Review: Big Sean's "Hall of Fame"

Review: Big Sean's "Hall of Fame"

Following up with the success of his debut album, Big Sean sets out to prove he deserves a spot next to some of the greatest with his sophomore album "Hall of Fame."

It’s been a long road to the top for Big Sean. Back in 2005 after hearing Kanye West was going to be at a local radio station in Detroit for an interview, Big Sean headed down there to chance fate. Two years later he signed with G.O.O.D. Music but it wasn’t until 2011 that his debut album Finally Famous would hit the shelves. In that four-year gap, the Detroit native would release a handful of solid mixtapes that would help him earn fans and showcase his lyrical abilities.  After a commercially successful and critically acclaimed debut, stand out verses on G.O.O.D. Music’s compilation album Cruel Summer and his highly acclaimed Detroit mixtape, Big Sean releases Hall of Fame to much fanfare.

Adding to the buzz was “Control” freestyle featuring Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica. The song didn’t make the album due to clearance issues but it was released as a teaser for Hall of Fame anyway and K.Dot’s bars are still ruffling the feathers of fellow rappers.

Originally slated for December 2012 release, Big Sean’s sophomore attempt suffered a series of push backs. After four release dates, Hall of Fame finally gets the green light eight months later. The album delays are a testament to Big Sean’s work ethic. Throughout his rap career he’s rolled with the punches, hopped over hurdles and still come out on top. A true believer in the motto “Hard work pays off,” Big Sean stays consistent with that theme throughout Hall of Fame.

Portraying himself as the James Brown of hip-hop, Big Sean paints himself as the hardest-working man in show business and opens the album with the inspirational “Nothing Is Stopping You.” It’s clear the city of Detroit played a crucial role in Big Sean’s life and he pays homage to his hometown every chance he gets, hoping to inspire its residents to overcome the depression and blithe that has plagued his beloved city. As if the opening track wasn’t enough to move the masses, up next is the gospel-tinged, soulful “Fire,” the type of motivational song Big Sean thrives on:

“Every time I spit a verse, my city like ‘Preach!’/ Niggas thought I got evicted, how my shit up in the streets/ B-I-G Sean, ain’t nothing obese but the feast/ Swear I’m so skinny cause I’m always on my feet/ Gotta hustle every second, stacking paper every week/ Boy I’m in the field for real, I might run up in some cleats”

What separates Big Sean from other rappers his age is the depth and subjective tone in his lyrics. While most others would rather release an album filled with club bangers about popping bottles and whipping Bugattis, Big Sean is content to be the motivational rapper for his followers. In “All Figured Out,” he reflects about life’s lessons. Before ending the song behind the podium as hip-hop’s Zig Ziglar, Big Sean raps:

“I used to think there’s no such things as wrong rights/ ‘Till my stepbrother brought home them extra groceries/ Extra cheese, now mom could make her special recipe/ But I didn’t know it was off of infested streets/ Now he the reason I’ve got to walk with my little niece to go eat”

Big Sean recruits both current and future hall of famers for guest spots on his second album. Young Money general Lil Wayne and starlet Jhene Aiko join forces for “Beware.” 2 Chainz opens up about the incident in the Bay Area, and takes a shot or two at the armed “pick-pocketers” in the remix to “Mula,” which also features Meek Mill and Earlly Mac. Nicki Minaj and Juicy J team up together again on the sexually charged “MILF.” Singer James Fauntleroy croons on the reassuringly positive and uplifting “World Ablaze.” Miguel once again catches lightening in a bottle and recreates the magic of Wale’s “Lotus Flower Bomb” in “Ashley.”

Nas and KiD CuDi are featured on the No ID produced “First Chain,” where Big Sean rhymes:

“On a highway to heaven, look at all the tolls I paid/ I done gave my city drive all the roads I paved/ No matter what way I turn things go my way/ I’m rocking chains everyday so you know I’m a slave/ even when I’m just walking ‘round the crib, nigga/ To remind me of everything that we did, nigga/ Look up in the mirror, chain only thing lying/ No heroes where I’m from, bullets only thing flying/ I know the higher I go, the harder the climb/ But after that the bigger the muscle and smarter the mind”

The stand out track is undoubtedly “Switch Up,” featuring fellow G.O.O.D. member Common. A natural follow-up to “Clique,” Common, clearly in his mood that day, shows out and lights up his bars. Big Sean is intent on only celebrating his success with his old homies:

“Everything I do I do it overboard, Michael Phelps splash/ Smile for the Polaroid, self-employed/ Now you shelf employed, D-Boy/ Never sold but I still got more lines than corduroy/ And I’m with the same crew until I’m an old man/ Cause ain’t no such thing as new old friends”

No ID handles most of the production for Hall of Fame but Big Sean also enlists the help of some other producers including Key Wane, Travi$ Scott, Young Chop and more. The final project is an uplifting yet pleasurable soundtrack for a ride through the streets of Detroit with its unofficial mayor providing the narration. Big Sean’s non-stop grueling grind has helped him finally become famous and with his second offering, the G.O.O.D. Music rapper definitely deserves a spot next to the other hall of famers of rap.

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