Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Hails from: Lawrence, Mass.
Project: Saigon's All in a Day's Work

Studio LP

Released March 17th

Here it is. Hip-hop doesn’t get any more raw or pure than this. As Saigon himself admits, he and Statik Selektah, who comes out of Lawrence, Massachusetts, got together and cranked out this eleven track album with only 26 hours to work with. The result is that the beats are perfectly simple and the rhymes are crisp and hard. If you want “polished” beats, chopped-up-til-there’s-nothing-left samples, or a goddamn Vocoder go elsewhere. Statik is here to put down exactly what each track needs, and the best part of having only a day to put into this album is that the two artists create by reacting to each other’s style. Just in terms of the drum tracks, there are so many subtle changes that Statik is cooking under every beat that you owe it to yourself to listen to the album a few times over. Listen to “Spit,” a track with a catchy hook and a staccato synth-flute melody, and just count how many times Stat switches it up. That’s just work you just don’t see coming from producers these days.

Of course Statik’s showing off under Saigon’s flows, but uses great discretion and a light touch on the boards. It should be expected that for an album that took 26 hours Statik uses a lot of samples. He rips Biggie, Raekwon, and pulls Busta’s vocals off “Whoohah” for the hook on “The Rules.” The hip-hop samples are aight, they create decent tracks, but they never really elevate the songs. Statik really shines when he flips the old R&B vocal tracks for his beats. It bothers me, but I couldn’t find out the sample he grabbed for “Lose Her.” Doesn’t matter though, he treats that song nice, and the vocals and little guitar licks really leave an ill backdrop for Saigon to flow over in a song about getting his heart broken.

The give and take between Saigon and Statik Selektah, the product of getting the two together in the lab and creating an energetic atmosphere, really adds to the great subtlety of this album. New technology allows for DJs and emcees, who might never have even shaken hands, to work together, producing interesting and sometimes brilliant beats and songs. Still, you cannot top the energy of live collaborations. Statik really exploits the opportunity, reacting to what Saigon spits. He drops the vocals and keys out completely on “The Rules” in two spots, letting Saigon’s hardest flows come out. On “Lose Her,” he drops the melody out again, exposing Sai at his most vulnerable, when he confesses his anxiety, “And now you wanna get back, for what, just to see me naked again? / So you can take my heart, reshape it, and break it again?”

It’s definitely not every emcee that could elevate himself up to the challenge of putting together an album this quick. Saigon doesn’t just rise to the occasion, he defines the album. This isn’t due so much to the intelligence of Sai’s rhymes, but more to his boldness and charisma when holding the mic. The themes are not groundbreaking, there’s a song about his crew, a song about getting your heart broken, there’s the song about how hard Saigon is. What separates Saigon from the pack is how crisp and bold his flows are.

On most of the tracks, the rhymes settle into the realm of average and are hardly noteworthy. The exception is “Lady Sings the Blues,” which is built of the usual critique of selling-out theme, but is elevated by Saigon’s intense reflection on the subject. He raps that Sixty percent of niggas spittin’ is inconsistent / The other forty came with the grain but then went against it / Tryin’ to get rich in an instant.” The idea behind the track is that you can’t let yourself slip, not even for an instant. He even goes so far as to wag his finger at Rakim: I thought about all the kids I admired / The Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, why they ain’t remain in the game / They should never changed, they shoulda kept it the same / They let the music industry play tricks on their brain / If I remember correct, when Ra rocked with Jody Watley he lost some respect.

So watch yourself. Even if you make one move in the wrong direction, you still might be selling out the culture. In this case, it’s the collaboration between Eric B & Rakim and Jody Watley, entitled “Friends,” in 1989, considered rap’s first crossover track. And yeah, twenty years later, Saigon remembers.

You can’t give this album more points just because of how long it took to put together, and this album does hit its lulls. During the times where the album drops to a mediocre quality, you have to wonder whether more time in the lab would have made this a brilliant, rather than a very good record. But even ignoring about the amount of leg work the two artists put into these cuts, the album proves to be among 2009’s best offerings so far.

Spittin’ 8 Spinnin’ 8.5 Overall 8.5

Album bonus: No guest spots!

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