Saigon Talks Hip-Hop’s Responsibility, ‘Entourage’ Movie Details & New Album [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Saigon has been holding it down for street-hop heads even before Jay Z declared him as one of the rappers to look out for. With three studio albums -- 'G.S.N.T. 3: The Troubled Times of Brian Carenard' dropped last month -- and 11 mixtapes under his belt, the 36-year-old rap veteran hasn't stopped grinding since the early 2000s.
While the title of 'G.S.N.T. 3' may be similar to his past albums, this project sets itself apart because of the new business endeavor that came along with it; Saigon now has more creative control over his work. That's the reason why Lil Bibby and Kool G Rap are able to exist on the same project.
The underground fans aren't the only ones who know about the New York native's grind. Others recognize him from his prominent role in 'Entourage,' the dramatic comedy that ran on HBO for nine seasons. Saigon says he's shot scenes for the upcoming movie.
So we have the framework for more material and his potential silver screen appearance. But before possibilities come into fruition, we talked with the MC about details of the film, his new album, the state of hip-hop, Mark Cuban's advice and helping kids get hooked on being smart. Read Saigon's story below.
'GSNT 3' is the product of a new endeavor for you. Did that inspire you creatively?
People don't really know but they'll know as time goes on, but I did a joint venture deal with [CPXi]. It's never been done before and it's an innovative record company. It's really based around the artistic value of an artist. We're gonna give artists the same platform the majors got but without having to bend over to cater. The people I got on this album I could've never got on a major because, "Oh!... He's vintage." Kool G Rap is vintage. The majority of my album is vintage.
Let’s talk about the features for a bit. One wouldn’t immediately think to put Lil Bibby and Big Daddy Kane on one album.
It’s not only that; there’s Memphis Bleek, Kool G Rap and Lil Bibby on one song. That’s four different decades … and it resonates. Nobody else would be able to do that just because somebody is too old, you know.
On 'Mechanical Animals,' how is it like having not just different eras, but regions on one track?
I think we got caught up in that whole regional thing. That was more of a divide and conquer tactic. Good hip-hop is good hip-hop. Good art is good art. Growing up, we loved Geto Boys. We didn’t care if they were down south; they were dope. Scarface was one of the best and we knew that. OutKast came and we had to respect their creativity. We had to respect that they are good at what they do.
Listen to Saigon's 'Mechanical Animals' Feat. Lil Bibby, Kool G Rap & Memphis Bleek
History is a theme on this album. Did you intend it to be this way?
People have the tendency to think hip-hop is a youth-driven artform. Everybody loves hip-hop. This culture has been here for a while. If I’m 35 or 40 years old and I grew up listening to hip-hop my whole life, 90 percent of the stuff out there isn’t going to compare.
There’s a lot of happy-go-lucky. A lot of it is just jingles. We had jingles: We loved Humpty. When I see kids doing the Shmoney Dance, I’m like, “We do the Humpty.” But we were kids; you didn’t see any grown-ass man doing that s---.
But what happens is that we abandoned the people who grew up loving this genre of music. We grew up to music that had thought to it, and you knew some thought went into it because of how clever it was … Now we live in this era with microwaves: I want instant gratification. It’s fast food; I’m trying to cook a home-cooked meal.
On ‘Contraband,' you call out names like Rick Ross and Trinidad James. What’s the reason?
I always get edgy, but if you listen to it, I’m asking a question. I’m not calling anybody out. “What is the reason? Is it this? Is it that?” I’m not saying it. I’m asking you. I just go by what the people are saying and ask what’s going on. When people hear it, they automatically think, "He’s dissing this guy or that guy." No, I’m asking you.
I’ve always been an edgy artist and spoke my mind. That’s a part of hip-hop in a metaphorical way. It’s social commentary.
What's your favorite song on the album?
'Let's Get Smart' with DJ Premier. What I'm doing with that song is a whole campaign that's bigger than the song. We're going through all the schools in the inner city with the low graduation rates and challenging them to raise their graduation rates, grade point averages and things like that. That's not a song; that's a movement. That's the soundtrack to the movement.
There's schools in the South Bronx and Brooklyn with 50 percent graduation rates. That's incredible. Half of the kids don't graduate high school. So who's out there talking to them. You know what they love? Rap. I call it rap because hip-hop used to have a message. Hip-hop had a responsibility. Rap doesn't have a responsibility. Rap is just rap. Hip-hop is culture. So if I'm gonna be in this culture, I gotta have some sense of responsibility. That's why I made 'Let's Get Smart' because I feel that record could resonate in these schools and teach these kids it's cool to be smart. It's a good thing to be smart.
Listen to Siagon's 'Let's Get Smart'
What do you think is right with hip-hop these days?
It still provides jobs for a lot of people … and it still provides hope because I see a lot of wanna-be artists in the streets and they get out of trouble. A lot of these guys got their own labels, rap groups and producers. These are guys that probably would’ve been gangbanging. These are the guys who would’ve been stick-up kids. These are the guys who would’ve been doing the wrong thing. That’s the more economic standpoint of it.
The 'Entourage' movie is coming out next year. What can we expect?
I only shot a few scenes and I hope they make the movie because nothing's promised in 'Entourage.' You condensing 700 hours of footage into an hour-and-a-half movie. Everybody and their mama are in that movie ... I'm hoping [my scenes] stay in there, but even if I get cut, the experience to shoot the show and the movie is an experience of a lifetime. I talked to Turtle's [played by Jerry Ferrara] mom. These are my friends; these are my brothers. When you get that kind of camaraderie out of a situation, you're gonna love it.
I hope it goes on, because it's going up against 'Jurassic World' [which also hits theaters on June 12].
There's a lot of people coming back from the show, right?
It's a celebrity study. That's all I can really say about it. There are a lot of celebrities in the film. Of course, you got the core guys, but there are a lot of celebrities. It's the show condensed into one movie, and they've always had a lot of celebrities on the show.
It's an incredible script. If you like the show, you'll like the movie. It was fun shooting and then getting to hang out with Mark Cuban -- getting to know him and get some business tips. I let him know I'm starting my own business and he's giving me little things that people don't know, the jewels that I'll take with me to my grave. I'll always apply it to my life.