Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Saigon

  • Belly of the Beast: The Scram Jones Files [Def Digital, 2008] **
  • The Greatest Story Never Told [Suburban Noize, 2011] A-
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Chapter Two: Bread and Circuses [Suburban Noize, 2012] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Belly of the Beast: The Scram Jones Files [Def Digital, 2008]
Gangsta realist's mixtape ain't his urban-legend debut, but it's tough, it's smart and it jams ("New York Streets," "Nobody Cares"). **

The Greatest Story Never Told [Suburban Noize, 2011]
After mixtapes I liked, mixtapes I heard, and mixtapes that passed me by, this is the Saigon and Just Blaze album I've been waiting for since a student tipped me to them five years ago--heroic post-gangstaism, with the conscious ex-con forthright as rhymer and rapper and the Jay-Z sideman bigging him up with soul singers and cinematic beats (and also with Jay-Z). Saigon don't play. He's a social realist and a realist moralist who makes his seriousness work for him. Behind Blaze's say-so, he sounds like the kind of person it's always interesting to get to know. A-

The Greatest Story Never Told: Chapter Two: Bread and Circuses [Suburban Noize, 2012]
Although the beats have fallen off a little--Just Blaze moves up to executive producer on most tracks--the prompt follow-up to Brian Carenard's long-delayed debut is slightly less militant and, as a direct result, stronger. The best song on an album distinguished by two major conscious anthems--the well-hooked tribute to the martyrs "Blown Away," and "Rap vs Real," a sharp-tongued rebuke to hip hop authenticity myths that backhands Puffy on its way to gonorrhea and the IRS--nails a theme few of his fans are savvy enough to grok and no rock icon of my acquaintance has gotten near: "Relafriendship," about his long-term bond to a woman he'd better not go to bed with because that'll screw up what they've got. But almost nothing here dips to ordinary. And beats or not, one reason is that the rapper's rough clarity is musical bedrock. A-