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Big Sean, ‘Hall of Fame’ – Album Review

Big Sean
Def Jam

Big Sean wanted ‘Hall of Fame’ to be a “super inspirational, super intellectual” album. The Detroit rapper is a self-proclaimed dreamer, and has been very public about wanting to achieve more with this sophomore effort. “My first album was not all the way where I wanted it to be,” says Big Sean about ‘Finally Famous.’

Though that didn’t mean that Sean locked himself away to make an album. The artist worked through all of 2012, spitting notable verses on ‘Cruel Summer.’ He also released his ‘Detroit’ mixtape full of original material.

After being signed to G.O.O.D. Music in 2007, only to release his debut album four years later, he managed to exceed expectations. ‘Finally Famous’ wasn’t a critical acclaim, but it did gear-up listeners to wait for more from the Kanye West protégé.

It seems Big Sean is still trying to prove himself. ‘Hall of Fame’ was delayed twice (once in December and the last time in February). Throughout the tracks ‘Nothing Is Stopping You,’ ‘Fire’ and ‘All Figured Out,’ you can find sensitivity, introspection and grit all at the same time. Though the latter comes less naturally to him.

On ‘All Figured Out,’ Sean raps, “I always say long days is better than long nights,” telling us he’d rather work in the day than partake in nocturnal partying. The “club bangers” are few on ‘Hall of Fame,’ but the rap-soul cuts are thoughtful, lush and memorable.

That’s Big Sean’s appeal: he’s a warm-hearted rapper concerned with bettering his craft and inspiring others to do the same. His Vlogs on Youtube carry that mission and it leaked it’s way into ‘Hall of Fame.’

1. ‘Nothing Is Stopping You’

The introduction to ‘Hall of Fame’ has Big Sean living up to his promise to make an inspirational album. He sits back to soak in his success and goes as far to refer to himself as the “black Eminem.” There’s even an interpolation of Kanye West explaining how impressed he was by Big Sean when he first heard his music. Sweet piano chords close out the opener with an outro by Sean’s mother, telling him to change his negative thinking into positive thinking.

2. ‘Fire’

On the fourth single from the album, Sean uses ‘Fire’ as a blessing, letting us know that he made his success under pressure. His rhymes are definitely notable on this record over the inspiring ‘Fire’ loops: “I’m even working half days on my day off bitch. Say it’s gon’ kill me f— it, I work graveyard shifts…”

3. ‘10 2 10’

No I.D. makes his first production appearance with a track about Big Sean’s drive, apparent by his work schedule. Here, the rapper sites working like a Mexican and having three jobs like a Jamaican. The track fluctuates musically from plucked strings to gunshots to rapidly successive banging effects.

4. ‘Toyota Music’

The steady beat by Xaphoon Jones — of Chiddy Bang fame — becomes the base for Big Sean to paint a picture of riding around Detroit in a Toyota “seven deep.” The beat manages to blend in with ’10 2 10’ with its sparse breaks.

5. ‘You Don’t Know’ Feat. Ellie Goulding

British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding is called upon for an engrossing vocal. Big Sean finds himself with a girl for a one-time deal. She’s impressed by it all — the copious amounts of weed, champagne and money. Sean does acknowledge the flightiness of it all by ending the song with, “I’ma live this like I swear that’s all I know.”

6. ‘Beware’ Feat. Lil Wayne & Jhené Aiko

Big Sean joins Jhené Aiko to sing the hook on the contagious track. The rhymer serves this up as a cautionary tale about a love-hate relationship.

7. ‘First Chain’ Feat. Nas & Kid Cudi

A checkpoint of success for Sean is his first chain. How could it not? “The first real chain I got was from Kanye. It was a Jacob the Jeweler Kanye West Jesus piece. And it was the most beautiful chain ever. Solid gold, blue ruby eyes, red ruby hair striping,” the rapper shared with GQ last year. He references seeing Biggie’s own necklace before Nas’ as a clever way of noting career succession.

8. ‘Mona Lisa’

This isn’t an ode to a mysterious woman. Big Sean’s wit comes to play using “Mona” as a homonym to “moan.” This is where Sean plays with fame while chasing threesomes. Da Internz turnt up production plays perfectly with Big Sean’s sexual exploits.

9. ‘Freaky’

Sean uses comedian Rudy Ray Moore’s ‘The Sensuous Black Woman Meets The Sensuous Black Man’ audio here. You can’t listen to this and not laugh hysterically. The re-purposed interlude is a perfect segue way into ‘MILF.’

10. ‘MILF’ Feat. Nicki Minaj & Juicy J

The ‘Freaky’ interlude is used throughout this turnt up and ratchet affair produced by Da Internz. Juicy J and Nicki Minaj are featured in the track all about being with an older woman who has kids. “Her kids hatin’, they know I f—ed their mama,” raps Big Sean over the hand-clapped beat. Nicki swoops in as a baby mama with an explicit verse that’s possibly up to par with the kind from her ‘Beam Me Up Scotty’ days.

11. ‘Sierra Leone’

The No I.D. produced ‘Sierra Leone’ finds Sean wrapping his head around a new relationship with a gold digger using Sierra Leone as a metaphor for everything he’s giving his new squeeze. “She don’t ever tell me I’m wrong, ‘cause she don’t want to leave Sierra Leone,” he raps. Sean’s rhymes are in full form on the soulful cut.

12. ‘It’s Time’ Feat. Young Jeezy & Payroll

The most motivational purposed track on ‘Hall of Fame’ is this one with a triumphant beat by Key Wane. Big Sean raps about making it big for his mom. Young Jeezy spits about bags, but not the weed kind — the ones with cash, and Payroll turns down phone sex.

13. ‘World Ablaze’ Feat. James Fauntleroy

Co-writer for Justin Timberlake’s ‘The 20/20 Experience,’ James Fauntleroy sings the hook on this tribute for people who’ve used Big Sean as a shoulder to cry on.

14. ‘Ashley’ Feat. Miguel

Miguel opens the piano-laden love song with a grandiose hook. The Mano-produced track is a radio-ready, post-relationship eulogy. Big Sean has been very candid about the fact that the song is actually named after an ex-girlfriend. He looks back at specific moments and remembers simpler times when he had limited funds. It’s a sweet homage to a girl he can’t be with, but still holds very dear.

15. ‘All Figured Out’

Big Sean closes the album with another introspective No I.D.-produced track. With James Fauntleroy on vocals, Sean reminds himself that he is still evolving “even when your bank account is all figured out.” He isn’t in the rap game for the money. Sean ends the album with what he wants us to know is his current mantra: “The joy of looking back and saying that you did it. Winning the game, hall of fame.”

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