A (Slight) Change of Opinion: Dark Sky Paradise, etc. (Big Sean)

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Courtesy of Blavity.com

When it comes to Detroit rapper (technically he was born in California, but I digress) Big Sean, I think the best way to describe him is from a track on his 2015 release Dark Sky Paradise, “Win Some, Lose Some.” A 50/50 rapper. Half the time, he’s pretty good. The other half, though, I simply can’t stand him. I know that’s a bit harsh to say about a very popular and successful mainstream rapper, but that’s just how I felt. At least, until a few weeks ago.

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On the cusp of his fourth studio album, I decided (that works on two levels!) to give his third album a listen. I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to music, I tend to like just about anything, and this album is (mostly) no exception. Complete with popular singles such as “I Don’t Fuck With You,” a collaboration with veteran rapper E-40, and “Blessings,” a collaboration with “pop-rapper” Drake (don’t even get me started on him), this album is actually quite good.

It is very well-produced. Producing greats such as DJ Mustard, Mike Will Made It, and even Kanye West share there producing abilities for Big Sean’s 2015 album, and it does not disappoint. It has a very dark and grimy production, giving a sense of a gritty aesthetic throughout.

One of the main reasons I did not enjoy Big Sean’s music was because of his voice. He just seems a bit uninterested when he’s rapping, often in a very monotonous tone. This discouraged me from listening to a full project from him, and it might cause a new listener to stray away from his music. Many think that Big Sean is lame, or a wack rapper, because of the lyrics he writes. He often makes (really “cringeworthy”) puns. I used parenthesis because I don’t think that’s really a bad aspect of him, as I am a lover of puns myself. My Facebook and Twitter timeline would back up my statement.

While I often have a look of contempt when I hear one of these puns, that’s actually how I show my respect for those types of jokes. One of the most hilarious lines he raps on the album is: “I guess when the stars align, you do like the solar system and plan it out.” Yeah, it might be really cheesy, but do not tell me that you didn’t laugh, smile, or even smirk just a little bit when heard him say that. One of the best things about Big Sean rapping these lines is sometimes you can sometimes predict what he’s going to say, and I think it makes for a bigger response from the listener.

The features on here work really well with the album’s aesthetic as well. Though I do not particularly enjoy quite a few of the artists – i.e. Kanye West, Drake, and Chris Brown – their performances on the tracks on the album are very well done. Drake is very similar to Big Sean with a monotonous tone while rapping, but it makes for a great song with “Blessings.” I feel as though Kanye West has fallen off a bit (though many others would vehemently disagree with my opinion), but he does a good job on “All Your Fault.” He delivers one of my favorite lines of the album with: “If you leave Mickey, you gon’ end up with a Goofy.” I’m not sure why I love this line so much, but I always smile when I hear it. And I think it’s fairly obvious why I do not like Chris Brown’s music, but his R&B vocals mixed with Ty Dolla $ign’s, who is an artist I really enjoy, and Big Sean’s rap vocals really go together well.

I do, however, enjoy the other featured artists very well. Jhené Aiko, whose 2014 album Souled Out is something I would consider an R&B masterpiece, really brings her A-game with her vocals on “I Know.” E-40 offers a fairly humorous verse of “I Don’t Fuck With You.” Even Lil Wayne (yes, I enjoy Lil Wayne’s music, I can admit it), who is somewhat similar to Big Sean with the “pun bars” offers very aggressive and headnodic verse on “I Know.” John Legend, who appears on “One Man Can Change the World,” is always a delight to hear.

So, I think this album is definitely worth a listen. I ended up giving this a 79 / C+. When I rate albums, they usually are in the mid-80 range, so this album is fairly close to what I usually average out to. Very great production, good performances by the featured artists, and some very “punny” bars for the listener. An overall solid album.

I write this on the eve of his fourth album, about twelve hours from when I write this, I Decided. See, I told you that it works on two levels. I wait with excitement, as I cannot wait to hear what he has to offer for his fourth studio album. I also wait with anxiety, because, as I said before, I usually feel about 50/50 with him. But, I have looked at the track listing, and it seems to be very promising. Eminem is actually one of the featured artists.

So, with that being said, I hope this influences someone to listen to Big Sean, as he is not as bad as I initially thought him to be. And we’ll see what he does with I Decided.

Thanks for existing,

Austin

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