On February, 24th, Big Sean will drop his third solo album Dark Sky Paradise. Big Sean used to be a punchline in rap. But he’s slowly rapping, dating and featuring his way to the top. He’ll never be Kendrick or Eminem, but he could be the next LL Cool J.

Big Sean is the rapper you love to hate. You think, Sean isn’t a very good rapper. He doesn’t have a message or an angle. He doesn’t have a particular style, like Future or Lupe Fiasco. You think he’s jacking flows from other, more skilled rappers. You feel like he’s only famous because his boss is named Kanye. Or because his girlfriend happens to be the beautiful and wildly popular Ariana Grande. Plus, he seems to be happy all the time. We don’t like our rappers happy, do we?

While those things were probably once true, Big Sean’s turning things around. Yes, he wouldn’t be as big as he is now if Kanye didn’t sign him. But that’s true for any rapper and Yeezy wouldn’t have signed him if he didn’t think he could make something out of Sean.1 If you think he steals flows -which is also something your favorite rapper is guilty of- think again. The so-called hashtag rap might even be invented by Big Sean.

The coming weeks might be the most important of Big Sean’s career. Dark Sky Paradise should be the record that propels him from mediocre to really good. Whatever your thoughts are on the guy, he’s been a steady seven.2 Sean’s on the brink of being a “big artist”, as Yeezy puts it in this studio video of the two:

Ye’s push for Sean to release Blessings is not just Kanye the CEO of G.O.O.D. Music speaking. The momentum Sean has built with IDFWU has to be held until, and preferably long after, the release of Dark Sky Paradise.
A quick glance at the track list of DSP shows there are other songs that could give Sean that little push:

  1. Dark Sky (Skyscrapers)
  2. Blessings f. Drake
  3. All Your Fault f. Kanye West
  4. IDFWU f. E-40
  5. Play No Games f. Chris Brown & Ty Dolla $ign
  6. Paradise (Extended)
  7. Win Some, Lose Some
  8. Stay Down
  9. I Know f. Jhené Aiko
  10. Deep f. Lil Wayne
  11. One Man Can Change the World f. Kanye West & John Legend
  12. Outro
  13. Deserve It f. PARTYNEXTDOOR(Deluxe Edition)
  14. Research f. Ariana Grande (Deluxe Edition)
  15. Platinum & Wood (Deluxe Edition)

I’m usually not someone who makes assumptions based on track lists, but you can see Big Sean’s (and Kanye’s) strategy shine through this one. We already know IDFWU, Blessings and Paradise. Play No Games with Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign sounds like a club track with a DJ Mustard-like beat, while I Know and One Man Can Change The World are likely to be powerful songs with soul. There’s the hottest artist of the moment, PARTYNEXTDOOR, on a bonus track and the obligatory song with Grande.

On the surface, nothing seems to have changed since releasing his first two albums. Except everything has.

Last week, the Detroit rapper released the new single from Hall of Fame‘s successor. Blessed3 with contributions from Drake and Kanye West, Blessings goes hard. Sean holds his own on a track with two of rap’s greatest: “My grandma just died, I’m the man of the house / So every morning I’m up cause I can’t let them down (down) / Always down for the cause, never down for the count / I guess when your stars align, you do like the solar system and plan it out“.

It’s only the latest outing from Big Sean where he shows growth. He did it on Eminem’s Detroit anthem Detroit vs Everybody, where he quite possibly delivered the best verse: “I’m offended if you hear my new shit and you ain’t rewindin’ me / Self made, I never needed your bail or a wire, see / I’m never callin’ collect, I call to collect“. His wordplay is at times deceivably great, but can come across like he’s trying too hard. Especially when you reference 50 Shades of Grey: “Reminiscin’ on listenin’ to 50 fifty times a day / Back when tenth grade was like 50 days away / Tryna get paid 50 ways a day / Used to put 50 on the layaway, now my closet 50 shades of grey”.

Big Sean doesn’t cross the line between corny and clever, he is the line. When it works, it’s great (“I got a million trillion things I’d rather fuckin’ do / Than to be fuckin’ with you, lil stupid ass” – in IDFWU). When it doesn’t, it’s the worst thing in the world (every single word in Dance (A$$)). What’s so intriguing about Big Sean and his status in hip hop, is that he’s so aware of it. More than any rapper, he knows he’s finally famous, but is never mentioned in any Top Five discussion. It’s a recurring theme in Sean’s music, as evidenced in IDFWU:

“I got a new chick that I gotta thank God for / I got a new whip that I gotta thank the lot for / Yeah, I got a lot but want a lot more / Yeah, we in the buildin’ but I’m tryna take it to the top floor”

Maybe Dark Sky Paradise will finally take him to the next level.

  1. I haven’t quite figured out what he’s planning for Cyhi The Prynce, though.
  2. Don’t believe me? Check his Metascore. His average is literally a 70. When you look at the user rating, that number drops a whopping 0.1 point.
  3. I couldn’t resist. Sorry.


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