Pitchfork wrote that, “though Sean’s existence as a rapper has until now been more acknowledged than appreciated, he has always had a way of running into being part of huge hits.” Whether it was through G.O.O.D. Music like on “Clique,” or “Mercy,” Big Sean was at least a name people knew, especially after the controversial yet media overblown “Control” verse where he was immensely overcast on his own track by Kendrick Lamar. But after watching his last record, Hall of Fame, fall incredibly short, Big Sean had to take a step back and relearn what people liked about him in the 1st place. There’s a goofiness to him, something in his lyrics and how he says them that gave him a juvenile appeal. He was just having fun, not just talking about his path to fame like his first two records. Sean is kinda funny and kinda dumb about rapping, like on “Dance (A$$)” or “G.O.O.D. Friday,” but it’s not as much the town idiot as it is the class clown. He’s entertainingly annoying, but not enough that he isn’t still enjoyable to have around. “I Don’t Fuck With You”, the single that kick-started Dark Sky Paradise, and probably saved Big Sean’s rap career is of the most noticeable examples.
While Dark Sky Paradise is notably his best release thus far, there’s still a bunch of mooning thrown in with the occasional potential good thought. It’s like, “I see what deep idea you were trying to say, but your persona took me away from it.” He doesn’t say much, not that we expected him too though. Dark Sky Paradise gets the tiniest bit more personal than he’s even been, but it’s still very much a “started from the bottom now I’m here,” type album. And that’s okay, braggadocio has always been an essential aspect of rap, but it’s a bit too much on Dark Sky Paradise. There comes to a point where I just wish he explored something else other than his need to press his legitimacy as a rapper, which has seemed to be the controlling factor in Big Sean’s career thus far.
From rapping to Kanye on a street corner to now his 3rd record, signed to G.O.O.D. Music, his presence in the rap world and the obsession of being at the top of it seems to actually negatively impact his music. Which leads me to believe he’s going about this all wrong. A song literally with the chorus, “I want you to take me serious,” on “Play No Games,” really drove home the point of his fame obsessed predicament. Sure, he’s got, “Blessed (feat. Drake),” but his attempt to show us how blessed he is to be here, actually comes off a little contrived, with the sole intention of having it being the first track after the intro. With rival young rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper’s careers shooting up from just having great debut releases, neither of those two once bragged about them being on top. Chance’s record was just about a young rapper from Chicago having some fun, and Kendrick’s concept, Grammy snubbed, Compton come-up kid record, brought them their fame because they simply just had great albums. No one pushes their “greatness” as much as Big Sean does.
Nevertheless, although there isn’t much depth to it, Big Sean does display his ability here quite well. Mostly, Dark Sky Paradise is an ambitious record. Sean’s portrayal of himself might be fame-obsessed, but if he ever gets over it and realizes how much he’s quote-unquote famous already, maybe through future releases we’ll see the wall crumble and get to a real Big Sean.