REVIEW: Big Sean – Hall Of Fame

big-sean-hall-of-fame-deluxe-edition

Artist: Big Sean
Album: Hall Of Fame
Genre: Hip Hop
Label: G.O.O.D. Music

Big Sean has gone from mixtape hotshot to international superstar in a relatively small amount of time, and now he’s hoping to cement his position amongst hip hop’s finest for the foreseeable future with Hall Of Fame.

When Big Sean released his Detroit mixtape in fall 2012 it was clear the twenty-something Michigan native had undergone an evolution from his Finally Famous debut. The production was tighter, with more focus on creating a complete listening experience than notable singles, and his outlook on life could not be more positive. It was the first time the world had heard Sean address life as a certified star, and he managed to do so without falling victim to the obsession with materialism and ego that overcomes many who reach his level of fame. Hall Of Fame aims to keep this approach in tact, and for the most part succeeds.

Anyone listening to Big Sean’s music one recognizes early on that he’s a musicians trying to tap into multiple markets at the same time. His ability to manipulate words and create engaging flows is second-to-none, but like every super smart kid Sean also longs to be accepted in the world of the popular kids, AKA the world of disposable pop music. His ability to cater to both fans of hip hop and Top40 has allowed Sean to build a reputation unlike many in music, but on Hall Of Fame he struggles to make these two areas of music work as cohesively, resulting in an album that feels more like a collection of songs than a fluid listening experience.

Starting with a powerful opening thanks to “Nothing Is Stopping You” and “Fire,” Big Sean begins Hall Of Fame with two tracks that summarize everything that is to follow while highlighting the best of his mic skills. Sean is at the top of his game whenever he’s talking about Detroit and/or the need for people to take life into one’s own hands while remembering to enjoy existence, both of which are prevalent themes on these tracks. His wordplay has never been tighter, and even though he’s living a life most can only begin to imagine he never forgets to bring up where he came from. This happens most notably on “Toyota Music,” which features Sean recounting the days he would cruise around Detroit stacked seven deep in a vehicle. Nowadays he’s sitting in limos and living in a mansion just outside the city he still believes in even though most the country considers it in disarray. He may have moved out of the rough part of town, but he hasn’t forgotten where he first cut his teeth in music.

The issues with cohesion and sequencing do not come into play until the middle of the album. Following the heartfelt combination of “Beware” and “First Chain,” the latter of which features a phenomenal contribution from “Kid Cudi,” Sean steers away from talk of struggle and success for a series of disposable, sex-obsessed tracks that are forgotten almost as soon as their runtime comes to an end. “Mona Lisa” deals with the desire to have a threesome. This is followed by the skit “Freaky,” which features a sample from classic porn that includes a woman discussing how big penises turn her on, and then continues being lewd with “Milf.” This final piece in this trilogy of debauchery is the most absurd, with kids singing a chorus asking Sean leaving their mom alone and a verse from Nicki Minaj that asks Sean to slap her in the face with his aforementioned member. It’s definitely the kind of song you want to tell your friends about, but for an album filled with classic, near-inspirational tracks that so perfectly blend confectionary and real talk, this mid-record dip adds a strange vibe to the mix that works less and less the more you listen to the album.

Following this small setback, Hall Of Fame quickly returns to more lasting material with “Sierra Leone.” It’s the kind of smooth, chill jam Sean mastered on Detroit, but with way more saxophone. I advise skipping the “Greedy Hos” skit at the end, but it’s short enough to sit through if you’re feeling lazy. It’s not necessary a bad bit, but it’s nothing that is needed to enjoy the album.

As he moves into the final tracks of Hall Of Fame, Big Sean’s boastful tendencies turn a bit more reflective, with tracks like “World Ablaze” and “All Figured Out” dealing with things outside the exciting times that come with fame. Sean isn’t one to dwell for long on the negative side of fame, or even the hardships facing those in his life, but on these final tracks it’s the struggles that take center stage. The fire Sean referenced earlier in the album is finally exposed, and you leave the record feeling closer to Sean than you do to most artists on his level. 

When all is said and done, Hall Of Fame is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable listening experiences of 2013. It’s not quite a classic, but there are a number of tracks and verses that will certainly go down individually as great contributions to modern hip hop. If Sean can find a way to iron out his issues with sequencing and cohesion I have no doubt whatever he comes up with will be close to perfection, but for now Hall Of Fames serves as a fitting continuation to a career that is in many ways still getting started.

Score: 8/10
Review written by: James Shotwell (Follow him on Twitter)

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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