Haiku Reviews: Big Sean’s “Hall of Fame”

Slava P has his own shrine in Cooperstown dedicated to the art of haiku. Big Sean’s new album is called Hall of Fame, a title best interpreted as a lofty future goal. Bred to be the first...
By    August 27, 2013

big-sean-hall-of-fameSlava P has his own shrine in Cooperstown dedicated to the art of haiku.

Big Sean’s new album is called Hall of Fame, a title best interpreted as a lofty future goal. Bred to be the first rapper fully incubated in the GOOD bubble, Sean’s debut album Finally Famous earned a warm reception. It spawned a handful of hits that got radio play despite Sean’s rap-related involvement. “My Last” was carried by a strong hook from Breezy. “Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay” got the assist from Kanye and Roscoe Dash. While “Ass” was essentially usurped by Nicki Minaj’s ass. His 2012 mixtape Detroit produced introspective tracks, complete with interludes of rap artist’s telling their best motor city story and showed a different side to Sean that endeared him to listeners who were previously only familiar with his ad-libs and co-signs. Hall Of Fame tries to strike the balance between the club-centric offerings of Finally Famous and the personal storytelling of Detroit, but it falls short of induction.

Big Sean’s struggles aren’t solely rooted in a lack of lyricism or shrill voice. They stem more from his obvious frustration at not being recognized as a musical trend setter. When everyone was talking about Drake and Ludacris beefing over the hashtag-flow in 2011, Big Sean was wrongly called a copycat despite having rapped that way for years. In order to avoid this shadow, Sean has adopted a delivery best described as a “drunken master-flow,” where he switches cadences independently of the beat. This works well on songs like “Clique” and “Guap,” where the beat shifts in-time with his rhyme scheme or drops out entirely, but it sounds sloppy when implemented elsewhere.

Sean’s talent lies in his ability to make catchy, fully-formed songs with coherent themes. His themes are just poorly executed. On paper, a song about having sex with a mother whose kid keeps intruding – with Nicki Minaj playing the role of the welfare-stricken mother and Juicy J acting as some sort of distant ratchet uncle – seems like it could be fun. In practice, the song suffers from an over-aggressive Sean and a sample that almost makes you feel guilty for listening. Sean’s rapping lacks urgency and the way he creates words in order to complete rhymes comes off sounding lazy.

There are a few moments that shine on Hall Of Fame, but they never last long enough to keep you interested. They’re also punctuated by too many “Ugh I’m tired/Yay I’m famous” punchlines to garner any replay value. “Nothing Is Stopping You” has Sean repaying Kanye’s generosity as he listens to an unnamed rapper freestyle for him outside of a radio station and it’s an almost-heartwarming moment. Unfortunately, the exchange takes place in the last part of the song, so you’re forced to listen to two “Ugh/Yay” verses. The theme of heartache is sprinkled through Hall Of Fame as well, because when you truly want to break somebody’s heart you don’t just dump them for a celebrity – you also air out your personal issues publicly.

Big Sean may want to see his name in the Hall Of Fame, but at best, he’s a solid role player. The promotional run for the album billed it as “art” in the new-fangled, Yeezus-invented and Jay-Z-propelled sense of the word – aka performing rap in an atypical setting. One can’t help but wonder if Sean’s career would be different if he was in a camp that’s more focused on providing music than “an experience”.

Nothing Is Stopping You
Repurposed beat shows
Sean repaying karma by
hearing struggle raps

He wants heat because
he can’t grow to full size if
his oven won’t work

10 2 10
ethnic stereotypes is
the new snapback hat

Toyota Music
Touching love song for
the company that ruined
Big Sean’s native land

You Don’t Know
Sean drives women mad
due to inexperience.
Lazy songwriting.

Beware feat. Lil Wayne & Jhene Aiko
Infectious structure
filled with half assed heartache tales.
Whisper singing back.

First Chain feat. Nas & Kid Cudi
Soulful samples and
some strong guest appearances
carry the whole thing.

Mona Lisa
A cringe worthy pun
with juvenile song content.
What did you expect?

Nah. Naaah. What is this?
Is this the worst skit ever?
Yes. Yes it is. Ew.

MILF feat. Nicki Minaj & Juicy J
Rap game Cleveland Show
episode. Except less funny.
Is that possible?

Sierra Leone
Real attempts at rap!
But should your hotel look like
Sierra Leone?

It’s Time feat. Young Jeezy & Payroll
If you’re going to
put Young Jeezy raps on your
album, why not Em?

World Ablaze feat. James Fauntleroy
This album’s “My Last”
proving Sean has much less sense
than Mr Brainwash

Ashley feat. Miguel
Relationships suck,
especially when aired out.
Finally Shameless.

All Figured Out
“Because, like, your bank
account is filled with numbers –
some call them ‘figures'”

A perfect Sean song.
You’ll want to hear it ten times,
then never again.

Switch Up feat. Common
For all his problems,
this maybe the worst thing that
Common ever did.

Mula (Remix) feat. Meek Mill, 2 Chainz,
A remix so jacked,
you’re shocked that it’s not really
an Ace Hood single.

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