Album Review: Big Sean - Dark Sky Paradise

Who is Big Sean? And, I guess, more importantly, just what is Big Sean?

By trade, Big Sean is a rapper, and on his new album, Dark Sky Paradise, there is much rappity rappin’ to be had. There are bars. Lots of them. And certainly in the studio, Sean though that the bars he was spitting to be hot fire. But, unfortunately, they are not.

Big Sean is just one of many young rappers rising up in a crop that also includes, but is not limited to, artists like French Montana, Meek Mill, Tyga, Ty Dolla $ign, 2 Chainz, and J Cole (among countless others, really.) Rappers who seem to have made a name for themselves somehow, and do marginally well when it comes to album sales (I think), but I know nothing about them really, and when I have bothered to invest time in listening to their music, it does little to nothing for me. Therefore, they remain just a name in today’s current popular music landscape. A name, that I seriously doubt, has any real staying power or how to maintain relevancy into the future. Like ten years from now, will someone, straight faced, be talking about 2 Chainz?

Big Sean has a lot of big name friends (and is currently balling Ariana Grande, who provides tepid backup vocals to one of the bonus tracks)—somehow landing Kanye West to serve as executive producer of all three of his albums. Ye also plays a larger role in Dark Sky Paradise, guesting on two songs.

I will say that West’s presence, both behind the boards and on the mic, on “All Your Fault” is a godsend—the beat is a sharp juxtaposition of the popular minimalistic trap-inspired tempo with blasts of a sped up “How Much I Feel” by Ambrosia—a trick that shows despite how forward thinking Kanye can be, he still likes to revert back to what made him a marquee name to begin with over a decade ago.

Ye’s verse on “All Your Fault” is packed full of surprisingly clever, light hearted punchlines—“Young Walt Disney, I’ma tell you truthfully—if you leave Mickey, you gon’ end up with a Goofy.” But then hey, Big Sean comes onto the track—as he should, I guess, since this is his album after all, and it’s pretty terrible then, which is too bad. Because I was really enjoying this song until he showed up.

The real issue with an album like Dark Sky Paradise is that, despite all the big name guest appearance, it’s how flat out lifeless and uninspiring it ends up being. The production values seem to be sky high, including turns from Mike Will Made It AND DJ Mustard—can you believe it? MY TWO ABSOLUTE FAVORITE, NON-OVEREXPOSED PRODUCERS ON THE SAME ALBUM!—but even when the track sounds kind of neat, the songs are just kind of sluggish. I guess I blame Big Sean himself for that. Like, I am not the best rapper. I’m not even a good rapper. I am not even a rapper at all actually you guys. I’m just an asshole who writes this blog that like 50 people read regularly (if that.) I have no delusions about my level of greatness. But like, Big Sean’s flow is awful. It’s lazy and turgid. His diction is horrible. And hey, while I’m at it—his voice bugs me too. It’s irritating and whiney.

I’m a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t instantly glom onto Dark Sky Paradise. For some reason, I thought that Big Sean was a rapper that I need to listen to and that I would enjoy. Honestly, this is the kind of album that I could have done without hearing. Not that it’s made my life any worse, but it didn’t really enrich it. It was just kind of obnoxious background music while I was alone in the newsroom the other morning.

The first single from the album was the clunky, hot mess “I Don’t Fuck With You,” featuring rap veteran E-40. You know what Big Sean—the feeling is mutual buddy. I don’t fuck with you, either. This is just yet another forgettable album I have suffered through that is currently taking up space on my hard drive.