There's no question that Saigon is an incredible emcee, and a great writer, which was not least proven by his long-delayed debut "The Greatest Story Never Told". Recorded over a period of about 5-6 years and almost entirely prouced or co-produced by Just Blaze, Sai delivered one of the strongest New York debuts in years. Over soul sampling, thumping production from Just, Sai never shyed away from intimiately personal or political subject, whether it was digging deep into the darker sides of his personality, exploring his flaws and triumphs, failed relationships or living the player role. Another aspect that made Sai stand out from the rest was his ability to become a voice for the inner city youth trapped in the ghetto, speaking truthful political beliefs and spreading truthful social commentary .
The "GSNT" sequel didn't take long after to hit shelves, and the result was an album that felt terribly rushed on most aspects. Instead of the introspective and political lyrics, and headnodding soul sample based poduction Sai totally switched up the formula for 2012:s "Bread & Circuses". There definitely were some tracks were Sai shined and had a lot of important things to vent, but overall it was a diminished effort both from a lyrical and a production standpoint. So while it wasn't a weak album in all aspects, compared to what we know knew Sai was capable of it I can only consider it a huge dissapointment. The remarkable chemistry between Sai and producer Just Blaze was almost entirely gone in favor for beats by relatively unknown beatmakers like Clev Trev, DJ Corbett, Careni Finch, Sire, Rich Kidd and Rayne Dior who sometimes did a great job and sometimes far from it..
The third installment is titled "The Greatest Story Never Told: The Life and Times of Brian Carenard" and is in someway a mixture between the two preceeding volumes in the series. Just Blaze is once again absent aside from a voice mail intro, and the majority of the production is handled by Clev Trev. However Clev does a much better job in capturing Saigon's lyrical strengths this time around, and singles like "Hustler's Prayer", "Street Gospel" and "My Mama Thinks I'm Crazy" is ample proof of a chemistry that coud go a long way although it at other times are still a bit rough around the edges. Though the production is at times a bit lacking, and the relayiing on R&B hooks tends to get over used, it's a positive fact that Saigon's back in full effect with the socio-political themes and the heart of the ghetto struggle at the forefront of his lyrics. And with that the delivery is as potent as always! There's a lot of concept songs on here, all brilliantly executed, and when the producton is on par it's a pretty damn incredible record. Best of all is the DJ Premier section which runs for three tracks in a row - all produced by Works of Mart. The single "Nunya (None Of Ya Business)" is a beautifully chopped vintage Preem banger where Sai sounds absolutely excellent. The best song on the entire LP, however, is "One Fot in The Door" where Premier conjures u a true headnodder complete with his trademark cuts and booming beats. Not only is the production excellent but Saigon here invites legendary veteran Big Daddy Kane to join him in the booth. It's a beautiful thing where the song plays out as Kane passinng down the batton to the younger, hungry emcee. Pure brilliance!
For hardcore hip-hop heads stuck in the '90s there's a risk they will find dissapointment in "GSNT3: Life and Times of Brian Carnard" as many of the songs relies on R&B hooks and relatively smooth beats. This is surely no bother to me as the songs here prove that Saigon is not only a very good lyricist but he has a good understanding on song structure. The point is that Saigon has made an honest album where he has poured much of his heart into the music, exactly the formula that made me a fan of him in the first place. So all in all, when talking purely lyrical performance it's an excellent collection of tracks. Unfortunately the production doesn't always make those strengths the justice they deserves, as many tracks comes off as rather flat and not something you'd expect to hear on the follow-up to an album entirely produced by Just Blaze. Shuko, DJ Premier, and about half of Clev Trev's contributions really comes of as strong and well-designed music, worthy of an emcee of Sai's caliber. But the whole is only as strong as the sum of its part, and tracks like "Mine, Mine, Mine", "Best Mistake" and "Bring That" just don't cut it, and even DJ Premier's "Let's Get Smart" sounds rather uninspired compared to their other collaborations prevent the abum from being the superb disc I had hoped for. It is however a big step up from the preceding "Bread & Circuses" abum, and there's enough hot shit on the disc to make it worth revisiting several times. As Saigon is one of the more interesting New York emcees of his generation, it's easy to see that he will need stronger producers if he ever want to deliver the masterpiece I believe he has in him - his work with Just Blaze and DJ Premier so far tells us just that. If I was to give a number rating it would land somewhere around 3.5 out of 5.
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