‘Hall of Fame’ not perfect, but ‘damn good’
Ceejay Bachus | culture editor
Before ‘Hall of Fame,’ it would have been perfectly acceptable to say that you weren’t aware of Detroit-bred rapper Big Sean. Now, you have no excuse.
Noted most for his 2011 party anthem, the Nicki Minaj-featuring “Dance (A$$),” Sean’s newest cut is one of the most eclectic hip-hop albums to come out in recent memory, which is amazing because at first listen it comes off as ordinary.
After a while, however, the album shows its true selves: one part hedonistic hip-hop paradise, one part inspirational social commentary.
The wordsmith has dialed his “Dance” antics down in favor of songs centered on Sean’s come-up, like “10 2 10” and “Nothing Is Stopping You.”
A good portion of the album is focused on his desire to see his entire city succeed, not just himself. Big Sean puts on for Detroit, most notably in the Nas and Kid Cudi-featured “First Chain” and the Motor City anthem “Fire.”
One track, “It’s Time” even goes so far as to break down the Detroit bankruptcy crisis.
These touches give the LP some additional weight that elevates it above some of Sean’s more prolific contemporaries, like Drake.
Standout tracks include the aforementioned “Fire,” the cheater’s lament theme “Beware” featuring Jhené Aiko and Lil Wayne, the hilariously explicit “MILF” and the syrupy “Ashley,” assisted by recent Grammy winner Miguel.
The production isn’t sloppy per se, but it isn’t up to the standard of other releases this year like Kanye’s “Yeezus” and Jay Z’s unfortunately lopsided “Magna Carta Holy Grail.”
However, wherever the production may disappoint, Sean’s flow comes through effortlessly. It’s rare to find a newer rapper who doesn’t sound like he’s trying too hard.
Aside from the production, the album’s content also leaves a lot to be desired, in terms of subject matter. There are a lot of love/sex/love and sex songs on the album that, upon additional listenings, distract and detract from some of the more serious subject matter that Sean brings to the forefront.
Even with the filler and production issues, “Fame” still escapes the sophomore slump by being a really good time. It may not be equal parts sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, but all those elements are there and make for a varied album experience rarely delivered with Sean’s flow and lyrical tenacity.
He’s not trying to be Kanye or Jay or even fellow Detroit native Eminem. He’s carving a niche for himself that fits just as well in today’s rap climate as it would’ve 15 years ago when the likes of Mase, Puff and Lil Kim were still serious competitors.
It’s easy to tell that Big Sean has a long career ahead of him. He’s cobbled together a rocky but successful sophomore album that may not go down as his best, but it works as a fun steppingstone to his best work yet. With exciting features and Sean’s trademark flow, “Hall of Fame” may not be perfect but it’s damn good.