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Rapper Saigon and HBO’s Entourage: An Unlikely Pairing

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If you've been watching HBO's Entourage the last few seasons, you are probably aware of Saigon, the young, aggressive rapper who plays himself on the show and briefly became the first client that Turtle represented in the hip hop community (before Sai's old crew hung Drama out of a window ala Suge Knight and determined that it was in the rapper's best interests if Turtle stepped aside).

It's been a nice subplot to what has become a steady stream of Ari subplots (he's the best character on the show, but do we really need all the stuff with his daughter?) and Johnny Drama punch lines. Even better than the storyline is the fact that Saigon is more than just an up-and-coming rapper on a TV show. He's also about to blow on the real hip-hop scene.

The real Saigon is probably one of the biggest rising stars in rap music. He has the voice, the flow, and the lyrics to be a mainstay. He's already left his mark on mix tapes, had a few guest spots, and he even has a decent album, Warning Shots, released in '04 on an independent label. On top of that, he has some marketing advantages that will help make his major label debut a massive success.

He is the first artist signed to mega producer Just Blaze's new label Fort Knox Entertainment. His album, The Greatest Story Never Told, is one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2006 and will be distributed through powerful Atlantic Records. Then there is the fact that he is gaining tremendous exposure by appearing on Entourage (not to mention already hitting the multimedia crossover level of stardom before even dropping a major label release).

This last factor could be his biggest advantage (as I will be pointing out later in a column detailing which up-and-coming rapper has the best chance at superstardom), but also the most improbable when you consider this seemingly impossible pairing.

Obviously, Entourage took some creative license in changing the Saigon character around a little bit. Most notably, the real Sai is from Brooklyn and is New York through and through, whereas on the show he hailed from South Central Los Angeles and worked at an imported car dealership off of Rodeo ("pronounced Ro-di-yo this side of Washington" as Sai's mom memorably cracked to Drama on one episode).

There is one other little thing the writers and producers of the show decided to tweak when it came to their guest emcee: they decided to stay away from portraying the real Saigon's apparent fascination with putting bullets into people.

Obviously, gunplay is not unusual in rap music. One only needs to reference the multiple words used for "gun" to know that it’s a favorite topic. We've got gat, heat, toast, steel, piece, chrome, burner, pump (usually for shotguns), biscuit, nina (for a 9mm), K (for an AK-47), ruger, tech, AR (for an AR-15 machine gun), mac (for Mac-10's), four-pound (for a 44 Magnum), trey-eight (for a 38 revolver), and duece-duece (22 caliber pistol), among others. So yeah, it’s a prevalent topic.

It is also far from shocking to hear a rapper boast of shooting people. That said, my man Saigon is taking things to a whole new level. He tells specific stories and then follows them up with assurances that they really happened. In fact, he takes great pains to make sure we are aware of this.

Take a look at some lyrics pulled from just one track, "N.Y. Streetz." In the song, Saigon details three shootings and alludes to multiple murders. He leads with, "Remember when I shot Crack Head Reg in the leg, for running off with the pack, even after he gave it back." Saigon goes on to say that "this is deeper than rap, and though a lot of (people) say that, everything I speak is a fact."

Next Saigon brags, "Then I shot Crack Head Debbie. Talk about domestic abuse, this (chick) got hit with the Dezi (Desert Eagle)." This is followed by, "After Reggie and Debbie … there was that kid at the Camelot, who thought s*** was sweet, until his ass got hit with the heat."

So there are the three shootings. Later in the song, he taunts rappers 'Nore (Noreaga) and Nas, saying that he has "a real body in the trunk, and not one but two guys." (A reference to the Nas and Noreaga song "Body in the Trunk" from Nore's 1997 N.O.R.E. album, which Saigon obviously feels is a fictional tale.)

He details three shootings (two of crack heads), which may or may not have ended in someone's death, and then he specifically indicates he has had two bodies in his trunk. The shootings and the bodies may be interconnected or we could be looking at five total incidents — all bracketed by numerous statements that everything discussed is true.

I did a little research into this Saigon character and found that he spent some time in the system as a juvenile for his "involvement in multiple shootings," so perhaps the Reg/Debbie/Kid-Who-Thought-S***-Was-Sweet shooting trilogy is what he went away for.

It would make more sense for Saigon to be bragging of specific incidents like this if he had, in fact, already served time for it. As my buddy Emeka said, when I told him of these admissions/lyrics, "He better make sure the DA doesn't hear that." Considering the statute of limitations on most of these crimes, it would be incredibly foolish for "S-to-the-A-to-the-I" to be admitting them on an album unless they had already been prosecuted.

I have to believe he's discussing the very shootings he was tried for back in the day. In fact, there are lyrics that support this theory from one of his other songs ("Stocking Cap") where he raps, "I could tell you mad s*** that I did – there's some s*** that I got away with, but my lawyers advise me not to say s***." This seems to indicate that the tales detailed in "N.Y. Streetz" are A) public knowledge and B) only the tip of the iceberg.

All of which brings me back to my original question: how did this guy wind up on Entourage? I know a little bit about the way the entertainment industry works (and whatever I don't know I can pretty much pick up from the show itself) and it seems utterly impossible that the show would decide to feature an up-and-coming rapper in the show and then agree to terms with what appears to be a homicidal maniac. Talk about liability concerns.

Throw in the fact that Sai plays a pretty cordial, hardworking guy in the show and you can see why confusion reigns supreme on this end. Did they fail to do a background check? Did the producers decide, "Screw it, we don't care what he's done; he really pops on camera"? Perhaps there was a clandestine meeting in which a guest director warned the group, "Listen, if this guy shoots someone between Season 2 and 3, we are going to be in big trouble." Is the 50 Cent "killer in past life, global superstar in this one" appeal skewing everyone's judgment? I find it all very intriguing.

One thing I do know is that I love Entourage and I love Saigon, so I couldn't be happier that things turned out they way they did. But every time he came on the screen in a polished, fairly big-budget HBO show, I couldn't help but think of his opening lyrics from the song "Yep, Yep" — "How many (people) have I shot? What, is you a cop?"

Not the usual rhetorical questions posed by someone with a SAG card; that is for sure. But hey, maybe that is what makese this odd pairing so fun to watch.

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About Adam Hoff

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    The primary producer for the show is Mark Wahlberg, AKA Marky Mark, who certainly has some connections in the music/rap world. I imagine he had some idea who he was hiring.

    That said, if these were juvenile crimes and the guy did his time, and some time has passed, he may not be the same little maniac he was at 16.

    Dave

  • http://blogs.planetout.com/personalitymachine shana

    I’d be surprised if the producers had no idea. More likely, they figured if it did become a big deal it would only provide a little more cred for their insidery take on Hollywood-meets-rap.

    This also made me vaguely remember Mark Wahlberg promoting The Yards — about a guy who gets out of prison and tries to readjust to life at home — and saying that he’d been pretty miserable during his own stint in jail. According to IMDB:

    Wahlberg dropped out of high school at age 14 (but later got GED) to pursue a life of petty crime and drugs. He’d spend his days scamming and stealing, working on the odd drug deal before treating himself to the substances himself. The young man also had a violent streak – one which was often aimed at minorities. At age 16, he was convicted of assault against two Vietnamese men after he had tried to rob them. As a result of his assault conviction, he was sentenced to serve 50 days in prison at Deer Island penitentiary.

  • Adam Hoff

    Oh, I am sure they knew – I was just poking some fun at them and at the fact that Saigon is probably the oddest possible choice of an unknown rapper to feature on a TV show. That is, he WAS in a pre-50 Cent world. Now that a “backstory” is paramount and “street cred” rules all, it actually makes sense that they would want someone so “street” to appear on the show. It just cracked me up to see Saigon on the show, playing a pretty mild dude, and then to hear some of his tracks, where he explicitly boasts of murdering people. I have no problem with it (the juxstaposition, not murdering, I am firmly against murdering) – as I mentioned, I am a huge fan of both the show and the rapper – I just find it ironic.

    Plus, I wanted a chance to get my “Saigon is going to blow up” prediction on paper. If anyone is in to hip hop, check out the article in the recent issue of XXL about New York rap. Saigon appears to be the only new NY rapper with any real hope of fending off the South’s takeover of the genre. Interesting stuff. Particularly the point made by the author that Entourage was actually slowing Sai’s eventual takevoer bid down, as opposed to bolstering it (although I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive).

    Also, I can’t believe I forgot to mention this in the article, but Saigon calls himself “The Yardfather” – just felt like you needed to know this.

  • M.

    I kinda randomly stumbled upon this… anyways. Saigon preaches a pretty strong message of “Jail and gangs aren’t cool,” and doesn’t seem to try to really glorify his past. You can read about it in any interviews he’s given. Can’t be too quick to judge a (person).

  • SAIGON IS THE TRUTH…

    MAYBE IF YOU DID A LITTLE MORE RESEARCH YOU WOULD REALIZE THAT SAIGON ACUALLY DID 6 YEARS AND 9 MONTHS…THAT DOESN’T SEEM LIKE A “LITTLE” BID TO ME. ANYWAY, THANKS FOR A COMPLETLY BIASED AND RETARDED READ.

  • kay kay

    well he probably is crazy. How can you come out normal when you grew up in jail. Didn’t he beat up his girlfriend or something?

  • LA

    I met him in LA on vacation and he is very sexy and has good game makes you feel real comfortable,yet his is aggresive and pushy I did not even know who he was so I came home did some research, dont know about the past never seen the show but from one human being to another I wish him the best.
    Love Ms. La

  • Phamtrinh1210

    Special name haha