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Flashback to 2012. It appeared Big Sean had made the transition from 15 seconds of fame to man of the hour after jaw-dropping verses on Meek Mill’s ‘Burn’ and going bar for bar with Kanye West and Jay Z on ‘Clique.’ The G.O.O.D. Music signee had also blessed “Mercy” and was beneficial in birthing the “swerve” and “skrrrt” ad-libs. The rapper followed up a hot summer by dropping a new mixtape as an ode to hometown. Let’s face it…Detroit had all the makings of an album. Hip-hop was patiently awaiting Sean’s sophomore release, especially since he had followed up his impressive Finally Famous album with a strong series of features and a free download that would’ve at least went Gold. Big Sean started 2013 off by calling off an engagement with his high school sweetheart and getting involved in a serious relationship with Naya Rivera. The storylines had all the makings of a sequel release better than his debut…
But unfortunately that didn’t happen. Hip-hop raved over Detroit and Sean’s guest appearances on G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer and the Boi disappointed by not clearing the bar he had set so high. It was back to the drawing board after a sophomore slump. Fast forward to 2014, Sean had called off an engagement with Naya Rivera and had started dating longtime friend and collaborator Ariana Grande. He had moved to Los Angeles and invested all of his money in a state of the art home studio. The MC randomly dropped what we initially thought was a mini EP in September. “IDFWU” became more than a banger, it was an anthem and arguable one of the artist’s biggest tracks to date. Sean also watched his grandmother pass at the end of 2014, while in the midst of finishing his third album. The stars were aligning for Sean, who was poised to cement his status in the new generation of hip-hop’s Mt. Rushmore. The culture that was experiencing a passing of the torch, and Big Sean’s peers have provided solid arguments. Drake had proven himself by finding a way to dominate hip-hop with hit after hit. Kendrick Lamar dropped one of the best rap albums in recent history with good kid, m.A.A.d city. J. Cole had his career defining moment to date with his 2014 Forest Hills Drive release.
It was now all eyes on Big Sean to deliver an album that would convince haters that he belonged in the conversation of best rappers in the new millennial fueled generation and this time he didn’t disappoint. Dark Sky Paradise is the rapper’s best release to date. The project is everything you’d expect from the Detroit native, catchy songs full of his trademarked double time flows and run that back punchlines. He out-raps Drake on “Blessings” and him and Kanye going Jada/Styles P on ‘All Your Fault’ is definitely another highlight of the album. Sean has guaranteed smash singles with the Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign assisted “Play No Games” and his “Research” collab with girlfriend Ariana Grande. Despite the radio-friendly songs, Sean remains brutally honest throughout the album discussing his relationship woes, family problems, and feeling under appreciated as a leader in rap’s new wave of lyricists. Dark Sky Paradise definitely introduces Sean’s demons to light, but at the same time it’s not too in your face where it’s uncomfortable. The album’s most powerful moment is without a doubt “One Man Can Change The World” ft. Kanye West & John Legend, an ode to his late grandmother.
It’s clear that Dark Sky Paradise is Big Sean’s best project as both a lyricist and songwriter. The concepts are concise and the bonus tracks add just enough of the jiggy flair you expect from the rapper. This is definitely a coming out and career defining moment for Big Sean. Now, let’s see where he takes it from here.