In a year jam-packed with noteworthy album releases from some of the leading names from Hip Hops new school of stars, Tyler the Creator, Wale, J. Cole and Drake among them, Detroit’s Big Sean now comes up from the dugout and steps up to the plate hoping to knock one out of the park with his next effort, Hall of Fame.
On the heels of the commercial success of 2011’s Finally Famous and the G.O.O.D. Music compilation Cruel Summer from 2012, as well as his critically acclaimed Detroit mix tape from last year and the most talked about Hip Hop song of 2013 with “Control”, Sean seeks to solidify his spot amongst the next crop of heavy hitters in the game.
At times criticized for lacking and lagging in skill, wordplay and, more harshly, personality, Big Sean has been more reliant on his rags-to-riches storied meeting with Kanye West in Detroit and hungrily rhyming on the spot for his future label boss and his charisma to push him to the top of the charts, as well as a steady stream of respected mix tapes when his album was originally shelved. And though Finally Famous was one of the most sought after rap music debuts, Hall of Fame gives Sean the chance to truly make known who and what he is as an artist.
Unfortunately, Sean doesn’t seem to take full advantage of that chance. There are definitely the stand out tracks, like “First Chain” featuring Nas and Kid Cudi, where Sean uses witty repartee to chronicle his rise from Motown to where he stands currently as one of Hip Hop’s most sought after figures over a jazzy, piano tickled, soulful, emotional and slice of production. More towards the beginning of Hall of Fame, “Nothing Stopping You” and “Fire” rev the beginning of the album into overdrive with gospel-influenced singing on the latter and a voice distorted chorus on the former. And “World Ablaze” is an affecting and heartwarming yet somber and dark track where Sean manages to tell us about his life story again, but does it convincingly and intimately to the point where you feel emotion seething from his voice.
But even with all of that, the subject matter seems to stay in the same lane as Finally Famous, with the materialistic groupie love (“Sierra Leone Greedy Ho’s”), the relationship ups and downs (“Ashley”, “Beware”) and reminiscing about and putting Detroit on (“It’s Time”). Although “Sierra Leone Greedy Ho’s” does contain a comical cautionary skit at the end where he’s taken for his wares and “It’s Time” with Young Jeezy is a certified banger for the end of the summer, it still feels as if Sean is holding a lot back from the masses about what he can truly do on the mic.
The star-studded guest spots (Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne, Nas, Kid Cudi, Meek Mill Miguel) as well as lots of the production on Hall of Fame from No I.D. and others walking a fine line between above average and pretty good, make for an album that flirts with being top-10 worthy for 2013. But it doesn’t quite get there. Big Sean has shown a good amount of growth and expansion of his music and his brand, but ultimately, Hall of Fame still leaves a lot to be desired.Google+