Hip-Hop Fridays: Exclusive Q & A With Saigon (Part II)
BlackElectorate.com Publisher Cedric Muhammad recently spoke with Atlantic Records recording artist, Saigon, for over two hours for a wide-ranging conversation about the rap artist's worldview; his life experiences and vision; and the music industry. Last week we ran Part I of that discussion, and today we publish the second and final part of our exclusive interview.
Here is the link to Part I of our exclusive Q & A :
Cedric Muhammad: Now I am going to move into the more industry-related stuff. I wrote something, a few years ago called, "The Consciousness of Wu-Tang Clan, Suge Knight, and Jay-Z";
Cedric Muhammad: And I got a lot of heat from some of the conscious rap fans because I was critical, and the point I was making was this: evidently there is something missing in the consciousness when the rhetoric sounds real good etc… but you have artists signed to labels and there is no independent drive, they are not doing for themselves and there is no entrepreneurial drive or spirit apparent in how they do business. So I was critical in a constructive way about that. I read something that you said, and I know that Immortal Technique has subscribed to this which is – you can get paid more as an independent than signed to a major label, even if they sell less…
Saigon: Well, that is actually not true. You might not get paid off of your royalties, but an artist with a multi-platinum album? He might not get as much per unit back, but Immortal Technique can’t go get $40,000 for a show. See what I am saying? If you go platinum on a major (label) you are going to be able to charge $40,000 to $50,000 per show. And you can do three shows in one night.
Cedric Muhammad: Right, once you get past a certain scale in your popularity it allows you to have more streams of income (at a higher level)...
Saigon: Yeah, and that is where the independent artist loses. Yeah, they get more per CD but if you are only selling ten thousand CDs you might have made a good 80 or 90 grand and think you made more than a signed artist, but overall you ain’t make more than a successful artist on a major label – no where near it.
Cedric Muhammad: Do you think the few that make that multi-platinum status, that make that scale, I won’t say justify (that approach); but you have so few people that reach that status that sign to labels, what would you advise (the majority) of artists who aren’t going to reach that status in order to make that kind of cake off of shows etc...?
Saigon: My advice to them is, spend their money wisely. That first big check they give you – don’t go out there blowing it on jewelry and a car thinking, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to make more’. That might be all that you are going to make. Invest that money as wisely as possible. Buy a house. Buy something that is going to be there and make some money for you. That is my advice. Because when you sign a major deal they are going to give you something like $100,000 or $150,000 depending upon how good your managers and lawyers are. You might get only $75,000. But that little chunk of change you get – treat that like that is all you are going to make. Think like, ‘this is my start, let me go and flip this and go and try and start a business.’ Go open a barber shop, or a little record store. Whatever kind of business you want to open up. Go learn about business and how to flip that money. Think like that is all of the money you are going to get and if you happen to make more, then that is like a security blanket – you’re good - and you can start spending money and making some.
Cedric Muhammad: Now, another area where I have liked what you have had to say is the current environment and this whole dynamic where the South rapper is ‘in’ now, and I was laughing when I heard you say, ‘It is hard for a New York rapper now to make it (now)...' (laughter)
Saigon: Yeah. What? (laughter). That is why all of these dudes now, feel like they have to go down there and collaborate with a Down South artist and make these songs that sound country-driven. Yeah, it is real hard. I feel like – not to dis the South, because my family is from the South and my mother is from the South - but I feel like, they have kind of dumbed the Hip-Hop down so much, that it is like anybody can grasp it now, and it is more accessible and entertaining to everyone, and anyone can catch on to it now. They were always considered slower than us. The Down South mo’ f-----s was always considered slow. Like up here in New York, we were always considered more advanced than Down South people. Now it is like the tail wagging the dog. Now, it is like the slow people are leading the advanced. The slow mo’ f-----rs is like in control of shit because the majority rules. And there is more slow people, so now that is what is in effect. So now the people who like to hear insight and introspective lyrics and like to grow and learn – you can’t learn from a Down South record. There are a few groups like David Banner and Outkast (that you can learn from). It’s a few of them...
Cedric Muhammad: Yeah, even the Ying Yang Twins dropped a little something on this last album they have (‘United States of Atlanta’), believe it or not...
Saigon: Oh word? But look at what their single is. But when I have to go and buy your record and find that one (song that is conscious)...you know what I mean?
Cedric Muhammad: Well let me ask you this, because a lot of my viewers from the South, they get at BlackElectorate.com and different rappers, and they have a lot of criticism for what they call the ‘New York-centric’ view of Hip-Hop. And they make a point which is that those people in the South – this is their time to shine, and the baton has been passed, and what they say is that even though you may be right about the overtly conscious lyrics, the Brothers from the South have a brought a more entrepreneurial spirit to it and they have been creative in how they have added music and rhythms to it. What do you think? Do you think there is a form of consciousness that the Brothers in the South have that is lacking up in New York now?
Saigon: Nah. Not at all. I disagree with that totally because, as far as the entrepreneurial spirit, even in the South, them dudes sell out just as fast as a New York artist. The thing about them is that they were forced to put out their own music, because there was a time when their music didn’t really matter that much. In order to be heard they had to put it out. But if you look at any artist that gets big, he goes and f---s with a major. Because to go and get to another level you have to f—-k with them. How are you going to get your video on MTV? They are not just going to play any video. What makes you big is when you mess with the majors. And I have never seen an artist who got big on their own who said, ‘Nah, I am not f---ing with no major.’ Master P. f---ed with a major – everybody did from down there. You get to a point where you hit a glass ceiling and then you have to deal with them. So, it comes down to, ‘OK, I am going to get f---ed but it’s a question of whether it is going to be with or without Vaseline.’ That’s the only difference They still get f---ed but they just get a little grease on they shit. But you are getting f---ed anyway. It ain’t like they have Black distribution Down South or they own some shit down there. Nah. And as far as their music spreading – it spreads because it is club-oriented. Everything is about the club. Everything. Hip-Hip music has now become the new dance music, almost. A lot of people changed their musical format from dance to Hip-Hop because now you do dances in the clubs now, and because Down South is pretty much now booty-shakin’, strip club-oriented music. That’s what’s big and so huge right now.
Cedric Muhammad: You just alluded to radio. What is your view on radio – the evolution or digression of it in the years since you have been coming up? And I point to a record like ‘I’m Black’ by Styles P. that won’t get played, and then Kanye West’s song, ‘All Falls Down’ where they take out the part where he says, ‘White Man.’
Saigon: Yeah, that’s kind of crazy. I feel radio is what it is – a tool used to program us and help them to make money. The more money they put into an artist, the more you are going to hear him on the radio. The more you hear him on the radio, the more money they are going to get in return. It is a business thing. And you have Clear Channel which owns like 1500 stations who is putting all of the same songs in rotation because all of these dudes in high places are friends. You can only imagine who Jimmy Iovine’s friends are, who he has got in his Rolodex. Of course he can call the president of Clear Channel and the president of NBC and CBS, when Eminem says ‘nigger’, and get that shut down real quick. It is funny because Benzino used to say, ‘You notice as soon as we went at Eminem they raided Michael Jackson’s house (laughter)?’ Like, to take all of the attention off of all of that. They went after Mike after that.
The biggest and most popular artist in the world right now, Eminem, is a blatant racist. They have this dude on tape saying, ‘nigger this...’ and ‘nigger that...’ and (things like) ‘I don’t f-—k with nigger bitches, these bitches are coons and crickets’ and all kinds of shit, and they downplay it to the point where it is like he never said it. Let that have been Jay-Z talking about, ‘F—-k all of the White people.’ Lauryn Hill said one time, and I never even heard her say it, ‘I don’t want White people buying my music.’ But that is only through the grapevine, that somebody said that, and they blew that shit out of control. Nobody ever had no audio of that (Lauryn Hill’s alleged statement). But we have the audio of Eminem’s voice saying it! (And they make excuses for what he said like), “Oh he just broke up with a Black girl, so he called her all kind of ‘niggers.’” Get the f—-k out of here man, you have got to come up with something better than that. And you know what, none of us stood up, none of us stepped up. If I was 50 (Cent), I think I would have slapped his face as soon as I heard that.
Cedric Muhammad: Ok, now put a pin in that point, because a little later I want to ask you about your view of some rappers from yesterday and today and both of them are on the list, so hold that thought. Now, this is something that you said about Lil’ Kim and this is real timely now, in light of her conviction and sentencing. You said, "Every female that will show her ass and get half-naked and talk about her p----y and how good her head game is, that shit is f-----d up because these little girls look up to you and that’s why there’s so many young ho’s in the street. They want to be Lil’ Kim and they grow up being little trick ass. I feel it is my job to talk about that."
How do you feel about the female wing of the family – the women in Hip-Hop – in terms of their advancement as artists, what comes out of their mouths and how they are depicted by men?
Saigon: It is funny, because Essence magazine just did a big thing on that and they invited me to come and talk about that. They did a big thing on how women are portrayed in Hip-Hop, and they were on some ‘take back the music’ shit, and they were mad about the way that women were portrayed in these videos – being half naked looking like skanks and all of that. They feel like Black and Brown women were being portrayed as objects and not people with any kind of mental capacity.
First, to talk about the Lil’ Kim thing, I think that now that we have seen what she has done to herself, you can see how she really feels about herself. Now all of that has come into the light – what kind of person we are dealing with. We are not dealing with a person who has it all upstairs. So I really can’t blame her because I think she is slightly off – she is sick. So she is doing anything to make a dollar, to be famous and for people to be like, ‘Oh shit, that’s Lil’ Kim’. So she will take off her shirt, she will talk about deep throating a Sprite can, knowing she’s got little kids who see her who start crying (when they see her) and worship every word she says. She is all in it for the personal gain because she didn’t have that kind of guidance around her. Obviously Biggie wasn’t no good influence, because there is a skit where he is talking about f----ng her in her butt, on one of his albums. Obviously her father wasn’t in her life. She was raised by the street. But by the same token, you have got to grow out of that. You can’t always use that as an excuse. But now we see how the game swallowed her in and she feels like she wants to be Pamela Anderson with the blonde hair and the fake lips and fake tits and, she has an identity crisis. She hasn’t found herself yet. So you almost can’t blame her. Because she don’t know who she is. So, my heart goes out to Kim. I feel for Lil’ Kim.
But as far as the portrayal of Black women in videos, I feel like it is sad to see that us men do this and put women in our videos and have them looking like objects. But it is even sadder to see that these artists that do this have an even bigger female fan bases than men. That don’t make no sense to me. At the Essence thing they were saying, ‘We know women are always half dressed (in these videos)...' I said, ‘Every artist that y’all just named – Nelly, Jay-Z, with Nelly sliding the credit card (down a woman’s buttocks); he has an all-female fan base. Dudes ain’t running to the store buying Nelly. It is the women.’ Jay-Z, with the ‘Big Pimpin’ video. I love Jay-Z, that’s my Big Brother, but his fan base is a lot women.
Cedric Muhammad: next to the Whites, it is Black women who are buying (most of) their records.
Saigon: Exactly. It is the Black women. So, what is the science behind that? It is too deep. You have to look at the origin of it and how it goes back. Somebody has to step up and take a stand and until somebody takes a stand – like I said, before, if you don’t take a stand for something, you will fall for any damn thing, man.
Cedric Muhammad: Now, I want to talk about mixtapes. I have been on this subject for a while – I have worked with record stores. I have introduced members of Congress to representatives of the Independent, “Mom and Pop” stores, in an effort to deal with this. But The New York Times finally did it, they finally stepped up. Somebody finally wrote an article talking about the hypocrisy where you have the RIAA shutting down record stores for selling mixtapes that were created with the full cooperation of a record label and a D.J. And to me it is the most disgusting thing. I have respect for all of the street D.J.s but to me (on this issue) they are no better than a sell-out civil rights leader, when these D.J.s cake up off of putting out the mixtape, with cooperation of the label, and then they can’t open their damn mouths to save a record store that got shut down for selling it. So, I just wanted to ask you about that I know you have a deep understanding of the mixtape game. But it is disgusting to me, man.
Saigon: It is disgusting, man. But that just goes to show you where these dudes’ mind state is at. Dudes have got this individualism perspective, where, ‘if it don’t affect me – f-—k it!’ In this situation these stores are helping the DJs out. Because they wouldn’t have a means to sell their shit if it wasn’t for these stores. The reason why the RIAA is coming down is because they don’t tax mixtapes. And you know wherever the government sees some money being made without them getting their cut, they are shuttin’ it down. But these DJs who don’t step up – you are right . A lot of them don’t step up. These dudes is like you said – they are like house niggers. They don’t have no backbone man.
Cedric Muhammad: Yeah, and I talked to a few through a distributor in New Jersey. I had sent information to a few of the DJs, and they are scared. And I am not going to say anybody’s name yet because I am going to write something on this, but if you listen to some of these street DJs, you will believe that they are the most thoroughest gangster ever.
Cedric Muhammad: And then these are the same cats hugged up with Jimmy Iovine. I'm sorry Saigon, I don’t want to get into your interview, but this is something that I have seen up close and it is one of the biggest acts of cowardice from cats who shout out how thorough they are and who will step to you for the slightest offense, but they won’t get the back of people who are putting money in their pocket, while they are cutting deals with MTV etc...So, anyway, I guess I spoke for both of us on that but I appreciate what you said.
Saigon: But that is really right though. These dudes ain’t got no backbone. They are slaves to a dollar. These dudes will do anything for a dollar. I think for enough money these dudes would sleep with a man, yo. These are the types of dudes that if you offer them enough money they will do anything. If you don’t stand for something to the point where a person can’t buy you and where you have (made up your mind) to the point where you are like, ‘there is not enough money to make me do certain things,’ then you are f---ed up man. And a lot of them got price tags on them. These niggas got price tags on their forehead.
Cedric Muhammad: I am not mentioning names with them because I am waiting to build with them individually because the saving grace for these Brothers, is that they are the key to distribution.
Cedric Muhammad: So, I’m going to leave it at that. If they can come up and step up on that issue, then I will almost give them a pass for the bad that they have already done. But to me, a handful of niggers – five to ten DJs – and now you got some non-Blacks in it, caking up... I mean what good was the (mixtape) movement if it was only to enrich five to ten DJs, when you have got hundreds of stores (in the community) that could survive if they were able to sell these mixtapes. And I see these stores going under. And you can time it. From the time they were raided by the RIAA, you can clock how soon it was that they had to shut their doors for business.
Saigon: Them same DJs is grimy motherf---ers, dog. Because five years ago, before they saw the importance of the bootleggers – they used to chase the bootlegger dudes down on the street for selling their tapes.
Cedric Muhammad: (laughter)
Saigon: The Africans. You know what I’m saying? These same dudes were the ones who were ready to kill them back then. (They were crying to the bootleggers) ‘You are taking money out of our (pockets)’ But what about what you are doing to all of these stores? It is the same concept. Like I said, these dudes are not men. They are not men. And that’s why when I meet these dudes I don’t show them no respect like that. I give them a ‘what up, man, what up.’ I don’t really like none of these fake industry mo’ fu----rs anyway. To me they are like bitches. And not even to say they are like bitches (in the way people say that word). Because you have got some girls, and some women who got more heart than these dudes – who have more backbone than these cats. And it makes me sick to my stomach man. And that’s the reason why we are in the situation we are in. The reason why the artists still get 28 cent an album (laughter). Nobody is going to step up. Ain’t nobody steppin’ up. Because you’ve got those certain ones who are getting it, and everybody is trying to be like them, and follow in their footsteps. They think ‘he’s successful, he’s happy so…’ You have got him and then you got a bunch of followers following him.
Cedric Muhammad: OK. Let me calm down here a little bit.
What is your earliest childhood memory of Hip-Hop? Mine is, me at (seven or)eight years old (listening to my father play a Sugar Hill Gang record.) My father was in the military – he’s from Brooklyn – but when we moved, we went overseas so we were getting tapes of Mr. Magic etc… sent to us over on military bases, we would make a tape. We didn’t have a full stereo system. My friend and I would put our boxes right in front of each other and record tapes together. But what is your earliest childhood memory – something sweet about the Hip-Hop culture and how you got introduced to it?
Saigon: My earliest childhood memory was ‘Rock Box’ (by Run DMC). I heard ‘Rock Box.’ I had heard rap music before that because I always had older cousins around me who were up on the Sugar Hill Gang and all of that. But I was so young that it really did not have an effect on me. I used to always want Lee jeans. Like a kid today will see some Jordans or something that the rappers talk about or something that is popular in the hood, and really, really want it – like how these young kids were going crazy for throwback jerseys? It was like that with Lee jeans for me. And I heard that song, ‘Rock Box’, and they had that line, ‘Calvin Klein is no friend of mine. I don’t want nobody’s name on my behind. Lee on my legs, Addidas on my feet…’ And I was just like, ‘Ahhh…this is the craziest thing in the world!’ I used to always sing that.
Cedric Muhammad: You couldn’t rock Calvin Kleins after that!
Saigon: Nah, nah, you couldn’t rock Calvin’s after that. Not at all (laughter). Calvin Klein got shut down after that in the hood. And he ain’t come back yet.
Cedric Muhammad: (laughter)
Saigon:. He hasn’t been back in the urban community yet. That rocked him. Put him to sleep. But that was my earliest infatuation with it. I was like, ‘oh damn, this shit is really saying something.’ I was young, but I realized that socially what this music could do. Because I couldn’t afford Lees and shit. If I had Lees it was hand me downs. And I got my little hand me down Lee patch snatched.
Cedric Muhammad: I had three pairs of pants and I had to rotate them joints, Saigon.
Saigon: Yeah, me too. I had some Uncle Charlie’s and shit – the bootlegger shits.
Cedric Muhammad: Yeah, with the discoloration.
Saigon: Yeah, man. I had the Olympian sneakers, the Pro Champs and shit. I like Adidas too, but I had the Pro Champs. I’m talking about the first day of school, I had the crispy ones. Remember the Filas?
Cedric Muhammad: No question.
Saigon: And they had the fake Filas called Jumps.
Cedric Muhammad: I don’t remember the Jumps.
Saigon: You don’t remember the Jumps?
Cedric Muhammad: Nah.
Saigon: You don’t remember the Jumps? They had the same exact logo (as Fila). I don’t how they didn’t get enfringed (copyright) for that. But they had the same logo as Filas. And if you had those you were getting teased so bad. I had them. I had some Jumps.
Cedric Muhammad: Now you are six years younger than me but did you ever rock the patent leather Adidas?
Cedric Muhammad: You missed that, you see. I’m dating my self, here.
Saigon: Were they shells?
Cedric Muhammad: Nah. They were like Black and Red. Patent Leather. It was shiny black, with the red Adidas logo. It was serious.
Saigon: That might be a little before me.
Cedric Muhammad: 6 years.
Saigon: I came in with the shells (Adidas).
Cedric Muhammad: So, if you hear both of us, those were the good ‘ol days, so to speak. But how do you look at how Hip-Hop has changed now? What goes through your mind as you go from you, as a little boy with the shells – to where we are now?
Saigon: Hip-Hop has changed to the point where - to speak like a grown mo’ fu----r – it has become too corporate. Once Corporate America gets a hold of something it gets so diluted and so fu—-d up. It is a cash cow and they want to milk the cow. Hip-Hop is like Mike Tyson.
Cedric Muhammad: Hmmm, damn. Milk it ‘till it can’t go no more....
Saigon: Yup. (The mentality is) ‘We are going to milk this mother f----r till he can’t make a dime’ and then we are going to say, you know what, ‘F—-k you people. We don’t care about you. We don’t want to hear that jungle music again, after it just made me $300 billion. We don’t want to hear that.’ And that is what they are going to do to it. Right now, the Reggaetone is growing. The Latin market and population is growing in America and the Black market ain’t growing, because we aren’t coming here still, like (the Latinos are) from Mexico and other places. So, right now, a lot of stations are changing their format to Reggaetone – to Spanish. If you like now, Spanish is almost as relevant as English in this country.
Cedric Muhammad: Saigon, you are right, we just recently had an article up on BlackElectorate.com on how they are changing the radio format to a new thing called ‘Hurban’, which is short for Hispanic Urban.
Saigon:. Ah man. See that. This is just the beginning. Give it ten years. We know how fast (things evolve.) You got to remember Hot 97 (WQHT in New York City) originally didn’t play Hip-Hop. They were a dance station. They changed their format to Hip-Hop. And then now, it is going to change again, now that the Latin market is exploding.
When you call Sprint, if they turn your phone off – not only Sprint, any where you call – they ask you, ‘for English press 1, habla Espanol press 2.’ Why they don’t have (Saigon goes into an accent), ‘for Jamaican press tree, for Hatian, press 4’ (laughter). They only got English and Spanish. It wasn’t like that before. You learned English. And Spanish was a second language. Now, you look at Dora the Explorer – which is one of the most popular cartoons out. She’s like a little Hispanic girl. And she teaches Spanish. ‘Hola’ is what I hear when I see the little girls running around. They know more Spanish than I know and they are three and four year old kids. I see what is going on, I’m like, ‘oh they are switching it around.’ But we live in a world where we have to stay on top of things. But once Hip-Hop ain’t good for no money, they are going to destroy it. That’s why these dudes who is getting the money now - enjoy it while it lasts. As long as you spend your money wisely, good luck to you, more power to you. But the capitalist pigs are like, ‘Nah. I need more money. $30 million ain’t enough. I need more. I need more.’ They have more money than you can spend in five lifetimes, but ‘ I need more. And I am willing to kill some more people and sell some more drugs on wax to get more money.’
Cedric Muhammad: Alright. Now, this is rapid fire. I am going to just hit you with a name and you just give me your thoughts. I am going to give you some rappers from the past. KRS-One.
Saigon: KRS-One is the teacher, man. He is an intellectual thug. He is the first intellectual thug. He is the first person to mix the thug music with the conscious rap and make it work. Then came Tupac and then came Saigon. Because if you look at their (Boogie Down Productions) first album cover they had guns – not only in raps, it was on the cover. ‘My 9 Milimeter Go Bang’; ‘Criminal Minded’. But at the same time they was teaching and making it clear that, ‘we are not no punks because we are speaking positive.’ Because if you remember that song ‘Self-Destruction’, Just Ice had a line on their, ‘You ain’t got to be soft to be for peace, robbery, murder and stealing is the least’. And that is true.
But in this day and time they try and differentiate, and they do that with everything with us. They try to separate us by categorizing us. If you are conscious you can’t be gangster. If you are gangster you can’t be conscious. Why, if I am peaceful, I can’t be a tough guy? If a nigger step on my feet, I’m a bite him. That’s just the way it goes. I don’t give a f—k how peaceful I am. Look at Malcolm. Malcolm was by the window (with a gun), ‘By Any Means Necessary.’ He wasn’t looking to go shoot his own people with that gun. He was looking to use the gun in case somebody was coming to come and try and hurt him and his family. He knew mo’ fu---rs was after him. So he was at the window like, ‘I’m gotta protect mine.’
Cedric Muhammad: Alright. Rakim Allah.
Saigon: Rakim Allah, ah, that’s the god right there. Rakim was the one who brought the importance of not only the Five Percent Nation to the game, but the importance of prolific writing – showing you could take words and put them together like a poet, and put a beat behind it and make beautiful music. Like, before Ra, you had never heard somebody so articulate and so deep. That made everybody want to be smart. When Ra came out everybody wanted to get their vocabulary up. Everybody wanted to be like they knew what time it was and what was going on. So he was very important to the evolution of Hip-Hop.
Cedric Muhammad: Big Daddy Kane.
Saigon: Big Daddy Kane, brought the ladies man in the game. He started bringing in the smooth side of the game and he was representing the Nation like Rakim but Rakim was the more serious side of it – he was (emphasizing) ‘get your mind right, learn your Lessons’ and teaching them. Big Daddy Kane was more on some, ‘I’m God Body but I’m a smooth cat too, a ladies man. I love the ladies.’ And he got a lot of girls up on Hip-Hop. They found him attractive. He’s tall, dark and handsome and all of that. He brought the smooth side of the game. And they (he and Rakim) balanced each other off.
Cedric Muhammad: Now, Saigon, to jump in on this. This is my little theory. To me, you may say somebody is a greater rapper etc… but to me, Kane is the only rapper I ever saw that had every segment of the community loving him at once. The women, the conscious cats, you know what I’m saying?
Saigon: Yeah. Him and ‘Pac.
Cedric Muhammad: But even with ‘Pac, there were some cats that were saying…
Saigon:…they didn’t respect his lyrical ability.
Cedric Muhammad: Yeah. But Kane…
Saigon: I never looked at it like that, but you are right. Everybody would f—k with Kane, everybody. From the women to the dudes, cause he could rap, and every dude wanted to be like him with the high-top fade. I had a high ass top too…
Cedric Muhammad:…knowledge of self…
Saigon: knowledge of self, the conscious raps, ‘I’ll Take You There’, the party raps – ‘let it roll, get bold…’…(Saigon is quoting Kane from his cut, ‘Set It Off’); yeah, you are right he was well, well-rounded.
Cedric Muhammad: Well rounded, I love him. Ok, Kool G. Rap. [ Saigon has a popular collaboration with Kool G. Rap called, "Letter P."]
Saigon: Kool G. Rap I think brought more of the street, gangster element. I hate to use the word ‘gangster’, but he brought the more street savvy dude to the game – the ones more up on what was going on in the streets. He was making songs about robbing the Mafia for drugs. Mo’ fu…..s wasn’t really abreast of what the Mafia really was, then. ‘I got a job with the mob, making keys making Gs…’He brought that street element which people weren’t really ready for at the time. He was so prolific as a writer. The dudes loved him. The girls ain’t really like him that much, you know, but he was still on some, ‘Talk Like Sex’ (a Kool G. Rap record). He was on some , ‘I want to pound it out’. (Kool G. Rap’s attitude was) While Kane is trying to be a ‘Smooth Operator’ (a Big Daddy Kane song); I’m on some, ‘filling all three holes just like bowling…’ know what I mean? He was that gangster street dude. He is another one. G. Rap is my dude. He brought a side to the game. Like, all of these dudes had very intricate parts in the evolution of Hip-Hop.
Cedric Muhammad: One more, before I get into the contemporary cats and that is of course, ‘Pac
Saigon: Tupac. Can’t say enough about Tupac. But like how you said earlier about how you see things after somebody is gone?
Cedric Muhammad: Yeah.
Saigon:…You see things in hindsight. Tupac was a complete artist to me. Complete. Not only as far as his music but his interviews, the way he articulated himself with emotion and with passion. In his music, interviews and everything he did. And it is like this dude accomplished so much and it is hard to believe he died at 25, right?
Cedric Muhammad: Unbelievable.
Saigon: That is crazy. This dude was a baby. And he made songs like, ‘Dear Mama’, an ode to your mother who was a drug addict. He made, ‘Keep Your Head Up’ for the single mothers who was going through the hood. He made, ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’ for the teenage mothers who don’t know what to do with a baby. He made songs like, ‘Holler If You Hear Me’, ‘Pour Out A Little Liquor’, about appreciating your dead friends. Then he made songs like, ‘I Get Around.’ He was the most overall complete artist we ever seen. And not only was he an artist, but he was a revolutionary. He stood for something. He saw these two White dudes harassing a Black dude he didn’t know from a can of paint. And Dream Hampton the writer, she was with him that day. ‘Pac didn’t know these dudes and he was like, ‘Oh what are they doing to that man? What are they doing to that Brother? Let me go and help...’ This is a celebrity - a dude on TV, in movies. How many regular dudes wouldn’t do that?
Cedric Muhammad: No, how many cats with knowledge of self or conscious wouldn’t even do that?
Saigon: Exactly. Exactly. If we don’t give him credit for this? I mean, this dude stood for something. But if you watch the Resurrection DVD. You got the DVD?
Cedric Muhammad: Yeah, that was what moved me so much to state what I said earlier.
Saigon: If you watch the DVD go to the Special Features with him talking...
Cedric Muhammad: Yeah, the speeches.
Saigon: The speeches. And he is dropping it on all of the old people there. I think they are asking him to stop cursing. And he is like – “This is what is wrong with you all. You all are so worried about me saying, ‘f—k’, ‘nigger’, and little words, meanwhile there are mothr f----rs in the street getting killed right now. And y’all are trying to sit here and tell me to watch my language? No I am not going to watch my language. I feel angry. I’m angry right now because y’all dropped the ball and I feel like I shouldn’t have to do the shit that y’all should have did…” There is so much more to Tupac. That is why when people compare Tupac to Biggie I automatically know that they don’t know who Tupac was. Because that is no comparison whatsoever. That is two different levels of a person, a man. I could never ever compare the two. I couldn’t do it.
Cedric Muhammad: That’s deep. Alright, Jay-Z.
Saigon: Jay-Z. Jay-Z is brutally honest. Jay understands what is going on but he also understands the condition we are living in. He understands the world. So he feels like me. You know when I said I am at war with myself a lot?
Cedric Muhammad: Right.
Saigon: The hustler in him has won. Like, the hustler in me can’t win. I know to make more money what kind of records I have to make. And I know that to try to save a people who really don’t want to be saved, ain’t going to make me no money. I am going to get dropped from my label and I will probably end up where I got started. And I will be like, ‘At least I tried to help some people.’ Jay understands that. He is like, ‘look, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. And if this mo’ f---er don’t look thirsty, I am not even going to lead him to the water.’ Jay, with the hustler spirit he got. Jay, he’s a hustler. He will tell you all day. He grew up learning how to rub some nickels together and make a dollar. He sees opportunities to go out and make money and he goes out and does it. I don’t think Jay is that detrimental to people. I don’t think so.
Cedric Muhammad: I don’t either.
Saigon: Jay doesn’t go out there and tell you ‘sell drugs’. He is telling you his story. He tells you, ‘look, I sold drugs, man. I did everything I could to try and get out of Marcy projects. I did everything it took.’ I think Jay-Z is actually helpful because he shows us that a nigger can go from Marcy to being the president of Def Jam. People can be like, ‘damn, I can be like Jay-Z one day.’ I can go to that level from the projects, not saying, ‘I’m still flipping bricks to this day’. Because you don’t get on records and say, ‘Yeah I’m still in the projects with mad cocaine.’ You don’t do that right now. And Jay-Z is a powerful voice. He’s a potential leader. Hopefully he comes around, gets used to the money, is older, and just uses his power for what it could be used for. That would be a beautiful thing to see. I would love to see, with the influence that this man has, what he could possibly do.
Cedric Muhammad: 50 Cent.
Saigon: 50 Cent. Wow. This is very touchy because we have the same lawyer and accountants and I know how he plays. He plays hardball. Like, if he don’t agree with something you say, he’ll go to the lawyer and be like, ‘hey, f-—k with his books.’ (laughter). It is very touchy. But I am a man first. But 50 is a super talent. His voice is so powerful. He can say anything and draw people in.
My qualm with 50 is the bullshit he puts in his music. You can’t keep feeding the people poison without giving them nothing good. He has all of this attention and he could lead these mother f----rs to the Promised Land, and he would rather lead them to damnation. You got more money than you could ever spend in your life. What is your excuse for still doing this shit? What is the excuse for your new single you are talking about, ‘On my way O.T. to flip them bricks…’ You just made $50 million last year. What are you doing even thinking about a brick? And you got to think that there are young kids in the hood who don’t see that and they are like, ‘…yeah nigga I’m on my way O.T. to flip some bricks. F-—k that I gotta go get this money, I gotta go flip these bricks.’ And it is like he don’t care. There is an article where he said, ‘F--k anybody else’s kids. I don’t care about nobody else’s kids as long as my kid is alright.’ Now, what if somebody sees your kid in trouble and they have that kind of mentality? What if somebody sees his kid about to do the wrong thing – about to smoke some crack or something crazy and they have that mentality that he has – ‘Fu-k that kid. Let that nigga’ do whatever he wants.’ Come on man, you can’t say things like that. Put the shoe on the other foot. You’re a father. You definitely shouldn’t say no shit like that.
Cedric Muhammad: Eminem.
Saigon: Eminem, wow. I think he’s a culture vulture, man.
Cedric Muhammad: (laughter) I asked Wise Intelligent the same question, and he said the first time he saw him, he was like, ‘Elvis Presley has entered the building.’
Saigon: Yeah, a culture vulture. Like, he says it himself. Not to take anything away from the dude’s writing ability. But you know what? I have been around the country - every White kid rhymes like that! You know what it is? You can tell these kids were in better schools than we were, so they have a more intense vocabulary. So when they write it comes out more prolific and better than how we right. If you notice, Eminem, he pronounces his r’s very well. So if I was to say a rhyme and pronounce my ‘r’s’; like ‘You’re a hater’ or ‘You’re a waiter, people would be like, ‘You sound like Eminem.’ No, I am just pronouncing the ‘r’. But he was taught going to these schools how to pronounce words better. We say hatah’, we don’t say ‘hater’.
Notice how when I say, ‘you’re a hater’, it sounds like Eminem?
Cedric Muhammad: (laughter)
Saigon: Know what I mean? Because he pronounces his words. Every White kid that I meet rhymes like that. And it is so many of them that are talented. But it’s like when you are rapping about raping your mom? Growing up in Hip-Hop in the hood, no matter what moms does she is right. That is totally going totally against what we are about as Black people. Mom put us here. She was doing what she had to do to make us right. I seen niggas whose Mom gave them up for adoption and they still have a certain level of respect for their mother, for bringing them to the world. This nigga (Eminem) is talking about raping his mom, burying her, killing her. This ain’t us, that’s not what we do. That’s them. He’s just using our art form and what we created to deal with the savagery of how they get down. And to me that’s crazy. Somebody should have been checked that shit, a long time ago.
When you have XXL magazine, even though that is owned by them. But when you have these journalists who come from our communities saying he’s the greatest rapper alive. Come on how is he the greatest rapper alive? What makes him the greatest rapper alive? He’s better than Rakim, he’s better than Nasir Jones? Come on man, get real.
Cedric Muhammad: Alright, Common.
Saigon: Common. Common is a dope artist. A very, very prolific writer. I respect what he is doing because he is still finding his niche, as far as doing what he wants to do and maintaining integrity, but still sell records. That’s why this (‘Be’) is his best album so far and it is like his sixth or seventh LP. And he is still finding his niche in the game. But I respect Common a lot. I like his music. I’m not too into his fashion statement and all of that. But I respect what he does because he tries to put a good message in his music and I think that is always good when you are trying to do something positive. I like Common, a lot. I f—-k with Common.
Cedric Muhammad: Game.
Saigon: Game. I think Game is a lost soul, man. I just don’t think he has found his way yet. I think growing up in Compton, idolizing gang members – he’s not really a hardcore gang banger like he makes it seem like, wearing a bandana around your neck, because there are pictures of him on the "Change Of Heart" show with a button down shirt on, as a grown man. I ain’t never seen a hardcore Monster Cody-type gang member, which he tries to portray, that wears button-down shirts on TV game shows. Its like he’s so caught up into the marketing image of it, he is starting to believe his own hype, almost. I believe it could be to the point where he might be like ready to die just to prove a point like, ‘I’m willing to die for this shit.’ I’ve met dudes like that. I think he’s still finding himself.
I think he’s smart. Game is a brainiac! This is what people don’t know about Game. He’s a brainy dude. He’s a smart dude. He is by no means a dummy, no. He might not make the smartest decisions all of the time, but he’s a thinker. He’s a smart cat. And that’s why I think for him to be coming out and glorifying the Blood thing to the point that he glorifies it, when he has a dead family member, and dead friends who die from it – I think he is like a male Lil’ Kim. He hasn’t found himself yet. He’s still confused. He is still in a growing process. So dudes like that – I can’t really knock him. He’s not conscious. He hasn’t really been where I have been. Put Game in prison for eight years and send Game home and he will be a totally different guy.
Cedric Muhammad: Papoose.
Saigon: Papoose. I don’t know what to say about cat. I like what he’s doing but I am not sure if it is authentic because he used to rap about shooting babies and then he’s rapping about a conscious state. I don’t get it. I don’t know where he is going with it. He is a very gifted writer. He can write his ass off. But I don’t know what his message is to the people when one minute you are shooting a kid in his bib and hitting him on his baby potty.
How can you talk about murdering innocent kids and then, in the next breath talk about, you are like Malcolm X? I never heard Malcolm say in a speech anything about murdering kids. Even when he was talking about being ‘Dirty Red’, I never heard him talk about how he used to murder little kids. That is a little extreme. I don’t know if Kay Slay (Paposse is signed to DJ Kay Slay’s record label) is in his ear. Because I know Kay Slay gives him a lot of his ideas.
I am the new dude who was doing that conscious thug rap, and he (Papoose) wasn’t doing that. And we did a song, and after that song, he became the political thug. I’m going to put it out there. He became the political thug, trying to come from my angle. But this shit is authentic for me dog. I lived there. I’ve been bid in (in jail) with some of the most dangerous criminals in the state of New York. Know what I mean? I have been there, where we thought we might have to riot with police. I had a steel boot of oppression placed on my neck. If this shit is a gimmick what comes out in the wash is going to come out in the rinse. Like Nas said, ‘Its trendy to be the conscious MC...’ Its trendy but we’ll see where it is going to go.
I know that Papoose has Kay Slay in his ear, telling him, ‘Yo rap over this beat. Rap like this. Say something about this.’ I know because Kay was trying to sign me before he signed Papoose. He loved, ‘Color Purple’. He loved these records I was coming with. Paposse wasn’t rapping like that before he got on Street Sweepers, before he got down with Kay Slay. So I don’t know if they are trying to take my little niche and run with it, but even if he is, if he is doing something positive I appreciate that. I appreciate it. Your saying the right thing? I ain’t gonna knock you like, ‘oh you trying to steal my angle…’ If you are talking positive we will be a team. Us together, we can team up and be even more powerful. Know what I mean?
Cedric Muhammad: Yeah. I hope to see that. Now here is the last one I saved it for a reason, depending upon your answer. Jadakiss.
Saigon: Jadakiss. Now here’s another one who is like 50 Cent to me. (Saigon sighs). This dude has a voice. He could touch so many people. I love the dude, he could have people following him and he could lead people in the right direction. But he’s confused. He don’t know if he wants to be a gangster, a thug, or a person who is like, ‘Why are we living in these f---ed up conditions?’ When he makes a song like ‘Why?’, your next song should be some solutions. Let’s try to change this. When you go from one aspect (songs like ‘Why?’) to the next – I’m a gangster, I’ll shoot you, I’ll kill you, especially when you never even really shot nobody and never really lived that life. Because I know Dee and Wah (the founders of the Ruff Ryders label that signed Jadakiss). I know Dee. Dee is my friend. I know Jabbar. The dudes who really are the Ruff Ryders – the dudes that get busy in the streets. It ain’t the artists.
If these dudes (the artists) do something they are just doing it to try and prove a point. You are not doing it because that’s what’s in your heart. You don’t become a thug at the age of thirty years old. That don’t happen. You don’t become a thug at 28 years old. When you are a thug, you are thuggin’ from young. You are the kid who fights on the bus. You are the kid who is always in some shit. (when parents and adults are like), ‘I don’t want you with that kid. (laughter). That’s the kid I was. That’s the man I don’t want to be. So when a grown man is talking about, ‘I’m thugging and I’m gangster’- you are lying, man. Because I lived that, I went that route and I have seen the harsh realities of living that life and no man wants to live like that!
Cedric Muhammad: Now, that is exactly why I raised the question, because I felt the sentiment that you expressed toward Jadakiss in what I read earlier and I also saw some balance in how you were portraying him. Let me bring it up like this. Because Jadakiss has that gift – he has the charisma and the voice and the talent to reach people; and he also is obviously sensitive. Jay-Z is definitely like that.
Cedric Muhammad: But he (Jay-Z) has lived a lot of the lifestyle.
Cedric Muhammad: So, here is the dilemma about ‘keeping it real.’ You got some people, like Malcolm X who lived the life, who struggle, see both sides and make a decision and they have the ability to articulate with sensitivity. Then you have somebody, say for example, like Minister Farrakhan. He struggled. He was poor and he suffered. But he didn’t live that (full ‘street’ lifestyle). And yet he has the ability and sensitivity to still speak to that element of our struggle.
Cedric Muhammad: So (with that principle in mind) you have a cat that will glorify the person who ‘lived it’, and dismiss the sensitive person who has that gift by birth; and on the other hand you will have the other people, who will disrespect the one that came up from the dirt and lift up one who has that eloquence.
Do you think about that sometimes when you see these talented Brothers (who have not lived the lifestyle) who speak it as if they live it, but by the same token, you respect their ability to speak to that?
Saigon: I respect their artistic ability, yeah. Because it takes thought to put the words together like that. It takes some sense of intelligence. But, what I don’t respect is that these guys know that this music is geared towards youth. And a child’s mind is like clay. So, if you just want to be a person who just takes somebody else’s life and just glorifies it through your music and talk about something that you never even lived, then that just kind of like shoots you down. If you lived it and you been through it? Hey I can’t knock you for talking about your experiences. You can never knock somebody for talking about their experiences. You just can’t do that, because this person went through it. But when a person who never, ever been through nothing comes and tries to speak on something that they have never been through and they talk about it like they really know about it, like, ‘Respect me, we are the streets!’ and you grew up like, with your mother and father taking good care of you, and you never even stayed out past twelve o’clock, it don’t make sense. Because you got little kids who see this and love Jadakiss and they are like, ‘Yo, you know Jada has been in the streets so f—k it, it is alright for me to be in the streets, cause look at where he is at now.’ Come on, that ain’t real, man! That's not reality.
And so it is up to you to be responsible to your people, as a Black man. That is what’s wrong with us. We don’t have no structure. They don’t have to worry about getting checked by nobody, when they go in and make these records. Nobody is going to put them on blast and be like, ‘Look at this kid. This guy is talking this gangster shit and he don’t even got a rap sheet. He never been through nothing. He never even had a fight in school.’
Cedric Muhammad: How do you feel about a Brother like Fat Joe?
Saigon: A Brother like Fat Joe. See the thing with Joe is that Joe has been in the game so long, for him to still be getting this kind of attention, I feel like he is overachieving. He is one of the few from that era who is still around. So he feels like, ‘I’m doing what I got to do. I am changing with the times.’ I look at Joe in a whole different respect. Because Joe comes from an era where Hip-Hop was street music and you know Joe was in the street.
Cedric Muhammad: Yeah. And that was the point. And he would be the first person to support (causes and the community). The thing I love about Joe is he talks Black-Brown unity all day long.
Saigon: Yeah. For sure.
Cedric Muhammad: And I give him that. I don’t see anybody else doing that. And he has the street credentials.
Cedric Muhammad: And I raise that point to you because I wanted to know what you thought about somebody who maybe a balance between both of those worlds to a degree, because Joe puts it down for causes even though the music is geared a lot more now to the girls (and commercial sales) etc…
Saigon: You know, Joe did a lot for the Latin community. I respect Joe a lot, man. I respect Joe, because I don’t think he is one of the real poisons in the game. I think you know what to expect from a Fat Joe record. You are going to party, you are going to have fun. You are going to just get your little party on. He lets you know, ‘Look I’m a serious dude. I come from the streets. I still go back to the streets. I get my respect in the streets. And as long as you don’t f-—k with me, I won’t f--k with you.’ That is his perception (and perspective) in the game. ‘I can get you hit up. I can get you hurt.’ But his whole thing is like, ‘I’m just happy to be here, man.’ That’s my take on Fat Joe.
He is happy to still be relevant, after twelve years.
Cedric Muhammad: And he’s honest about his talent, and his lack of confidence at certain points (in his career).
Saigon: Yeah, because being Latin at the time when he came up, he had a strike against him, because it was almost like playing basketball. (The stereotype is), ‘Ah man Puerto Ricans can’t play ball. Puerto Ricans can’t rap.’ So he always had to come prove himself. Like I think even to this day, he is still proving that he should be respected on the same level as a Black dude, as a rapper. You gottta love it. I think he is from a whole other level of Hip-Hip. He is more in tune with the artistic value of it. Instead of making it seem like, ‘Hey, I‘m a gangster killer. I do this and that and I will come slice up your whole family...’ and all of this shit that these niggas be talking.
Jadakiss talks about when his ‘…coke comes in they got to use the scales that they weigh the whales with’ (Saigon is quoting a line in Jadakiss’ song, ‘We Gon’ Make It). Number one, if you was really selling coke you are not going to get on a record and say, ‘I SELL COKE.’ You would be indicting yourself. Look at John Forte. This nigga’ ain’t never rapped about coke in his life. And they catch this mother f----r with like thirteen pounds of the shit. Everybody is lookin; like, ‘Damn, this dude was selling drugs?’ Because dogs that bark don’t bite. And if I’m really selling drugs, I’m not going to get on record and say, ‘Hey guess what your honor? I’m selling crack.’ That don’t make sense.
That’s why you know dudes who really lived the street life because they are not going to get on record and say, ‘Hey, I’m from the streets. I’m from the hood. I keep it hood.’ When niggas are saying ‘they keep it hood’ too much, I know they are frontin’. When a nigga says, ‘Yeah I’m hood. We do this. We do that…’ Nah B. You are frontin’.
Number one, sound travels at a real fast pace, and if you was somebody whose name was making noise in any neighborhood, in New York City, people are going to know about you. It is a very small city as big as people think it is. People are going to know about you. People knew about Killer Ben. People knew about the real 50 Cent. People knew about them, and these dudes never had rap records. And their names spread all through the boroughs. People knew about Supreme Team. These dudes was drug dealers. People knew about them. I never heard about Jadakiss slinging mad coke. I never heard about a dude named Styles from Yonkers who used to shoot up parties. I heard about Father Divine. I heard Lucas. I heard about Guy Toney. I heard about dudes like that. These dudes never even had rap records and you was hearing about them, because the streets talk. The streets, they speak. So when a rapper gets out and comes out and be like, ‘Yeah you know, I did this, niggas was in the hood, Niggas…’ Come on, why I ain’t never heard about you? Why I ain’t never heard about you if you was doing all of this shit that you were portraying in your records?
If you ask people who know me – I went to jail at fifteen years old. I didn’t get a chance to become a street legend. But if you ask people in my circle who knew me and grew up with me, they’ll tell you, ‘This nigga was a f-----ng knucklehead. He used to stay in some shit.’ Know what I mean? That is the one thing I give 50 (Cent). 50 was a person who I heard about before I even heard about him as a rapper. They used to call him ‘Boo.’ He was a knucklehead and a trouble-maker. So I know his story is not false. His story is reality. My whole point with him is, ‘OK, we know you keep it gangster, we know you have been there and you have done it (laughter). But is there ever going to come a point where you tell people that it is not right?’
You ever see "I’m Gonna Get You Sucka"?
Cedric Muhammad: Yes.
Saigon: And a nigga had too much gold and he died and shit. (laughter). I think some of these niggas is going to die from having too much money (laughter). (The obituary) is going to be like, ‘He had too much money. He O.D.’ed. He Over-Doughed, son.' That movie is so ironic when you look at the irony of it now. It was funny but you look at it and they were making a joke out of these kids and how these dudes move now.
Cedric Muhammad: Well, I am going to wrap up real quick here, we are going on two hours and I am almost embarrassed (to have taken up the time)...
Saigon: Don’t be, this means a lot to me. It takes Brothers like us to make a change.
Cedric Muhammad: Well I appreciate it...
Saigon: Two hours out of my life is, trust me, nothing.
Cedric Muhammad: Alright. Here is a quote from you, and in light of Live 8, you know I have to ask you this. You have been quoted as saying, “I represent me, I don’t represent no f----g area. That’s pigeon hole. That’s divide and conquer. That’s what’s wrong with Black people. That’s what separates our people and we are all Black. We are all from f----g Africa. I’m going to start telling people that I’m from Africa. I’m from the Motherland, I represent me. I’m the same wherever I go.” In light of that, how do you feel about Live 8 and somebody like Bono and other Whites taking the lead, in the artistic community, in the West, on Africa.
Saigon: I hate that, man. I kind of hate that. And we deserved it. But that also goes back into our indoctrination through slavery. It gets to the point where we don’t even relate to Africans as being the same as us. Very few people do that. I know that when mother f----rs be referring to African people and they be like, ‘Oh, I am about to go down and see the Africans and get my hair down etc…’ And I’m like 'What are you? An American?' Cause you were born here and raised here, you don’t consider yourself an African, as well? ‘No I’m not African.’ I have had a lot of people tell me that – ‘I’m not an African. I’m American.’ And they will get mad if you call them African. That comes back to our self-hatred and where they taught us to hate anything Black. If it is something Black we don’t want any part of it. But niggers will jump to help the tsunami victims. They wasn’t Black. They were Brown people too, but they weren’t Africans or our direct line of people. We know that Africans are our direct people. These people are dying.
I was watching this shit on TV the other day. There were like eight kids that died within a few others, of AIDS. You got to see the graves they were building for them. They were burying them in like little boxes. Three shallow graves, and they would make a little cross out of sticks and stick it in the ground. And they was just lining ‘em up. I was like, wow. You mean to tell me – there are billionaires in this world, there are people who won’t even be able to spend a quarter of their money and there is people who can’t even afford a f----g piece of bread in the same world we live in. That is not right, man. What is this whole United Nations shit for, if it’s not helping that? They are quick to spend all of this money to go fight and take somebody’s shit and go to war with somebody. They will spend billions of dollars just to test a bomb. Just to see if it works. You know what they could have did with that money, man? You know how many lives they could have saved with that money? But they are not about saving lives, they are about keeping the power. Keeping power – that is what they are about. So when you have Live 8 and it is something for our people and you have White people leading the movement, I think we need to look at ourselves and (ask ourselves) what could we be doing to help more? What’s wrong with our people? What’s wrong with us man? Are we that much slaves to money? Have we become capitalist pigs? Have we become what these people – what they are?
Cedric Muhammad: I have a question for you regarding how you feel about cats in Hip-Hop trying to get the community to vote. (But let me say first) I love Russell (Simmons). I have worked pretty closely with him and I have good relations with people around him. But I just thought it was an insult that they (Live 8) came to him at the last minute. And I felt he was (too) deferential to Bono. And I know he is being respectful to the fact that Bono has put his work in etc… But to me, Bono hasn’t done what Russell has done in terms of organizing and mobilizing young people and getting them together and trying to educate them. And so it just made me kind of sick to be honest with you but I think the good part about it was at least now Russell and others are at the table. But I don’t want us bowing to Bono again, I done seen enough of that.
Cedric Muhammad: Ok. Reparations. How do you feel about that issue?
Saigon: Ah, man, you know. I think that is part of the reason why we have a lot of people doing what they do, because they are still waiting for somebody to come and give them something. And it is not going to happen. You have to go out there and bust your ass and do what you got to do to go get it. But people like us wouldn’t even know what to ask for. If they were to come to the table and be like, ‘We are going to give ya’ll some reparations. What do y’all want?’ You know what mother f----rs would say? ‘I want a Bentley.’ ‘I want a Mercedez Benz.’ ‘I want a Jacuzzi.’ ‘I want some of those bitches from that Luke video!’
This is what we would probably ask for.
We wouldn’t even know what to begin to ask for. If they was to give a nigga 40 acres, what he gonna’ do with it? Try to plant some weed on it? He wouldn’t know what to do about it - trying to build on it and the importance of owning land and things of that nature. So it is almost like that 40 acres and a mule shit was like, ‘ha,ha,ha, yeah right.’
Cedric Muhammad: Yeah. That’s interesting your take on it. OK, two more. Iraq (and political parties). Your line in the ‘Color Purple’ about the Democrats and Republicans being gangs. Just elaborate a little bit on that, if you don’t mind.
Saigon: You said, Iraq?
Cedric Muhammad: Well, there was a line on there ("The real gangs is the government. The Democrats are the Crips, and the niggers that’s Blood to them is the Republican; instead of claiming the set, they claim oil mines in Iraq, some in the Ukraine and Tibet…") that actually was more about...
Saigon: ...Oh Yeah. Yeah. If you looked at the election, right. When it was coming down to who was going to win the electoral votes...
Cedric Muhammad: ...yeah who was gonna win Ohio...
Saigon: Yeah. It was a map. You had the Red states. The Blue states. It kind of almost looked like some Blood and Crip shit to me (laughter). I was like, ‘Look at this shit’. I am looking at this shit and am like, ‘Do we be imitating this shit when we doin' this (gang-banging) with this Red and Blue (colors)?’ It almost seemed like they were talking about which states were Crip states and which states were Blood states. It was so congruent. The similarities were so much there. It is just that these mother f----rs (political parties) are fighting for bigger shit. Like we might fight for a block. The Bloods might beef with the Crips over a neighborhood - that they really don’t own. And they are beefing over who is going to come and take this oil and take control of Iraq and run this country and who is going to have the say so. And who is going to be the one controlling the economy – Alan Greenspan or some other cat? They are fighting for bigger shit but it is congruent and almost the same (mentality as the street gangs).
Cedric Muhammad: Now the last question is, what is your view of the state of what some are calling political Hip-Hop, or Hip-Hop political activism? What did you think of ‘Vote or Die’? What Russell did with the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network?
Saigon: I believe they had good intentions but I don’t believe they actually kept it real with us. For Russell and Puff I think it was more of a PR thing of, ‘How do I stay relevant in American society?’ ‘How do I stay on TV?’ ‘How do I stay in the public eye, instead of playing the back?’
But, you can do way more in the dark than you can in the light. People don’t realize that. Or if they do realize that, they don’t choose to do it. But having people were walking around in ‘Vote Or Die’ T-Shirts? Those shirts were costing like $65. For a T-Shirt.
Cedric Muhammad: Even 50 said Diddy got him on that one…
Saigon: Yeah, them shits was costing a grip of money, for a f----g T-Shirt. So it is like, you have all of these big artists supporting this campaign – ‘Vote or Die’ – like if you don’t get out there and vote you are going to die. But nobody ever explained the difference between Kerry and Bush. What was Kerry supposed to come do? They never explained that to the people. It was just pretty much, ‘Get Bush out of here.’ The lesser of two evils. They never explained like, ‘Hey, if we vote for Kerry, this is going to change.’ I don’t think none of that shit trickles down into the hood. I didn’t see no difference in the ghetto when Bush came than when Clinton was in office. Niggas was still dying every day. Niggas was still poor. Niggas was still living in the projects. Shit was still f—ed up. Clinton took welfare…
Cedric Muhammad: ...hey Saigon, check this out. I have written about this extensively at BlackElectorate.com ("In Light Of His Record How Can Black America Love President Clinton?", February 20, 2001) more Black men were locked up under Clinton than under Bush (the current President’s father) and Reagan combined
Saigon: See that.
Cedric Muhammad: 200,000 more Black men were locked up (under Clinton). And you are right. He (Clinton) signed the crime bill. He signed welfare reform. He was the one who said 'mend' affirmative action...
Saigon: Exactly so what’s the difference? I don’t really see the big significance on having a Democrat for a President when they both work for the same dudes. The President is the president of the country. He is not the CEO. You dig what I am saying? He is the figure head. He is the guy that they can put on that TV. If the president was that powerful, they wouldn’t be able to make jokes about him on mother f---ng Saturday Day Night Live. Eminem wouldn’t be able to put him on a movie and depict him getting his d--- sucked and make a big joke out of it. You can’t do that to a person who really has power. The president’s power is so miniscule it is not that much. There are dudes that make decisions and tell him what to say. He don’t even write his own speeches. So he is just pretty much a figure head for somebody to put on the news and for somebody to show us. He don’t make no decisions. That wasn’t his decision to go to war. That was people above him that we will never see.
They are probably over there in Israel to tell you the truth. America alone gives more money to Israel than it does... That is why the Palestinians are over there always banging out. It’s like how can you be so poor and live right next to mother fu----rs that’s living in mansions and shit? Big mansions and they live so good. And then you got the Palestinians who don’t have shit. And they are like, ‘This is our land,’ and they just come and take our shit. They say, ‘Hey we are the natives of this land. Look, Jesus was a Jew. Jesus was king of Jews. This is our native land.’ Come on. It is so deep. When you look at the aspect of religion and politics and all of that shit and the way it coincides – it is the same thing. The school system, the court system, and the churches – they are all the same. The Pope is more powerful than the President when it comes to the people.
Cedric Muhammad: No question. Greenspan is more powerful than the President…
Saigon: Hell yeah…
Cedric Muhammad: And he’s got people telling him what to do.
Saigon: Exactly, exactly.
Cedric Muhammad: I have no further questions. It has been two hours and eleven minutes. I want to open the floor up – any promotion, or business you want to take care of, or any final words you want to share with our viewers?
Saigon: I just want to say, man we got to start taking care of each other as Black and Brown people. We have to start looking at the importance of family structure. And life ain’t just one f-----g big party. There is a time to play. But that comes after work. After you have handled your business, then you go out and play and have fun. But if your situation ain’t straight in life, and you are out in somebody’s club getting drunk and shaking your butt, and you are waking up the next day – you have bought yourself some liver disease, a hang over and a headache, and you spent money to buy it. It don’t make sense. It is almost like you are paying for poison. Get your mind right. Straighten your mind out and get your life on track and understand that everybody is put here for a purpose. You are here and then you die. Life is short so make the best of your life. And I don’t mean go out and have as much fun as you can. That is not what it is about. It is all about setting yourself up for your children.
We are a micro and a macro. And if you choose to have children which I never did and I don’t – because I am not bringing no child into this f---d up world – but if you do choose to do that, that responsibility and sacrifice that you make is learning yourself, what you are about and taking care of yourself.
I just want to say to everybody in the world, even White people man, fair is fair, man. Let’s treat each other with respect and let’s respect ourselves. And specifically for Black folks – let’s get it together. Let’s get on our grind and I don’t mean hustling. I mean by getting together and taking care of these babies. Whitney Houston had a song that said, ‘I believe that children are the future…’ And if the children are the future, and what we are showing these kids is our future, then I feel sorry for our future. It is up to us to shape and mold these kids and do the right thing or we won’t have a future. We will eradicate ourselves. They won’t have to kill us. We will kill ourselves.
And one more thing, visit abandonednation.com. I don’t want to start taking donations yet because I am still working on this whole (non-profit status) to get everything right. I am in the process of it with my team. But just to let people be aware of what is going on, when that (foundation) opens up you will be able to send tangible donations. I want everything tangible. I don’t even want money because I don’t want everybody to think I am doing this for my personal gain. I just want things that I can give some kids. Specifically books, school clothes, anything new, I don’t want to give no kids no hand-me-down clothes like the Salvation Army. But anything new from these clothing companies that throw them away because they have something irregular, or one sleeve a little bit longer than the other – somebody could use that shirt. I just want to say- take care of each other and take care of ourselves. And that’s that.
Cedric Muhammad: Yo, I love you Brother.
Saigon: I love you too man, and I appreciate it.
Cedric Muhammad: Thank You. I have a tremendous amount of respect for you and Gotti (Saigon’s management) and I just wanted to say that I am pleased to see you all’s relationship the way it is and I know he has brought a lot to the table so, the bottom line is we are putting the whole website behind you. I have already asked people to keep you in their prayers and to protect you, because you are a threat, right now and I don’t think people understand it – when they read this interview they will get a little more understanding. But I think you are built to do what you are doing and nothing can stop you until you are done doing it. And I just want you to know that there are witnesses out here for you that are hear to amplify your voice.
Saigon: I know. That’s (Saigon sighs). I appreciate everything man. I greatly appreciate this time and I want to thank you for your time.
Cedric Muhammad: We will stay in tune. Take Care of yourself.
Saigon: Take care Ced, be good.
Friday, July 22, 2005