I’ll admit that at first I didn’t get Big Sean. Or, more accurately, I didn’t get it when I heard people gushing like the Bellagio Fountains over the skinny young emcee from Detroit. Anytime I hear such hyperbole my instinct is to recoil. So I listened to Big Sean from a distance, wary of drinking the same Kool Aid that made people insist he was the best young emcee in years. That’s how music works in the real world. A song coincidentally comes on at the moment you finally kiss that hot girl you’ve been …
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And then I started coming around, slowly. A detailed investigation revealed that Sean deserved primary credit for inventing the “elongated pause” flow that suddenly every rapper alive was using; “Bank account got me feelin well….Fargo.” It wasn’t Sean’s fault that style got more overplayed than Everyone Loves Raymond re-runs. Ok, he’s an innovator. Then I got Good Fridayed into admitting he could truly flow. That convinced me to actually listen to his Finally Famous Vol. 3 mixtape, which had its moments, so by the time I pressed play for the first time on his long-awaited Finally Famous album I was ready to believe the hype.
As always, the small faction insisting that Sean is the future of hip-hop - and I’d include Kanye’s “Sean could be the Beyonce of rap” in that category – ultimately do a disservice to Finally Famous. Of course if you’re expecting a modern classic it will fall short, but come on board without lofty expectations and you’ll find a damn good album from a damn good rapper. Just take I Do It, a bouncing cut that showcases Sean’s skittering delivery and rewind-worthy lines. He doesn’t sound like anyone else, and in the era of copy and paste emcees that’s no small thing. Similarly, My House inspired more than a couple rewinds and although it could have easily become annoying, especially with a MC Hammer sample involved, Dance (Ass) is undeniably enjoyable. Hell, in all honesty I even like My Last, it’s everything a pop-rap anthem is supposed to be. That song deserves to be a hit. No doubt about it, Finally Famous is full of good music. Pun intended.
Speaking of unfair comparisons, a big part of me doesn’t even want to bring up College Dropout….but I have to. Not only is the Kanye tie-in there but with No I.D. throwing down a heavy dose of production Finally Famous can at times feel Dropout-esque. But more than the production ambiance, it’s a helpful touching point. While Kanye came into his debut already determined to change the world and balanced his humor and narcissism with social and political commentary, Sean doesn’t have nearly such serious aspirations. Whether it’s on the inescapable Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay or the blazing High, the theme of Finally Famous, and fittingly so considering the title, is that he’s young, talented and almost can’t believe he’s getting paid to rap. That lack of a larger vision can lead him to chase songs that feel like he should have on the album – the obligatory Neptunes cut Get It and the Dream-assisted Live This Life come to mind – rather than songs he wanted to make. Even when he gets more personal, like on the piano driven Memories (Part III) and So Much More, the horizon of Sean’s vision still ends at himself.
You know what though? That’s fine. Sean’s young, he’s living his dream. He’ll either grow as an artist and become truly great, or remain the infinitely entertaining emcee he is now, and who could complain about that? Finally Famous will establish Big Sean as an emcee that you can’t afford not to keep an eye on; think of him like the rookie in training camp who’s turning heads. It’s far too early to know if he can step into the pros and emerge as an All-Star, but as Jay Bilas would say, the young man’s got tremendous upside. Either way, I finally get Big Sean, and I’d be more than happy to be the annoying guy at the office who tells you all about how dope he is.
Listen to More: Big Sean Written by Nathan S.
G.O.O.D./Island Def Jam
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