Big Sean opens Finally Famous with his “Intro,” an updated version of fan favorite “Memories,” from the August 2010 mixtape Finally Famous Vol. 3: BIG. Rapping over the same beat that his last project ended on, to begin this one, the Detroit native spits, “I’m still dreaming bigger than I’m living.” If that’s the case, Sean’s dreams must be unabashedly ambitious, as he spends the next hour detailing how big his life has become.
At its core, Finally Famous is the genuine story of the spoils that the Def Jam signee from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music has been tasting since earning true fame during the last year or so, and what it took to get there. As a result, the disc follows a continuous narrative thread. It’s predictable but true: Let’s toast to the good life that we’re finally living, and let’s toast again, to all the people who didn’t think we’d make it. While the premise is unimaginative, it’s hard to fault the 2010 XXL Freshman for spitting what he’s living. Sean freshens any stale content, though, with an ability to attack an overindulged subject with creativity. “People who talk shit is feeling like dickheads/Saw me on the Web like I had an extra six legs,” he raps on the standout Wiz Khalifa and Chiddy Bang collaboration “High.”
The high-charting, Chris Brown–assisted single “My Last” sets this theme early, and it’s continued often, on cuts like “Get It (DT),” “High,” “Live This Life” (featuring The-Dream) and the party anthem “Marvin & Chardonnay” (featuring Kanye West and Roscoe Dash). And although Mr. West doesn’t get any tracks on his artist’s debut LP, the soundscape of Finally Famous is still strong.
Bestowing his golden touch on more than half of the album’s songs, No I.D. provides Big Sean with an ideal sonic backdrop to infuse his offering with a decidedly summer fun feel, and the 23-year-old MC’s typically innovative flow and delivery come off as ideal complements to No I.D.’s upbeat, soulful production. Whether it’s his constant changes in inflection or his ability to effortlessly switch the tempo of his flow, Sean’s unique vocal approach is key.
Although Sean doesn’t hit his lyrical pinnacle on FF, the Motown-bred upstart still displays the deft way with words that has solidified his position as next up on the G.O.O.D. Music roster. On the whole, the album is too radio ready—lacking risk—but when Sean flexes, on tracks like “I Do It,” his skill is evident. Later, the typically boastful MC especially shines when he lets his guard down. “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” is a candid recounting of a roller-coaster relationship, while “Memories (Part II)” provides a moment of sincerity that adds a level of depth to the album and hints at the breadth of the MC’s potential.
Big Sean is justifiably basking in his moment on Finally Famous, oozing lyrically dexterous flamboyance over lighthearted production. And as it turns out, even for those who aren’t living the life, Sean makes it easy to feel like they are. —Adam Fleischer