Big Sean, born Sean Michael Leonard Anderson, is one of Detroit’s finest who went between Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, Def Jam and now on Roc Nation record labels. Dark Sky Paradise is his third album, after his freshman release Finally Famous and his sophomore album Hall of Fame, Big Sean is really starting to cause commotion within the rap realm. Having one of the most underrated bangers of 2014 with his feature on “Kingpin” by R. L. Grime, I had high hopes for Dark Sky Paradise. The album is dripping in A-list features such as: Kanye West, Drake, John Legend, Lil Wayne, the lovely Ariana Grande, and a few more notables. With executive production from Kanye West, almost all of the beats manage to flow seamlessly with Sean’s clever wordplay and presumptuous vocals.
Surprisingly, the album is a little over an hour long with no song reaching under two minutes and 30 seconds, and a couple reaching over five minutes. This is somewhat unlikely for a hip-hop album. Typically, you’ll see a 12-13 song album with songs that are around two to three minutes. Luckily for the listener, this album hardly drags on.
“All Your Fault” featuring Kanye West is hands down the highlight of the album with production by Mr. West himself with haunting chorus vocals and banging trap drums. Kanye and Big Sean trade bars on the last verse intertwining beautifully, with Travis $cott doing his classic “Straight Up” adlib throughout. This song is easily a high contender for Rap Song of the Year. Kanye gives us a verse that any classic Ye fan would appreciate. With all the flack Kanye’s been receiving with his experimental songs like “Only One” and “Wolves,” he shows the rap community that he is still nothing to mess with. I was even more impressed with Big Sean on this; it’s hard to compete next to Kanye but Big Sean is more than able to hold his own.
I personally find Big Sean to have one of the smoothest flows in the past few years. Though he has a 50/50 mix of great songs and snoozers, when he has a song he fits well on, he usually kills it. You can hear the confidence seep through Big Sean’s flow alongside his fantastic “Oh God!” adlib. A good amount of the time, it seems like his subject matter is seemingly redundant, but it is hard to fully care because his wordplay is usually quite clever. Of course, this album has the radio hit “IDFWU” which I find to be one of the weaker songs on the album, from the beyond corny hook to the basic production from DJ Mustard, it did what it needed to do and got him the hype he needed. The song has a minor saving grace after the abysmal verse from E-40, with a pretty well-done beat switch up, though it only lasts for around 20 seconds. Though “IDFWU” falls unfortunately flat, the songs following it are more than enough to make up for it. “Play No Games” featuring Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign is a fantastic blend of solid hip-hop with a nice touch of R&B vocals. “Paradise” is an absolute banger of a song. Big Sean sounds truly hungry on this and the beat fits him perfectly. “Deep” would have been another insanely strong point of the album if it wasn’t for the poor choice of featuring Lil Wayne. While Lil Wayne was pretty important to the rap game and influenced a lot of artists’ flows, at this point, Lil Wayne is fading.
Alongside “All Your Fault” featuring Kanye West being the highlight of the album, “One Man Can Change the World” featuring Kanye West and John Legend is equally a highlight. While it’s nearly a polar opposite of “All Your Fault,” it is certainly a powerful song. I’ve never heard Big Sean’s bars be so real before, he is genuinely speaking from the heart on this one and it’s easy to tell. The piano orchestrated by John Legend manages to pair up with Big Sean’s voice in a way that actually gave me goosebumps on my first few listens. This song is genuinely inspiring, with the hook “remember one thing, that one man can change the world.” It really helps to give out a positive message after being flooded with all of Big Sean’s egotistical verses. Not to mention the fact that any song John Legend gets put on automatically turns into a ballad that will make you call anyone and tell them you love them.
Overall, this album is highly recommended. Big Sean seeks to impress on this and he does quite well. After falling a little too flat on his past albums and mixtapes, this album is certainly a positive step for Big Sean. Though his features are many, he is able to keep up, if not easily surpass his fellow partners, allowing him to shine when needed as well as give others the spotlight. This album is a great kickoff to what is expected to be a fantastic year for rap.
Zach Ritz is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at ZR812833@wcupa.edu.