With two well-received ‘leaked’ tracks, the anticipation for Big Sean’s third LP was building up. I even wrote a piece about Sean’s steady growth after Blessings dropped. Then Drake released the mixtape/album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late1 without notice and ruined everything. On album opener Dark Sky (Skyscrapers), the rapper speaks directly to his critics: “And then they say it happened for me overnight, shit, yeah I guess I guess it took ten years for me to be an overnight succes”. And he’s probably right, but when the hook comes around, it sounds more like an attempt to convince himself and his haters than a boast: “I started from the basement, made it to the skyscrapers / I’m a successful nigga, I got shit going on / I’m a successful Don, I got shit going on”. Big Sean’s position becomes painfully clear on the Kanye West collaboration All Your Fault. Sean raps “I ain’t satisfied bein’ on that top five list”, with ‘Ye2 replying: “I ain’t satisfied until I’m on that all-time list”. Kanye West is already where he wants to be, while Big Sean thinks he’s on a top five list. I hate to break it to you Sean, but you’re on no one’s top five list except maybe your mom’s and Ariana Grande’s.
All this isn’t to say Dark Sky Paradise is a bad album. The record’s opening stretch is solid, with Blessings, All Your Fault, I.D.F.W.U. and the Ty Dolla $ign and Chris Brown-assisted Play No Games. After that, the tempo goes down and so does the quality of the tracks. Paradise finds Sean at his worst, rapping in a monotone voice over an intolarable beat and although the song clocks in at 3:36 minutes, it feels more like 33 minutes. Two contributions from the usually great Jhené Aiko3 can’t save the album’s middle part. The album does finish on a strong note with help from his label-mates John Legend and Kanye West, with the soulful One Man Can Change The World. Sean claims this is his most emotional song yet and it shows. The track is an ode to his grandmother, who raised him and recently passed away: “She taught me how to drive / And she raised the kids, then the kids’ kids, and she did it right / Taught me how to love, taught me not to cry / When I die, I hope you teach me how to fly / All my life you’ve been that angel in disguise”. That’s the Sean we want to hear more.
- I’m a strong believer of this being Drake’s album to get out of his Cash Money deal. From the way it’s been released, to the title and artwork, to all the references throughout the album (“Envelopes coming in the mail, let her open ’em / Hoping for a check again, ain’t no tellin'” on No Tellin’ or “Walk up in my label like, where the check though?” on Star67). Something is very, very wrong at Cash Money right now. ↩
- Kanye is in top form on the track, starting with his usual braggadacio (“That’s a fresh house, is that a guest house / Your house got another house / Your bitch got a bitch, your spouse got another spouse / Young Walt Disney, I’ma tell you truthfully / If you leave Mickey you gon’ end up with a Goofy”) and ending referencing the death of Eric Garner (“But cops chokin’ niggas out in the media / We finna have to protest and tear the city up / We bout to tear this whole place up pretty much”). ↩
- Aiko will be joining Big Sean and J. Cole on Cole’s Forest Hills Drive Tour this summer. ↩