“Hip-hop, where the hell you find a nigga like me,” Big Sean questioned on “Million Dollars,” a cut off his 2009 UKNOWBIGSEAN mixtape. Three years later, that answer appears as the title to the G.O.O.D. Music star’s latest digital offering, Detroit.
“Niggas 7 feet, telling me I’m who they look up to,” Sean rhymes, almost sounding bewildered, on the intro to his hometown-titled offering. Displaying a little more depth than his 2011 Finally Famous debut—an album that ascended the quick-witted MC into the mainstream—Detroit starts off with the soulful “Higher.” Produced by budding beatmaker KeY Wane, the soothing backdrop allows the perfect room for Sean to inject his signature in-the-pocket delivery, while affirming his rise to power (“Collecting everything overdue for all the work that I ever did”), unveiling his ambitions (“It’s more to the world than trying to make a living/Like changing it and looking back and saying that we did it”) and pondering the task of carrying his city (“My city need a hero so, I treat it like Metropolis”).
The fluid chemistry shared between Wane and Sean stars as one of the many highlights on the project. The two create gems on tracks like “How It Feel,” “Life Should Go On” and “24 Karats of Gold”—all offering just what longtime FFOE fans have enjoyed from the rapper since day one, beyond the hashtag rap. On the latter cut, which features J. Cole, Sean Don slyly concludes another previous mixtape track, “Desire, Want & Need,” as he basks in affluence, but not so much so that he’s showing off. Instead, he comes off as a bit more ambitious, yet contemplative, with the newfound wealth. “A world where you didn’t need sleep, that way we could catch up instead of chase dreams/And finally get the speed boat my dad always wanted, I swear I feel it coming,” he professes.
These inhibitions have become attached with the rapper (even on Finally Famous), and despite his rags-to-riches tale, Sean continues to struggle with his aspirations for more. “’Sean, you looking tired’/Damn homie that’s all? I’ve been stressing so hard, I’m surprised I ain’t gon’ bald” exults the rapper on the Royce Da 5’9” and Kendrick Lamar-assisted “100.” The slow-paced drums on the Don Cannon-produced highlight provide the complete soundbed for Sean—along with Royce and K. Dot— to spit some more veracity: “As I look up to the sky, thought about a hundred things to do before I die/Wondering if I could do it all in one life because it could all end in one night.” Another perfect example of this is found on the tape’s closer “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.”
But don’t think that this set is all-somber or emo. Detroit is powdered with moments of celebration (“Woke Up,” “How It Feel”) and reflection (“Life Should Go On,” “I’m Gonna Be”), there are records that will have the average strip club denizen throwing stacks (“Do What I Gotta Do”), joints for the substance abuse habitué (“Experimental”), eff-you-anthems (“RWT”) as well as boisterous stacking paper epodes (“Mula”).
While records like “Mula,” “RWT” and “FFOE” may not improve nor take away from the project sonically, Sean’s Detroit wholeness gels—delivering a really G.O.O.D. appetizer for his soon-to-arrive sophomore album. “There’s no turning back now...” —Ralph Bristout (@XXLRalph)