The sophomore slump is the most dreaded stigma in any line of work. From sports to films, and especially music, the sophomore slump is one of the hardest things for an artist to come back from. Yet Big Sean found a way out to his own Dark Sky Paradise, the aptly titled name of his third official LP.
His last effort, Hall of Fame, fell on deaf ears. It had its moments, but for the most part was forgettable. One of its would-be highlights in “Control” became a nightmare after Kendrick stole the show and it didn’t make the album due to sample clearance issues. Things were looking down for the Detroit Don until he dropped four songs last November; “Paradise,” “Jit/Juke,” “4th Quarter,” and “IDFWU“. The question was, did Sean get it right or was it time to call it curtains for the G.O.O.D.Music heir?
Well if you don’t talk about anything on this album you better give Sean a nod for “Paradise.” Did he take a breath? Our whole panel gave praise to Sean for his execution. He approached Mike Will’s horn laden production with a newfound confidence in his delivery, and rightfully so. Almost every line in it was a quotable from the verses to a very modern chorus.
“Paradise” was originally released as one of the four songs referred to earlier, but Sean threw a curveball and added a second verse. In a risky move that could’ve very well devalued a good song, Sean’s extended verse may have been even better than the first one.
Aw damn, I’m illuminated, man, I knew I make it
And I get that shit accumulated
Never throwing money out, I boomerang it
Finally famous over everything, that’s a numerator
Weed lit, yeah, it’s luminated, room lookin’ like it’s fumigated
Bitch, my crew invaded, when I walk in, man, they body to body
Hol’ up everybody, don’t worry, man, I got it, I got it
I need a hundred dollar bill, photocopy the email and copy
—Big Sean, “Paradise”
Verses are verses and we know Big Sean is very clever with the bars, but the song also showcases his improved songwriting skills. With that simple hook he captured the essence of adolescent and young adulthood ambitions that make this more than a good song, but an anthem of sorts.
“Deep” was another song that stood out. Lil Wayne showed signs of new life in his verse with profound quotables and the players nod to Big Sean. He acknowledged the fact that the image that Sean puts out(a bit more clean cut, no tattoos) was what was holding him back from being a top seller, but gave him the advice of letting the music speak for itself. Not to be outdone, Sean delivered a substantial verse in his own right. He layers bars, switches flows, and finds time to touch on police brutality in a well rounded sixteen over some very non-traditional sounding production from DJ Mustard and Key Wane.
While it wasn’t bad, the production was part of what I feel holds Big Sean back. He doesn’t have an identifiable sound. All of his peers have developed some sort of identity within their music, but Sean’s only distinct trait is his gift with wordplay. While that is very important and good enough to take him far, it isn’t something that’s going to render him the status of being elite. “Blessings,” “Stay Down,” and “Win Some, Lose Some” are all great songs, but do you think “Big Sean” when those songs come on?
I hate to compare artists because everyone is doing their thing these days, but our in house engineer Mista Produsa brought up a brilliant point. When you mention Big Sean as one of the best out you have to mention Drake, Kendrick, Meek Mill, J. Cole, etc. along with him in that conversation; but when you speak on those artists you don’t really HAVE to mention Big Sean in that same light. They’ve all cultivated something a little more exclusive to themselves in content, message, or sound that makes them a bit more distinct.
That said, the album is an overall hit for Sean. He showcased what he does best and utilized his guests to his benefit. Along with Wayne, Jhene Aiko (“Win Some, Lose Some“), Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign (“Play No Games“) all add something positive on the songs they’re featured on. The weakest may have been Kanye’s singing on the heart heavy “One Man Can Change The World“. There was one miss on the album in “I Know,” but if a song resonates with its intended audience then it did its job and the females of our panel were satisfied.
Dark Sky Paradise opens up a new chapter in the career of Big Sean. With more hits and a new boo, things are looking up for Sean don. If he keeps the bars up with this fresh momentum, Lord knows where he’ll go from here.