Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN link up with rapper Saigon. Bred in Brooklyn and upstate New York, Saigon’s youth was a tumultuous one with the rapper landing behind bars as a teen after being convicted of a shooting. Upon his release, the Abandoned Nation rep hit the streets hard with a succession of mixtape appearances, which resulted in the rapper being signed to Just Blaze’s Fort Knocks Entertainment.
However, a guest spot from JAY-Z and beats from one of the hottest producers in the game weren’t enough to shield Saigon from the politics of the industry, as his long-awaited and highly anticipated major label debut, The Greatest Story Never Told, was shelved for years until its eventual independent release in 2011. Strengthening his Q-Rating with stints on TV shows like “Entourage” and “Love & Hip Hop: New York,” the artist is back on the scene as the newest signee to indie powerhouse Strange Music.
To help give fans a recap of the episode, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Saigon “Drink Champs” episode. Take a look at them below.
1. On Beginning His Rap Career
Prior to embarking on his rap career, Saigon served several years in prison, a period during which he honed his rap skills and earned the name Da Yard Father. “When I got out of jail, you know when you get out, you got the niggas that never wrote you and shit like that,” he shares. “And I took all the ‘Yeah, we love you,’ money, the $100 here, the $100 there and I was just writing. I was writing my whole bid...I rapped in the yard all day. That’s where that whole Yardfather shit comes from. So, when I came home,I just took that little money, went in the studio and started recording them raps that I had wrote.”
2. On Signing With Just Blaze
Saigon’s buzz skyrocketed when the mixtape phenom’s music caught the ears of producer Just Blaze, who tapped the brash upstart to be the flagship artist on his imprint. “Sickamore, he was a young kid at the time,” he reveals of the conduit between him and Roc-A-Fella’s former chief hit-maker. “So, I got with him, I started doing freestyles and shit and one day, he called me out the blue. I was living in New Jersey, I was going home. The nigga was like, ‘Yo, would you wanna fuck with Just Blaze?’ I’m like, ‘Nigga, what kind of [question is that]?’ He had the Nintendo chain, he owned Baseline at the time, he was [already] Just Blaze at the time. So, he was like, ‘Yo, ‘I’m thinking about starting this new label and shit.’ So, he brought me down there, I played him all of the music I had, the nigga was like, ‘I’m doing this label, you wanna be my artist?’ I’m like, ‘Nigga, let’s do it’ ‘cause I’m thinking about the beats, I ain’t thinking about his business sense.” I’m just thinking... ‘Oh, I’m about to have the best beats in the world.’”
3. On The Evolution of His Lyrical Content
No stranger to the harsh realities of the streets, Saigon’s lyrical content initially mirrored that lifestyle. However, after being made aware of the impact of his words, the rapper chose to use them to empower rather than divide. “Any nigga who you know you got that kind of influence, you gonna pull that shit back, especially when you see shit happening,” he says. “Like, ‘Oh shit, my songs is getting a [violent reaction].’ I had a song [called] ‘Come Again.’ That song, in Connecticut, niggas wouldn’t let me perform it. And I’m like, ‘Why can’t I?’ and they was like, ‘Niggas start shooting when that shit come on, they start wilding.’ So, that made me mindful enough to not make no shit like that. I didn’t wanna be responsible for a nigga getting killed because of my music.”
4. On His Run-In With Sticky Fingaz
Of his various disputes with rappers over the years, Saigon gives context to his beef with Onyx member Sticky Fingaz. “We was in the lobby and shit,” Sai says of a particular incident. “And I said some things, like, ‘I ain’t gonna backpedal. I don’t throw a rock and hide my hands.’ Nigga, ‘Yeah, I said some shit.’ ...[He said], ‘Yo, we don’t take nicely to shit like that.’ I’m like, ‘Fam, check this out’ ‘cause he started getting a little [animated], too much moving. I said, ‘You staying in this hotel?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Well, I got a room here. You got a room here? We can go handle this like men. We ain’t gotta do all this shit and be the niggas making a fool out of ourselves.’ I always offer a nigga the fair one, I’m a jail nigga. Let’s do this, shoot the five, and then we can take it from there, nigga.”
5. On Competing With Jeezy For His Role In “Entourage”
In addition to his rap career, Saigon added to his following with his role in the HBO hit series “Entourage” by portraying himself. However, what many fans don’t know is that there was actually another rapper who was initially up for the part. “I came [in on] Season 2. They were shooting Season , it didn’t jump off yet,” he says. “So, I’m not even excited about the shit. I’m just thinking whatever the only excitement I had was this is Mark Wahlberg’s shit... So, Gee Roberson is the one who got me the [role]. Gee and Hip-Hop I ain’t even gonna lie, they’re silent assassins, bro. It was between me and Young Jeezy for the part.”
6. On The Similarities Between His Song “Believe It,” T.I.’s “Live Your Life,” and Maino’s “All of the Above”
Around 2008, Saigon released his single “Believe It,” an uplifting record intended to have an impact on the youth. However, he says the record, which he believes has similarities to hits like T.I.’s “Live Your Life” and Maino’s “All of the Above,” was met with lukewarm reviews by Atlantic Records, his label at the time. “We put out ‘Believe It,’” Sai Giddy begins. “We played it for them, they was like, ‘Eh, we ain’t fucking with it.’ Well, I mean... not to say the T.I. record wasn’t positive or the other one wasn’t positive. But, he had Rihanna on it. And the other record had T-Pain, who at the time was hot as fish grease. It was just me on my shit. I ain’t have that superstar feature. Like we tried to get T-Pain, but he wanted $80,000 and the hook was already wrote.”
7. On Hanging With Mark Wahlberg
Being a cast member on “Entourage” has its perks like random hangouts with megastars like Mark Wahlberg, who Saigon says is the embodiment of having the “it” factor when it comes to women. “One time I got drunk with Mark Wahlberg, my nigga,” the Brooklyn native recalls. “That nigga, you talking about a chick magnet, my nigga. Bitches will sit around and stare at this nigga, I’m like, ‘This shit gotta be uncomfortable.’ You in a club and it’s like thirty women looking at you. Not talking to each other and shit, not turning their head, and I guess he’s so used to it ‘cause he’s from the Calvin Klein model [campaign]. He been that nigga for a while. So, to him, they’re like oblivious to him. He don’t see it, but I’m looking like, ‘Damn, my nigga you got a nice pick of the litter right here. You could take anyone of these bitches?’ I’m looking like, ‘This shit is crazy.’ I was living vicariously through this nigga for the moment.”
8. On The Impact of His Mother’s Death
Personal turmoil rocked Saigon’s world when his mother, whom he felt was the only person left who truly loved him, passed away, which sent the rapper into a downward spiral. “My mom died. I went into a temporary insanity mode,” he admits. “Like I said, I used to be the most responsible nigga, but I went through a phase where I ain’t care about my life. That’s when I got robbed and shit. They took my shit, but the reason why my shit never went on tour, like, ‘We got Saigon’ is ‘cause I went there and shot the shit up. I shot my cousin, yeah, I got busy. I got super busy ‘cause I ain’t care at that point, my mother had just died. So, at this point, the women in my life at the time, they weren’t really in my life... And I hate to throw them under the bus, but the truth over feeling. This is the truth, this is our story.”
9. On His New Deal With Strange Music
This past year, it was announced that Saigon had linked up with Tech N9ne’s Strange Music label, one of the strongest indie labels in the hip hop sphere. Sai, who recently dropped his EP, 777: The Resurrection, on the label speaks on the qualities that set Strange Music a part from their competitors. “Independent, best in the world,” he says of the imprint. “And it’s not just Tech. Tech is just the face ‘cause he’s the artist. But, Tech has a partner named Travis. Travis is one of the illest, illest. Like we just came from Kansas City, you see my man rocking Strange Music and [merch] shit. This nigga got construction companies, movie studios. They told me when I was out there, ‘If you get pulled over by the police, just tell them you’re with Strange. They’ll let you go.’ It’s bigger than a major label, my nigga. It was a no-brainer.”