Whether consciously or coincidentally depicting the dichotomy of life, G.O.O.D. Music artist Big Sean’s third major label album Dark Sky Paradise vaults the Detroit artist into rap relevance once again after momentarily falling out of favor.
“No mistakes in life ever, it’s only lessons,” asserts G.O.O.D. Music artist Big Sean over the Boi-1da produced “Blessings,” a haunting-yet-somehow-gratifying track that features October’s Very Own Drake, as well as mentor and visionary Kanye West. It’s that kind of contradiction — good versus evil, dark versus light — and overriding sense of duality that Sean attempts to cloak over the scope of his third major label project Dark Sky Paradise, as made evident by the cohesion of his lyricism with the sonic environment that’s laid into place.
After bursting through the rap lane with expectation meeting, borderline intriguing guest appearances on G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer album, Sean converted on his attempt at hip-hop relevance. Unfortunately, once the the Detroit rapper got to the line he tossed up what was perceived by most to be a brick of a sophomore album, fueled by a lack of cohesion, the fact that the best verse and song on the album didn’t even make the album (for “sampling” discrepancies), and not to mention the hot sixteen (technically hot twenty-seven) weren’t even from Sean himself. It’s with this in mind that Sean is quick to remind his audience on songs such as “Blessings” of his past shortcomings. Chalking up his failures as lessons, it’s obvious that this put back attempt at rap royalty is not for the weak hearted, as Sean declares “Was off for a sec, now it’s back to me n***a, you mad at me, this ain’t what I want, man, this what it had to be, this is that late night workin’ after three, man, this why my
old girl was mad at me, this why I’m your majesty.”
The G.O.O.D. rapper refuses to accept mediocrity as a ceiling on this project, facing it head on by admitting his shortcomings, both in and out of the booth. Songs like the revealing “Win Some, Lose Some” featuring Jhené Aiko, acknowledge the dualism that exists in all of our lives. The sheer honesty on songs like this help to strike a chord with people out there that may never have seen that side of Sean. Close to the heart, intimate lines like “My n***a ‘Tone worried bout our sis Shanice, we supposed to be the role models, no wonder why she wanna smoke weed and skip college,” leave a lasting impression and authentic feel over a number of the album’s tracks, elevating it’s effectiveness and overall cohesion.
Purposeful and planned contradictions even exist within the album’s production, as the Mike Will engineered banger “Paradise (Extended)” pairs a reassuring title with a monstrous, high-hat infested beat that sounds like hip-hop’s theme music to Godzilla approaching. Equally as impressive on the song is Sean’s profoundly noticeable control over his bars. The Detroiter periodically takes his flowing foot on and off the pedal, gradually increasing and decreasing the pace of his verses with relative ease. A track that was dropped prior to album’s February 24 release date, “Paradise (Extended)” lives up to it’s title, with Sean Don contributing an extra verse to the latter portion of the song. It’s here where Sean’s flow and word play reach mach speed, with the rapper spitting “I’m from the D — f**k yo A-list, I been workin’ 8 days a week, I don’t even know what the f**k today is/I just hit the booth and go super saiyan, I run with the purp like I play with the Ravens,” leaving jaws on the floor and rewind buttons in full-effect.
Other tracks, like the album’s intro “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers),” provide ample ground for Sean to showcase his skills on the mic, while also emphasizing the album’s purpose and tone. Remaining consciously aware of his past underachievement, Sean admits “Man them bills is here right now, I guess you shine brightest when the lights down, like now/and they say it happened for me overnight, shit yeah I guess, I guess I took ten years for me to be an overnight success.”
Overall, it’s the first half of the album where Sean truly does his damage, both lyrically and conceptually. And though the Yeezy and Travi$ Scott featuring track “All Your Fault” is bound to remind some of a “Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay” retread, Sean and Ye’s chemistry, as they lob a barrage of ignorant bars back and forth to each other, is humorously impressive at times. Utilizing a ghastly choir, La Flame’s trademark “STRAIGHT UP!” ad-lib, and a refashioned sample of “How Much I Feel” from 70s group Ambrosia, G.O.O.D.’s B.I.G. and Yeezus trade braggadocios lines bar for bar. Spitting “Ho and I ain’t satisfied bein’ on that top 5 list, (I ain’t satisfied until I’m on that all time list)/Til everything I spit is all timeless, (My girl on that all fine list),” the two exhibit a strong rapport on the mic. The track pulls for inspiration from a number of Yeezy’s past successes, and while some of Ye’s line will make Nori West cringe fifteen years from now, if he can make “I’m In It” after making “Hey Mama,” he can make “All Your Fault” after making “Only One.” It’s Sean that truly makes the track though, proving that he can hold his own on a track with his Chicagoan sensei.
The album’s dark delineation is maintained throughout the majority of the project, however it feels as though Sean’s spark and newfound direction loses steam with the three tracks that follow “Win Some, Lose Some.” The underwhelming grouping of songs are egregiously placed at the album’s climax, and after employing an unwavering notion of structure to the forefront of the track list, the crew cut “Stay Down,” Jhené Aiko collaboration “I Know,” and the
corpse of Weezy helping to assist on the song “Deep” fail to sustain the album’s consistent buzz. Songs like bonus track “Deserve It” featuring OVO Sound R&B artist/producer PARTYNEXTDOOR would have fit better within the spectrum of the album.
Luckily, Sean chose to save the project’s prized possession, “One Man Can Change the World,” for the album’s penultimate track. Featuring an acoustic piano, uncredited background vocals once again from the beautiful Jhené Aiko, and a whole lotta autotune. Sean, Yeezy, and that lucky bastard John Legend deliver a heartfelt track that allows the album’s darkness to subside, if only for a moment. Acknowledging the obstacles that obstructed his path to success, Sean offers well wishes to his listeners, and the prevailing notion that anything is possible with a focused vision and an equally focused work ethic.
“I hope you learn to make it on your own, and if you love yourself you know you’ll never be alone/and I hope you get everything that you want and that you chose, I hope that it’s the realest thing that you’ll ever know,”
the three men sing, summing up the album’s prevalent theme of bestriding and learning from one’s past deficiencies. Containing a heart-wrenching ode to his late grandmother on the song’s final verse, Sean appears at peace with his life in multiple phases, both as an artist and as a human being.
The Detroit MC exits the project on his “Outro” track much the way that he came in, stepping on and off the gas with his rhymes, firing them at unexpected angles — this time over a feel good sample of Darondo’s “Didn’t I.” The track ends with the same thunder and rain that echo periodically throughout the project, bringing a sense of closure and interrelation to the album’s conclusion. Overall, Sean’s third major label album effort proves to be a vast improvement upon his sophomore submission. Whether consciously or coincidentally depicting the dichotomy of life, the rapper’s Dark Sky Paradise vaults him into rap relevance once again after momentarily falling out of favor. Though the G.O.O.D. MC loses course momentarily towards the album’s tail end, Sean and executive producer Kanye West make clear attempts to construct the album around a concept — a task Sean has fumbled when confronted with in the past. Mistakes? Sure. Lessons? Yeah. Blessed? Straight up.
Overall Rating |
Top Tracks |
“One Man Can Change the World” featuring Kanye West & John Legend
“Win Some, Lose Some” featuring Jhené Aiko
“IDFWU” featuring E-40
Notable Rhymes |
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