Saigon fan, this album was disappointing.

  • 510hurryup says:

    really let down by this, especially after the great lead single/video with styles p .. aside from ‘brownsville girl,’ i wasn’t really feeling anything here

  • Green Django says:

    It’s much more like a commercial release but the dope tracks ARE dope tracks. It won’t sell well but life is made up of memorable moments and there is some on this album I like it

  • JFK says:

    Just my two cents…I’m over the concept of “hip hop heads” judging something as it not being hip hop enough…which is basically what I’m reading above. I think the rating was on point, though I disagree with the concept of some of his songs not being his flavor. I don’t see people hating on Andre when he’s on a pop type song…because he comes correct. Same can be said for Saigon (not a comparison). Some of the tracks are a bit R&B or poppy, but his words are still true. “Best thing that I found” is a deep joint…if you think it’s only about lost loved ones, you missed it. Not to mention music is interpretive…it’s different for everyone…which is how I wish reviews were written. We get this watered down judgement of “I’ve heard you do better”, based on your interpretation…and based on an old interpretation when you were different when you heard it (i.e.,when was the first time you heard Saigon..and were you the same you are now?). Andre tells it best on an interview you guys posted…maybe y’all should watch it…he speaks on the idea that how you are one year, is different than the next. So what you released in 1994 isn’t going to be what you release in 2015. And the listener isn’t the same either. Obviously Saigon has molted over the years. Regardless…so everyone telling me you would rather hear the wack ish that’s on the radio, than something off this album, that’s actually saying something? Come on “hip hop heads”…stop trying to keep the underground in the underground, and when a person trying to make some money, you knock him cause he ain’t starving and doesn’t sound like he once did.

    Oh ya, he does tell you what the album means…you posted the interview.

  • Chad says:

    @jfk, I’ve been looking for those words for awhile now. You said it the way it needed to be said. I’d give this a 4 though.

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