In a year that is being recognized as the rise of the “new legends”, which includes many of his peers, the time has come for Big Sean himself to stake his claim among them. Two years after the release of his debut album, to say expectations have increased would be an understatement. Sean’s showing on the G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer compilation as well as his stellar Detroit mixtape have proven that he has all the elements that it takes to be a star. The only question marks surround his ability to grow in a way that will expand his fan base without alienating those that have supported him since he first hit the scene with his Finally Famous mixtape series. This is where the narrative behind his sophomore effort Hall Of Fame takes shape, as he looks to establish a permanent legacy.
From the very beginning Sean sets the tone in a way that demands the listeners attention with “Nothing is Stopping You”. With Key Wane supplying the opening track, Sean offers a personal account of his early beginnings and the full circle journey of his career to date. The concept itself is simple but executed so well that one can’t help but be inspired by it. Keeping the momentum going the next track is “Fire”, which serves as a motivational anthem of sorts that could and should be played for stadium crowd purposes.
The first two tracks of the album would have you believe Sean was aiming for a more inspirational record this time around, but “10 2 10” brings you back to the formulaic recipe that plagues radio these days. Channeling his inner Meek Mill, Sean adopts a flow that finds him yelling through out the track. It could be argued as yet another inspirational record, but really it’s just the typical bragging about the rewards grinding non stop can get you. Not necessarily a bad concept, but his flow alone makes this track a skip almost every time. Not to be outdone in terms of poorly constructed records, “Mona Lisa” is as raunchy as it is terrible, and the Nicki Minaj and Juicy J assisted “Milf” could very well make a run for worst record of the year.
What the middle of the album seems to lack in replay value, Sean certainly makes up for it towards the end. “World Ablaze” and “All Figured Out” are as introspective as Sean has ever been. “Ashley” which is dedicated to his ex girlfriend is possibly the most relatable song on the entire album. Having someone that holds you down in rough times and realizing that the relationship begins to suffer when life gets better is a tough ordeal that many face daily. “
In examining this album much credit has to be given to the contributors. Key Wane and Sean continue their streak of solid work together. “Beware” featuring Jhene Aiko and Lil Wayne isn’t the best record they’ve created together, but it will find an audience. No I.D. also adds to his stellar production resume as him and Cocaine 80’s group member, James Fauntleroy also offers their services. “Sierra Leone” and “World Ablaze” wouldn’t be nearly as incredible as they are without the chemistry shared between these collaborators. “It’s Time” serves as an ode to Detroit, even if it does feature Young Jeezy. The track itself may not have the anthem effect that it’s going for, but still a solid listen.
To look at the current class of new MC’s and Big Sean’s placing among them, it’s hard to properly rank him. While he certainly isn’t a slouch by any means there still seems to be something that he’s missing. Perhaps it’s his need to create a club record that doesn’t seem to click well, as evidenced by the ones made for this album. While he did give us a look into his life that he hasn’t really touched on before, it still feels empty. He’s as charismatic as early Kanye, and just as talented as any of his rap peers. Still there as full body of work, Hall Of Fame is a solid enjoyable album that seems to lack those undeniable, must listen tracks. There is plenty to keep fans happy, but nothing that gives you that timeless feeling. The potential is certainly there, and if Sean has proven nothing else, this album certainly keeps him in at least in the conversation in this class of “new legends”.
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