There’s a moment, a little less than 10 seconds in on “10 2 10,” where Big Sean says, “I’m gonna be paid forever.” It’s a small, minor moment in an album full of small, minor moments, but it could also serve as Big Sean‘s mission statement. Hall of Fame is Big Sean‘s second major label-release, under Kanye West‘s G.O.O.D Music imprint, and it’s an album that was designed to sell records.
Big Sean’s career path is one of decent mythology: he spit bars for Kanye at a local radio station, exchanges numbers, drops a few mixtapes, and eventually earns himself a deal with G.O.O.D. Then, he was shelved for a while, and he waited patiently for his moment by dropping a few more mixtapes. Finally, his time came, and with a few solid singles to his name, he dropped his debut album, the aptly named Finally Famous, 4 years after initially signing to West‘s label. Where Finally Famous was a celebration of making it to this point, Hall of Fame is designed to keep him at the top, and all over your radio dial.
Sean‘s one of the few artists out who have cornered the market on pop-rap; he’s created radio friendly hip-hop that can still craftily fall into the genre’s ever growing title of “street music.” Sometimes, he finds the right blend of melodic flows and catchy hooks. The album has a handful of tracks that show that formula’s potential for making good music. ‘Beware’ featuring Jhene Aiko, and a not-so-stellar Lil’ Wayne, is a great example, as Sean bounces from singing alongside Aiko on the hook, to verses with an uneven flow; “Toyota Music” has Sean zonked out on some good tree, slowing it down for a minute to a very solid effect; “10 2 10′”and “Mula (Remix)” both capitalize on the trap sounds that are all over Urban Radio, and Young Chop provides the daring instrumentals on both tracks.
Sean does struggle to find his footing on more than one occasion. For every solid point on the album, there’s almost always a matching negative. “MILF” features mailed in verses from Nicki Minaj and Juicy J. “First Chain” is reminiscent of Kanye‘s “‘We Major,” but in the sense that Nas was pretty much there for nothing (not that Cudi doesn’t show out, because he definitely brought his A-Game on this one). “Nothing is Stopping You” features a fairly decent beat from Key Wayne, but the song as a whole is a rather forgettable tale of Sean paying it forward for an up-and-coming rapper like himself. And Jay-Z may want a Picasso in his casa, but Sean getting a “Mona Lisa,” is one of the album’s lowest point.s
“‘Fire” may be the most polarizing track on the album. DJ Camper‘s produced arguably the best track on the album, but Sean‘s verses are still so polarizing. The moment the beat fades out and Sean spits “when it’s all finished, at the ending, after all the bottles spilling, throttle gripping, model switching, ching chilling in my villa, fucking like I’m trying to populate a village, I’m replenished, I didn’t do it for the money, just for the feeling, I made it through the…” and then the beat hits back harder than ever; that’s a moment that Sean’s rarely hit in his career. But, then he drops lines like “back to the hood where they’re speaking Trapanese, if I fall down, bet I only trampoline” and it’s hard to take him seriously. That’s ultimately the problem with Big Sean, and Hall of Fame, he tries so hard – almost TOO hard – to be taken seriously as something.
But what is he trying to be? A real rapper? Kendrick and Jay Electronica showed that he can’t really hang in that realm. An uplifting spirit, speaking for the streets of Detroit? Danny Brown has other thoughts on what streets Sean’s from. A hybrid of Drake and J. Cole? He’s doing a sub-par job of that. (See: “All Figured Out”) . Maybe Big Sean doesn’t even know what he wants to be, but there’s one thing that he is for certain: an average rapper, that’s going to sell a lot of records. With a Kanye West co-sign, and enough weight to his name with radio hits already there, there’s no denying that Big Sean‘s music is going to sell records and hit the airwaves. It’s the world we live in, and for that, we’ve gotten Hall of Fame. It’s an average rap-record that’s going to produce 3-4 singles (our bet is on album standout “Ashley” to be the biggest hit from the album, even though Miguel does much of the song’s heavy lifting), but Sean could’ve given us so much more.
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