Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dark Sky Paradise Album Review

I fucks with Big Sean.  He's one of my favorite rappers in the game right now.  Depending on who you I was put on Sean's game early or late.  My boy, Smokey, put me on game senior year in high school.  He had Big Sean's mixtape, Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big, burned to a CD and played it in his car.  That mixtape became one of my most frequent listens that year, along with Kanye's My Dark Twisted Beautiful Fantasy, and is among my three favorite mixtapes of all time.  Big Sean's wittiness was at an all time high.  The songs were fun to listen to; Big Sean had an array of quotables.  His ad lib game was strong.  It was Big Sean's finest moment.  Later on that year I went to a Big Sean concert with my friends Smokey and Tim.  Non-Sean-related highlights from the concert: my introduction to the greatest rap group since Run-DMC, TPE, and Bobby Brackins throwing a tantrum during his set.  But besides that, when Big Sean eventually arrived (we had to sit through hours of nameless acts rapping and cooking like Lil B) he treated us to quite the show.  I went back and downloaded his two earlier mixtapes, and although they both had their sweet spots, neither were able to match the awesomeness of Sean's third installment of the Finally Famous trilogy.  But I was looking towards the future and from my perspective it looked bright.

The week his first album, Finally Famous, came out I headed to Rasputin to get a CD copy.   (For all his wittiness Big Sean couldn't come up with a new name for his album?!?)  See, I'm a CD guy.  The best way to listen to music is in your car playing on a compact disc.  I don't fuck with these soft kids and their aux cords and their Shazam apps.  But I'm straying off topic.  Finally Famous was either the first or second CD I've bought for my vast collection in my car.  (The first CD might be Aquemini by Outkast.)  As much as I didn't want to admit it I was really disappointed by Sean's first album.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad album.  There were several faves including "I Do It" and "High".  But then there were some songs that I'm OK with turning the volume down in my car for.  (I'm looking at you "Live This Life" and "Wait For Me".)  I don't blame Sean 100% for it.  It felt like Kanye's only involvement in the album process was his weak ass verse in "Marvin & Chardonnay".  (More on that later.)  Plus No I.D. was scrapping the bottom of the barrel for beats to give to this album.  That's partly Sean's fault for not realizing No I.D. was crafting home-brewed gar-bage.  I liked "I Do It" though.

Before his sophomore album, Hall of Fame, released I was more optimistic about backing the guy.  His FT on Drake's "All Me" and Cruel Summer's "Clique" gave signs of hope.  Big Sean hosted a block party in the Fillmore area in San Francisco to promote his album.  For me it solidified his place in all time coolest rappers.  I'm not just talking about his steeze and the shit he rocks; I mean Big Sean is actually a cool ass dude.  If I could choose any rappers to hang out with for a day I would probably pick Sean, 2 Chainz and Snoop.  The album finally came out and this time there were better results.  First of all, there was less No I.D.  In other words there were better beats.  The album had more high points than his last.  "Mona Lisa" and "Milf" are all time favorites.  The album also had this inspiration and motivational vibe to it too.  I just felt like accomplishing my goals after going through the album.  But he was still being slept on by other folk.  The only song on the album that was getting radio airplay was "Beware", which I was never really a fan of.  On top of that Sean got overshadowed by Kendrick Lamar's verse on "Control" which didn't even make the album cut.  Big Sean needed more than just a solid album.  He needed a good fucking album, something that was going to be remembered.  Those were the stakes coming into Dark Sky Paradise.

Sometime in September I'm scrolling down my Facebook timeline on my phone to see a Complex post stating Big Sean just dropped four songs.  My boss wasn't in the office so I hopped on the computer to check the songs out.  "Jit/Juke" was cool but ultimately forgettable.  "Fourth Quarter" was the long awaited sequel to Sean's "First Quarter".  My favorite song out of that foursome ended up being the Mike Will Made It produced "Paradise".  I really fucked with "I Don't Fuck With You" when it first came out, but I had no idea it would have to success it did.  All this set in motion the momentum needed to hype up his highly anticipated third-time's-the-charm album.  Big Sean killed FT's left and right including Meek Mill's "D-Boy".  By the time Sean dropped "Blessings" I had heard all I needed to hear.  On February 24th, the date of its release, I drove over to the nearest CD store and got myself a copy.  Here are my thoughts on the tracks going in order of my least favorite to the most unforgettable.  (I bought the deluxe version of the album but for all intents and purposes I'm only reviewing the original 12 tracks.)

"Outro" (Track 12)
This is obviously the last track of the album.  I wasn't expecting much from a song titled "Outro".  I'm actually a little surprised it wasn't a skit or a monologue or some shit.  I could do without it.  If I ever come across it when I have my iPod on shuffle I'll probably skip it.  Reminded me of a lost track off Finally Famous the album.

"Play No Games" ft Chris Brown & Ty Dolla $ign (Track 5)
The first half of Dark Sky Paradise was practically flawless.  "Play No Games" is the least memorable.  The song feels like Big Sean's attempt to make it on someone's "Love Making Music" playlist.  Joke's on him though.  I usually use the R. Kelly station on Pandora for that type of activity.  It was a cool track though, it just didn't stack up right sitting between "I Don't Fuck With You" and "Paradise".

"One Man Can Change the World" ft Kanye West & John Legend (Track 11)
I feel guilty for not loving this song.  I want to like it, I really do.  Sean is delivering a sweet ode to his grandmother who was a huge influence in his life.  John Legend is riding the wave from his Oscar winning "Glory".  I'm just not loving it though.  Is it because Kanye is autotuneing?  Yeah, that plays a part.  Is it because it reminds me too much of "Memories Part II"?  OK, that's fair too.  (Side note: "Memories Part II" wasn't actually a bad song, it just got me the most vexed.  It was literally just "Memories" with a bad No I.D. beat and a John Legend hook.

"Dark Sky (Paradise)" (Track 1)
 Big Sean came out the gates guns a-blazing.  The song really set the vibe for the rest of the album.  Bars were pretty good, not great.  When the beat finally dropped then the song really took off for me.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the music video to this joint.  If I came across this song on my iPod I'd let it play through.  Like I said earlier, the first half of the album was perfectly crafted.

"I Know" ft Jhene Aiko (Track 9)
Originally I had this song ahead of "Deep" but after a few more listens I moved this song back a bit.  I still fuck with this song though.  This wasn't Mustard's best beat but it was still cool.  Now, I gotta be perfectly honest here.  I don't like Jhene Aiko as much as everyone else does.  I like her, but it always seems like everyone is always gushing over her.  Yeah, she's pretty and she sings good, but maybe I'm not seeing something everyone else sees.  That being said, I like her on this song and also "Win Some, Lose Some".

"Deep" ft Lil Wayne (Track 10)
Last time Lil Wayne hopped on a Big Sean track was on Hall of Fame's "Beware".  I didn't like "Beware" and a big part of that was Wayne's basura 16.  (Wayne really pronounced moped as mo-pad.)  I don't remember the last time I was excited about a Wayne FT.  But Wayne was OK this time around.  The beat was fire though and Sean did his thing on the track.  I've grown to really appreciate the way Sean switches up flows.

"Win Some, Lose Some" (Track 7)
This part gets tough because the rest of these songs are really freakin' good.  I didn't like this song on my first listen, but listen number two made me a fan.  There's something hauntingly beautiful about the beat.  It's one of my favorites so far in 2015.  I liked Jhene on the hook here and Big Sean wasn't playing games on this song.  It's one of those Big Sean songs that gets you going.  Plus, I love the touch of adding Big Sean's dad speaking at the end of the track.

"Stay Down" (Track 8)
This song was a pleasant surprise.  Da Internz blessed us with this beat and Big Sean had his way with it.  This is the song that feels right when you play it in the car on your way out with your boys.  Which brings me to another point about this album: I like how basically every song on this album serves a purpose.  There's no wasted space on this song as apposed to his other songs.  I loved Hall of Fame but there were a bunch of tracks that seemed like were put there just to fill up space.

"I Don't Fuck With You" ft E-40 (Track 4)
I know this jokes been written by every single person who's reviewed this album.  But I'm not above plagiarizing according to some crazy allegations by my school during my sophomore year in college.  So here it goes: I do fuck with you, Big Sean.  And I fuck with this song.  This is easily Sean's biggest commercial hit of his career and although the constant radio airtime almost killed it for me, it's still one of my favorite joints.  I like a bitter Big Sean, and yes, I'm taking his side in his split with Naya even if I have no idea why they split.  This is more than a song, it's an anthem for any bitter breakup.  There's some venom in the hook and the wordplay is there as always.  DJ Mustard laced the beat right and E-40, who is arguably one of the most consistent rapper, provided a solid guest appearance.  And I'm not just saying that because he's from the Bay.

"Blessings" ft Drake (Track 2)
There's something about Detroit that just produces rappers on top of rappers.  Big Sean went in on this track.  This is the Big Sean I'm hoping to hear when I put on one of his tracks.  The album version of this song did not feature Kanye West's verse... and I'm OK with that.  Let's talk about Drake for a second though.  I liked the hook and all but that's where I end the compliments.  I forgot whose review I read but somebody wrote that Sean "held his own" against Drake.  Sean killed Drake!  End of discussion.  Drake mailed his guest verse in.  You might think I'm biased because I'm not a Drake fan.  Yeah, I think that I'm more petrified of a two-year old blowing bubbles than Drake and that he's a simp.  I'm also irked by the fact that people gave Drake credit for the hashtag flow when he bit that flow off Big Sean's "Supa Dupa" flow.  But I'll admit when Drake drops a loose single or hops on someone else's song I get pretty excited.  Drake has had some of the best guest spots in recent memory.  This was disappointing.  It was as if Drake wrote his 16 in the car on the way to Sean's house to record it.

"All Your Fault" ft Kanye West (Track 3)
I was more excited about the fact that Kanye actually produced this song than the fact that he was on it.  I hate it when Kanye, Dr. Dre or Pharrell hop on a song and provide no contribution to the production of the song.  It's like LeBron coming into the game just to set screens.  But Kanye is easily the best rapper of those three producers just listed so sometimes it's cool if he just hops on the song.  But that wasn't the case on "Marvin & Chardonnay" where it appeared like Kanye did everything possible to sabotage the song.  This time around Kanye dropped a classic beat and his rhymes were on point too.  He didn't outdo Big Sean, but that's more of testament to Big.  And I loved when 'Ye and Sean traded bars towards the end of the song.  Easily one of my favorite parts of the whole album.  Originally had this song as my favorite, but I had to give it the silver.  Yeezy's line, "If you leave Mickey, you gone end up with a Goofy", just could not be ignored.

"Paradise" (Track 6)
I loved this song the moment it came out and several months later it's still my favorite.  Mike Will Made It beats are usually hit or miss for me.  This was a hit.  I don't know why it didn't blow up like "I Don't Fuck With You" but it just didn't.  It seemed like this track was crafted for this album and the rest of the songs were built around it.  The best analogy for this album in this case is the OKC Thunder with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.  "Paradise" is Kevin Durant.  The team is built around its best player, KD.  The album is built around "Paradise"  Westbrook in this metaphor is "I Don't Fuck With You": more excited to watch/listen.  Maybe it's not the perfect analogy (not by a long shot) but it's about how shots you attempt, regardless of the misses.  Big Sean skates on the track seamlessly with his witty wordplay that led us to Big Sean in the first place, and his flow switch-up.

Final Verdict
This exactly what we needed from Big Sean.  There were no wasted tracks this time around.  Hopefully no one is still sleeping on him after this album, but you never know.  It's been a long time coming but I think it's safe to say he finally dropped a great album.  It's his best work since Finally Famous Vol. 3.  His rhyme game and beat selection finally met at the right spot.  Plus I actually really liked the album artwork this time around, and to me it affects the score.  So far he has the best album of 2015, and yes I'm including Drake's surprise album, If You're Reading This It's Too Late, which was kinda good at best.  Will Dark Sky Paradise hold that title at the end of the year?  It's hard to say yes considering everything that's dropping in 2015.  And who knows, maybe Dre finally drops Detox.  (That's obviously a joke.  That's never coming out.  Sorry if I got your hopes up.)  For now I'll just give this album an official score of Guapo.  Here's the official seal to make it official.

Thank you for reading my review.  You can go ahead and cop his album, or not.  He doesn't pay me so I don't really care.  This was my first time writing an album review so let me know if I should stop in the comment section below.  It won't affect whether I do so again in the future, but I like to get you guys involved.  Make sure you check out my NBA blog, Infinite Wisdom on the NBA.  Make sure you come back to this blog for more.  Follow me on Twitter @ELGUAPO3 and Instagram @CAPTAINCRUNCHTIME.  Add me on Snapchat; user name is crunchtimemario.  Listen to my radio show "Talk With Guaps" at  That's it for my time, stay Guapo out there.