Album Reviews: Saigon & Fredro Bring Us Back To ‘The Jordan Era’

Sports and hip hop have long been synonymous. In a world where athletes and rappers envy one another, the shared racial dissonance of black entertainers likens them. Thus maintaining a symbiotic link between an era’s biggest rappers and its biggest sports stars. Similarly, the shared cultural influence trickles down to fans and listeners alike, shaping the zeitgeist of the era. However, as we’re firmly entrenched in the “okay, boomer” era, pivotal moments in hip hop and sports have become a tolerated happenstance.

Yet, despite the cultural ambivalence towards the past, multimedia recountings maintain a niche audience. It’s in this essence that Saigon and Fredro’s debut collaborative effort, The Jordan Era, came to fruition. After all the veteran MC was initially only writing and recording a few records for two of Starz’s hit tv-shows Raising Kanan and  BMF — which chronicles the rise of the real life Black Mafia Family drug empire.

Saigon & Fredro "The Jordan Era" album cover.
Saigon and Fredro capture a moment in time on “The Jordan Era.”

Markedly, BMF gained steam during the late 1980’s and became one of the nation’s largest drug-trafficking outfits during the 1990’s, a time of great cultural significance in urban America. Including the influx of street-level drug dealers making loads of money as a result of the crack cocaine epidemic, rendering them either neighborhood heroes or the latest cautionary tale. Nonetheless, the rise of the DIY pharmacist served as inspiration for hip hop’s golden age as rapper’s mimicked the style of the street hustlers and shared their war stories with the world. All of this combined with the peak of the world’s most popular sportsman — in Michael Jordan — resulted in a protracted cultural nirvana which Saigon and Fredro have summed up as, The Jordan Era.

The Jordan Era Album Review

I was making whole songs and they were only using like 10 seconds of it. I told Fredro we should make a whole album. I had all these great records that sound like ’80’s and ’90’s but I didn’t have any features. That’s when I got on the phone with Grand Puba and I called all these guys.

– Saigon

Much like other renowned biopics such as Walk The Line, Straight Outta Compton, or Ray, The Jordan Era is a time capsule into a significant period in American culture. Produced entirely by Swedish producer Fredro, the album features hip-hop pioneers the likes of Grandmaster Caz, Pete Rock, Big Daddy Kane, Grand Puba, Kool G Rap, and more. Moreover, the album showcases Saigon’s raw ability as an MC. Emerging from the gagster rap craze of the early 2000’s the former Entourage actor is no stranger to hard-hitting lyricism. Yet, his versatility and creativity is at full showcase as he offers his own rendition of the greats that preceded him.

Saigon & Fredro
Saigon & Fredro hosted a “The Jordan Era” listening party/ Photo by Rob Tellerman

Standout Tracks

Beginning with the first song on The Jordan Era “G Miller” where he impersonates a fly talking rapper over 1980’s club music. “G Miller is my alter ego,” Saigon divulged during an album listening event. “It’s me just going in the booth and having fun just trying to be one of those fly ’80’s rappers that I grew up with.”

Following “G Miller” is “Lyrical Genius” featuring Grandmaster Caz, a quick-witted, upbeat lyrical onslaught where Grandmaster Caz reminds listeners of his songwriting prowess. In the ensuing music video Saigon goes full ensamble, sporting a full ’80’s style puma getup along with a kangol hat and the requisite dance moves. Immediately after comes “Think Twice” featuring Grand Puba, an upbeat, honest record reminding listeners that hip hop began with a “keep it real” mantra as Saigon spits “a rapper rapping about a killer and ya’ll say he’s the man, I see right through that n**** like he suran.”

As the album ages, so do the records, the beat selection and the lyrical subject, mimicking the dark undertones hip hop undertook in the early-to-mid 1990’s. Namely, Saigon recruits one of the pioneers of the mafioso sub-genre in Kool G Rap for “Make Money.” But all in all, the “The Letter P” rapper seemed focused on bringing back the essence of hip hop, showcasing his status as a professional MC with real, impassioned raps that serve as a tutelage for listeners sans any overt profanity.

Album Production

While Saigon’s skills as a songwriter are apparent, Fredro is a testament to hip hop’s global reach. Hailing from Sweden the multi-platinum producer began his career working with a whose who of the pop world from Sinead O’Connor to Christina Millian. However, hip hop was never too far away. “Hip hop was always the foundation,” Fredro shared. “Even if I work with a girl group in Tokyo there’s some kind of element of hip hop in there.”

As soon as the genre made its way to Sweden in the early 1980’s Fredro became a student and what was presumed a fad became a staple of their music culture. “Everything goes in cycles. This kind of sound is coming back. What’s funny is like boom bap never left Europe or Japan, its huge. All your favorite artists tour Europe and they go to Australia and Japan and Korea, they fanbase always stayed and never left.”

As a result Fredro produced every track on the album except one and even did all the scratches on the records. “I always loved scratching, it’s such a great element of hip hop that no one is doing. It’s like a guitar solo in rock & roll, it should be there.”

Ultimately, Saigon and Fredro offer a small glimpse into the world of yesteryear. Nonetheless, fans of classic hip hop and all its internal components (production, scratching, lyricism, songwriting) will be glad to spend a day in The Jordan Era.

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