Freestyles to Free albums: the songs that got us there
The difference between the history of rap and the history of mixtapes is a lot like the difference between college basketball history and pro basketball history. Christian Laettner and Larry Bird could share space in a college hall of fame but not a professional one. Artists bubble up to the very top of the mixtape scene and stay there, or hang around like Red Café sometimes fading back into obscurity. Saigon was an artist everyone pointed at as the guy most likely to blow in a big way; an artist who could easily translate from mixtapes to albums with tough adept lyrics, G-unit style production, and authenticity to compliment a developed skill with Chorus’s.
Desperado is produced by Scram Jones and sounds of its time; chipmunk voice sample and delicate piano over boom-bap. Sai spent a long time in prison, lived the life so many brag about and had the guts to end songs like this wishing for a better world than the violence he knew, wanting to punch posturing pro-thug kids in the mouth. This song isn’t about how glorious crime is but how much it sucks to be chased by police while watching safe people yearn for your life. “I’m tired of seeing what crack smoke do to black folk, that sh#t ain’t funny at all dog it’s like a bad joke.” He was never dropping knowledge just conversing and that’s what made his mixtapes special.
The spotlight has forced him into awkward situations. Just Blaze production and cinematic vision made The Greatest Story Never Told a great but underappreciated album. The sequel wasn’t received as well. Maybe Saigon proved that the public can take only so much authenticity with its street tales, maybe not. Either way the Yardfather influenced many artists even though you may not hear his style in anyone’s vocals. His spot in the history of the art is sizable and distinct.