Dark Sky Paradise is the new, highly anticipated studio album from US rapper Big Sean, it is his third full length studio album and his first release since signing to Jay Z’s Roc Nation on a management deal. Whilst I’ve never been a massive fan of his, I have enjoyed some of Big Sean’s previous material, for instance I loved “Control”, granted mainly because of Kendrick Lamar’s verse and I thought he sounded pretty good on Kanye West’s Cruel Summer compilation.
Given these glimmers of hope Big Sean has provided us with over the years, I was optimistic that the work he put in to this record might translate into an accomplished project. Now whilst I wasn’t expecting amazing socially or politically conscious lyrics and complex song concepts and themes that we might get from a Public Enemy or Mos Def record (this is still Big Sean after all), I did hope with the vast wealth of talented producers contributing to this album (Kanye West, DJ Mustard, MikeWillMadeIt to name a few), that we would perhaps get a few club bangers, some good features, that Sean might give us some funny, quotable lines like he has in the past (see his verse on “Mercy”) and that he would avoid some of the missteps he has made on previous efforts.
I can say in fairness to Sean there are many moments on this record where he delivers on this but some of his bad habits are still clear for all to see or hear as it were. I thought the album’s lead single “I Don’t F**k With You” was catchy, well produced and funny, even if unintentionally so, the beat change up towards the end of the track featuring the soulful DJ Rogers sample was classic Kanye and was one of my favourite aspects of the song, I felt it worked well in contrast to the modern, bass heavy sound DJ Mustard brings to the table.
I loved the dark horns all over the track “Paradise” and thought Sean’s reference to the Clipse “planet of the bapes” line was pretty cool. I also dug the signature, catchy DJ Mustard instrumental on “I Know” and thought across this entire record, Big Sean sounded incredibly hungry and energetic. Unfortunately all of that hunger and energy Sean had, didn’t make up for some of the potholes I feel this album is peppered with.
For starters I really wasn’t a fan of the whiney, Drake-esque, half singing-half rapping Big Sean documents all over the album and I found that for the most part, his lyrical content was either empty or just full of unfounded, pointless and at times ridiculous bragging. Despite Kanye’s stellar production contributions to the project – excluding a few funny lines, namely the Tom Cruise Oprah interview reference – his vocal features disappointed me with more arrogant, braggadocios verses and his dreaded auto tune singing rearing it’s ugly head once again.
I also hoped we might have got a more ambitious feature list with creative young artists like Kendrick Lamar or Joey Bada$$ on there, but instead we got stuck with a few members of the Young Money clique and what seemed like a random selection of chart ‘artists’ designed to get the album some hype, including of course Sean’s Pop singer girlfriend Ariana Grande.
Overall I loved a lot of the production across Dark Sky Paradise and thought that Sean and some of his features gave us a few interesting lines here and there, however despite this being his best full length release to date, I thought some of the poor rapping, cringeworthy punchlines and uninspired features overshadowed the record’s higher moments which just weren’t plentiful enough. Dark Sky Paradise is out now on GOOD Music/Def Jam, purchase it here.
Words by Tom Syme // Edited by Ayo Adepoju