“Damn, what a difference a year can make.” -Sean Anderson
Big Sean has seen a rapid rise to fame over the past few years. After capping off last year with the release of “IDFWU,” Big Sean has announced the title of his third studio album, Dark Sky Paradise. The album features Jhene Aiko, Drake, Travi$ Scott, Lil’ Wayne, PARTYNEXTDOOR and many more artists. On January 26th, Sean released a trailer for the album which released on Tuesday, February 24th. As always, you will find my thoughts on each track below. Enjoy!
Track 1: Dark Sky (Skyscrapers)
To kick off the project, Sean provides a taste of the subject matter he will discuss throughout the album. He talks about breaking up with one of his girls (Glee’s Naya Rivera), to talking to his father and rising top of the rap game. A great intro to the album and provide some introspective thoughts from the Detroit rapper.
Track 2: Blessings (ft. Drake & Kanye West*)
Originally released on January 29th, this Boi-1da and Vinylz-produced track featuring Drake was an instant hit at first listen. Sean and Drake have been very fortunate throughout their careers and take a step back to count their blessings and express gratitude on this track. Even though the hook is a little odd, the infectious beat did not fail to catch my attention and become one of my favorites off the project. *Side note: Kanye’s verse is only featured on the extended version and does not appear on the official album release.
Track 3: All Your Fault (ft. Kanye West)
After almost four years, we finally hear a collaboration between Sean and his mentor, Kanye West — the first being “Marvin & Chardonnay” from Sean’s first studio album Finally Famous. Production was handled by Travi$ Scott, his protege WondaGurl, DJ Mano, Kanye West and OG Webbie. The song follows almost exactly the same formula as “Marvin & Chardonnay” with a soul sample over hard drums, beats and Kanye’s bridge; the main difference and best part of the track is the third verse where the two artists trade off lines.
Track 4: I Don’t F*** With You (ft. E-40)
I’m just going to leave this here.
Track 5: Play No Games (ft. Chris Brown & Ty Dolla $ign)
On the fifth track of the project, producer Key Wane samples Guy’s 1988 hit “Piece Of My Love” to create a groovy soundbed for Big Sean to spit his playboy lines. He hits Drake-level lady pandering with his smooth flows along with Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign contributing vocals that guarantee another hit for all three. The late ’80s beat in this song really adds to the poppy ballad on this track.
Track 6: Paradise (Extended)
Big Sean put the entire rap game on alert when he dropped his untitled four-song EP in September, which featured “IDFWU” as well as this Mike WiLL Made-It-laced hype track. While the original version was an eyebrow-raising lyrical workout, the added album verse only ups the ante. I could barely keep up with Sean’s insane flow in the bonus verse! With the new verse taken into consideration, this track definitely made it into my favorites off the album.
Track 7: Win Some, Lose Some (ft. Jhene Aiko)
In this song, Sean raps about how his life has changed since he has became famous. He talks about mistakes he’s made and things going on in his life since he became famous. With Jhene’s smooth vocals floating throughout the track, this semi-nostalgic track shows Sean’s soft side and introspective look into his personal life and problems he has faced. The track ends with Sean’s father sternly telling his son how much he admires him and ends by saying “life is a feeling process.”
Track 8: Stay Down
Even though this track describes Sean and his crew turning up when they’re in the building, the slow jam continues the dip in tempo on the project. From shots to sex, they’re making their presence known and are going to hold it down for their friends and everyone who supports GOOD Music. Other than the second verse, this is not a stand-out track for me but is a good end-of-night anthem for a guys night out.
Track 9: I Know (ft. Jhene Aiko)
On this DJ Mustard produced beat, Big Sean and Jhene Aiko join forces again for his third consecutive project after previously collaborating on “I’m Gonna Be” and “Beware.” Taking turns, they talk to someone they know is going through a tough time in a relationship and ensure each other they are their to help each other out through everything. The climax comes in verse four, on which Jhené’s soothing voice overlaps Sean’s baritone to form irresistible harmony. I had yet to hear Jhene singing over a beat like this and she has proven to me that she can kill any track she is featured on.
Track 10: Deep (ft. Lil’ Wayne)
The last of three consecutive sullen tracks on Dark Sky Paradise finds the Detroit rapper getting a bit more introspective. The general theme of the album seems to tackle the lackluster attention the public gives for his place in the hip-hop game. This song directly confronts his own personal doubts and doubts of others. He is paranoid of losing it all but still confident that he’s here to stay. It’s pristine Big Sean material, but the real deal comes in with Weezy, whose wordy verse reminds you why you should still care about Tha Carter V.
Track 11: One Man Can Change The World (ft. John Legend & Kanye West)
This is the fourth track Sean dropped from his album, prior to the official release date. Through the downcast sounds and themes of the previous few songs comes a silver lining in the dark sky. Sean opens up about his life while at the same time relaying a positive and empowering message for his listeners. Always one for positivity, Big Sean looks ahead at his long road to success before using the closing verse to beautifully remember his recently deceased grandmother. He invites label co-signee John Legend croons a tender chorus while Mr. West gets an auto-tune boost over gentle piano keys.
Track 12: Outro
DJ Dahi plucks the acoustic guitar and light vocals from ’70s soul singer Darondo’s folky hit “Didn’t I” to build a funky headnodder of a beat for Big Sean to finish out the standard track list on. The hook-free closer ends the often murky album on a bright note, cementing that while many have made the same claim, Big Sean has finally put together a project that proves to everyone that he one of the best rappers in the game.
Track 13: Deserve It (ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR)
The first bonus track on the deluxe version of Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise, “Deserve It” features OVO signee PARTYNEXTDOOR on the hook. Sean opens this tracks with some of his trademark punchlines before diving into a relatively new but important topic for him: he doesn’t mess around with the petty game women like to play. He is serious about finding a relationship and making it work, as he is currently doing with girlfriend, Ariana Grande. PND’s smooth voice on the hook along with his self-produced beat launches this track into my favorites off the project.
Track 14: Research (ft. Ariana Grande)
The second this track started playing, I KNEW Ariana had something to do with it. Sean shows, through a nonfictional anthem, how woman’s jealousy can get the best of them and may ultimately lead to intense skepticism. This sultry song about jealousy by the game’s hottest couple will definitely be playing through airwaves sooner than you think.
Track 15: Platinum And Wood
Big Sean closes out his third studio album with a nostalgic track sampling The Street Lordz’ “Come Roll With A N****” and is produced by Key Wane. The album ends with the same line that is also the technical first line of the album. Sean loves his hometown Detroit, even naming a mixtape after it, but becoming ‘finally famous’ has distanced himself from his city with tours and huge fame. Although he enjoys his exotic life of travel, being away from home all the time is a negative to this lifestyle. This chill track is a good way to finish off the album in a positive light for Sean.
Big Sean delivers his best album to date with Dark Sky Paradise. Even though it is his best work yet, it could have been a classic. It has everything to become a classic: a capable artist, excellent production, a clear theme and direction, and the potential for multiple hits. With it being his third studio album, it was supposed to propel Big Sean into the upper echelon of rap. He’s closer, but Dark Sky Paradise won’t get Sean a seat at the table. Big Sean is definitely on his way, but he still has some work to do.
By Rupal Mehta