Album Review: Big Sean – Hall Of Fame [@bigsean]
If we’ve grown to know anything about Big Sean, his hubris about becoming a star out of the struggle that is Detroit has become a steady mantra. He’s personable, maybe one of the few rappers in the industry who openly understand the workings of fame and happens to be grateful for it. It became a giant talking point on his debut disc Finally Famous — a pop rap album that kept Sean’s rather impressionable personality a star and continues on his sophomore disc Hall Of Fame. The former felt gracious about fame, the latter which comes two years later feels like the same tale only with a different cast of characters.
Sean’s been questioned since the onset of his career on whether or not he can actually rap. Not just in that Earl Sweatshirt stacking rhymes on top of one another building block style but in a way that enamors him with not only diehard rap nerds and critics who feel like every rapper ever born from the D should be able to rap circles against the competition. He’s famous now, once more building on his own ethos with the uplifting “Fire” and the album opener where he recalls rapping for Kanye West and having an aspiring rapper later doing the same for him. Sean’s strength has always been his wit. He graduated with a minor in Kanye West’s class of relatable yet chuckle worthy punchlines and he toys with the idea even more here.
On the lead single “Beware”, hindered by an unnecessary Lil Wayne verse (a shock to say given when a Weezy feature sounded like an instant home run years ago), he toys with a plinking synth palate laid out by Key Wane and Mike Dean about a relationship gone bad. It’s catchy, even when he re-enacts an entire text message conversation and carries plenty of gravity with its abnormal chorus. It’s been all about love for him in the past few months, declaring how infatuated he is with ‘Glee’ star Naya Rivera in interviews and giving himself a personal sense of closure on the despondent “Ashley” with Miguel. Ex-girlfriends normally don’t get praised from rappers, more strife and anger than anything else but here Sean admits a bit of honesty, detailing his own infidelity that ruined his long distance affair. The only real mea culpa to offer his ego? That with fame and stardom, an upgrade was inevitable, “I know we ain’t close but … I gotta focus on blowin’ up.”
And that’s entirely perfect in Sean’s world. He bends to his heady nature but not breaks it completely with “World Ablaze” featuring James Fauntleroy, mostly because Fauntleroy’s chorus does what almost every Fauntleroy chorus has done all year, hold you in a chokehold and refuses to release you. It’s another song about women, those that Sean knows and those that may be faceless to him but all run through painful memories and thoughts. It’s easily the furthest thought from “MILF” which ranks as Hall Of Fame’s giant bounce inside hedonism and the fetish-like idea of Nicki Minaj as a welfare queen willing to take backshots and Juicy J as well … Juicy J. It’s ironic that the Juice Man appears here as his album Stay Trippy does plenty of these moments but Sean’s veers completely into a world that looks like an Adam Sandler movie on steroids. These are the fun parts of Hall Of Fame, same for the album’s closer “All Figured Out” where Sean fully admits he doesn’t know anything at all and just attempts to work through it all day-by-day. But there are times where he attempts to be bullheaded and fall through, like groaning “I woke up working like a Mexican,” on the Travi$ Scott snoozer “10 2 10” , seeming to sleepwalk through the Ellie Goulding sampling “You Don’t Know” and being repositioned by Young Jeezy on “It’s Time”.
Sean’s rhymes are silly, at times vapid like on the charming yet frustrating “Mona Lisa” but they seem to pull him through. Hall Of Fame may be dropping at an interesting time considering the biggest buzz behind the album is that it’s most talked about song didn’t make it because of “sample clearances”. Yes, Kendrick Lamar’s flat out call to arms of his fellow rap class to simply make non-bullshit music on “Control” owned everything walking for a week and swallowed up Big Sean’s sophomore buzz in the process. But there’s still some digging to do with Sean Anderson, now whether he lives up to his own claims of being able to out rap the competition is another story.