Tracklist1. Station Identification (Intro) (feat. Fatman Scoop)
2. The Invitation (feat. Q-Tip)
3. Come On Baby (feat. Jay Z & Swizz Beatz)
5. Bring Me Down Pt.2
8. The Greatest Story Never Told
9. Clap (feat. Faith Evans)
11. It’s Alright (feat. Marsha Ambrosius)
12. Believe It
13. Give It To Me (feat. Raheem DeVaughn)
14. What The Lovers Do (feat. Devin The Dude)
15. Better Way (feat. Layzie Bone)
16. Oh Yeah (Our Babies)
17. And The Winner Is (feat. Bun B)
18. Too Long (feat. Black Thought)
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Six mixtapes, four street albums, a prolonged dispute with Atlantic Records, a season of Entourage, and a head wound later, the much-anticipated but long-delayed Greatest Story Never Told is, well, finally ready to be told. A release can only be pushed back so long before the hype machine finally runs out of gas, and with retirement rumors and label woes swirling, Saigon has stepped into the void and unleashed this furious, monumental slab of East Coast boom-bap with both middle fingers directed squarely at the polished, jacketed-down music industry and its political equivalent.
Inserting comparisons to Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Part II here is perfectly appropriate—both arrived somewhat unexpectedly, and with minimal press, and born out of these seemingly non-existent expectations came records heavy on the hard-hitting New York scrabble and scratchy soul samples and light on commercial concessions. Each rapper spits with a concrete directness, though with Saigon his lyrical themes tend to be less narrative and more confrontational, and each brings an excellent sense of track sequencing and vision to the table. Additionally, each album remains firmly rooted in the previous century’s aesthetic, maintaining a strong connection to the sound that defined the best the East Coast had to offer circa the mid-1990s.
That The Greatest Story Never Told can run nearly eighty minutes and not feel even slightly bloated—hell, that it radiates such evident passion and immediacy at every turn, that it can deal in controlled fury yet retain coherence—is a major testament to Saigon. This album boils with all of the man’s frustrations, aimed with deadly precision at often moving targets: Saigon rips the Leon Haywood-sampled title track to pieces, dropping bombs all over as the soul-tipped horns soar; “Clap” follows in the same huge vein, with Faith Evans’ guest spot absolutely scorching the beat, and Saigon’s lyrics hitting a fever pitch of both scathing intelligence and dense wordplay. No one can escape this man’s ire: the church (“Preacher”), the C.I.A. for starting the crack epidemic, weak emcees, the history books, and the decrepit music industry, for starters; and born out of this rage are keenly observed barbs that intelligently range from the bitingly satiric, to the absurd, to the outright pissed.
If there’s a criticism, and there are truthfully scarcely any to be had, it’s that The Greatest Story Never Told does take a little while to pick up some steam, though the beginning isn’t weak by any stretch of the imagination. The other portions are just that strong. Just Blaze’s beats scream, and even Kanye West, a man who I’ve made no secret about disliking, makes a strong contribution with “It’s Alright.” Coupled with Saigon’s near-flawless performance, this proves to be a lethal combination.
Can we even call this a debut? A comeback? Whatever, Saigon’s here to stay, out of hip-hop purgatory, and the architect of the best hip-hop record since Cuban Linx…Part II. The only question left is where The Greatest Story Never Told is going to fit in today’s paradigm; Saigon probably doesn’t give a shit and fittingly that makes the record all the better. I’ve proclaimed hip-hop dead more than once, and it’s going to take more than an amazing album every other year to change my mind, but even if I’m right, The Greatest Story Never Told is one hell of a eulogy. Saigon, take it away: “We don’t just make songs, we make statements.” Can I get an amen!? Amen, brother. Amen.