Big Sean – Dark Sky Paradise – The STiXXclusive Review

Big Sean is an interesting rapper to some degree. When he came into Hip Hop, he was one that was intriguing because he sounded different, he had bars, and his mixtapes were pretty dope. His flow would catch on quick and many others tried (and did) replicate it for their own (but they’ll remain nameless). When it comes to his albums, however, that’s a complete 180 degree spin: Finally Famous & Hall of Fame were subpar, too commercial, came off lazy, and I just thought that he wasn’t going to live up to the expectations that were placed upon him when Kanye gave the co-sign. But, it’s weird because when Detroit, which was his last mixtape, at that time, that’s when I thought that he could grow and he’d become that rapper we’d been hoping for. Then Hall of Fame followed, and that wiped away that. Given the fact that he was shining on his feature verses as it was, the question remained: “Where was this guy?” It was an interesting development, but because of that mixtape, my hope was still there that that Big Sean could be brought back out. As you may or may not know, Big Sean was in the media for the wrong reasons when it came to his relationship with Naya Rivera, whom he was engaged to, then broke that off. Most say that it was the best thing to happen to his career, because since then, he’s linked up with Ariana Grande, and he appears to have rediscovered happiness in his life, which translates to good music (no pun) being blessed upon the fans. Also, Big Sean may have approached this album with a bigger chip on his shoulder because of Control. Since dropping the song last year, himself and Jay Electronica have been overshadowed by the name-dropped verse that Kendrick Lamar dropped, which engulfed Hip Hop as a prime moment of significant change. He ushered in the challenge to his peers to step their games up, and since then, Big K.R.I.T (Cadillactica), J. Cole (2014 Forest Hills Drive), Mac Miller (Faces), and others are certainly improving their game, which means better Hip Hop. Big Sean is looking to make his mark on Hip Hop with his 3rd album, and since 3 is the magic number, will it be the charm? Let’s see.

Dark Sky Paradise

If you were paying attention to his promo beforehand, he dropped 4 free songs at one time, to really get the buzz generated for his album. A couple of the songs made it to the album, much like the route Kanye took when he had the G.O.O.D Fridays releases prior to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The theme around this album would be revolved around the ‘dark’ times in Sean’s life, and really I thought it would be a continuation from what he put out with Detroit (because really, no one paid attention to his albums). Skyscrapers is the first track off the bat and the thunderous roar comes in (which would be constant throughout the album), to which he starts his run.

“And then they say it happened for me overnight, shit, yeah I guess
I guess it took ten years for me to be an overnight success
What you know about living check to check to living check to check to check to check? First place, no neck and neck”

Sean has always had confidence in his ability (because he can lay down bars better than a lot of rappers out), and from the “basement” (bottom) to the skyscrapers (top), it’s taken him a while for people to really get the hang of him. Being that he already had multiple mixtapes and 2 albums out, this is really when people are starting to take him serious, and you can hear it in the tone of voice in the beginning, which would likely be carried out as a reformed Big Sean comes to light (in the dark).

Blessings on blessings on blessings will be one of the more frequently used lines for just about any scenario that warrants praise for self accomplishments or what have you, and with Drake adding in a catchy, yet dope hook, it’s definitely one of the better songs to have come out this year so far. It’s important to count your blessings as they come, and to take time to appreciate just what you’ve been able to accomplish in life due to the successes of the career that has given way to a lot of opportunities to come about. If not a rapper or athlete, but just any environment that an individual sees success in. No matter what you believe in, you can still be blessed, regardless.

“Blessings on blessings on blessings
Look at my life, man, that’s lessons on lessons on lessons
I treat the beat like it’s a reverend
I tell the truth like father, forgive me, these are all my confessions
Man, this wasn’t luck, it was destined
I done lost homies who been with me since Ed, Edd and Eddy”

When it comes to Drake verse, the common reactions that I’ve been seeing online is that he killed it (many saying he killed Big Sean), and for me, it’s one of those ‘if you’ve heard one, you’ve heard ‘em all’ moments. Drake has plateaued, and no one wants to admit that, but being the hottest rapper out, doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily the best. This verse wasn’t anything that warranted any ‘holy shit, he ripped it’ reactions, because he can certainly do better. Forgive me if my expectations are higher than most, but hearing what he’s done in the past, I know he’s capable of better. This wasn’t anything special. The focus was more so on Sean, although the boasting of who’s top dog of the rap game goes between both Drake & Sean on this track (sorry Sean, but you’re not there quite yet).

“Yeah, I’m that invested, but you can’t attest it
Million dollar goals, managed to manifest it
The family never going anorexic
I pay mom mortgage and electric
Never going under even with anesthetics”

As stated before, it’ll get more personal on this album, especially when he talks about his mother, father, and grandmother, who have influences on his life, and not to mention his love life (but that’ll come soon enough).

When Big Sean released the trailer for this album, the last beat towards the end of the video was straight fire, and it had that soul sample that just screamed ‘produced by Kanye West’. Well, there are actually 4 producers for the beat (Ye included), and it’s one of the top songs on the album in my opinion. Kanye has been on a tear, as he goes through the motions before releasing his next album (So Help Me God), and so far it looks as though he’s trying to hold down the summer or at least the time leading up to it.

“Young Walt Disney, I’ma tell you truthfully
If you leave Mickey you gon’ end up with a Goofy
I imagine that’s what Chris told Karrueche
Girls be actin’ like it’s diamonds in they coochie
I don’t give a fuck, I don’t give a fuck
But cops chokin’ niggas out in the media
We finna have to protest and tear the city up
We bout to tear this whole place up pretty much”

Kanye seems to really be back in his groove, rap wise, because he looks as though he’s enjoying making music, period. Yes Yeezus was experimental and more like a protest towards the industry, but with the recent songs that he’s put out being such a variety of range in sound, there’s no telling just how the album itself is going to sound like, but it’ll be yet another re-invention of Yeezy.

Not to take away from Big Sean’s verse, but the highlight for me on this track was the 3rd verse with the back-and-forth between Sean & Kanye. If you listened to Watch The Throne as much as I did, it was like Hov & Kanye trading lines on it, but just not as dynamic. Back-and-forth is such a staple in Hip Hop, that when you hear that element being put into good use, it’s always appreciated. That was the case here and it’s one of the verses that you go back and rewind more than once.

If there’s one song on the album that’s almost sure fire a definite skip, it’s I Don’t Fuck With You. 2014 was the year of DJ Mustard with his same 3-key piano that makes the same beat for almost every rapper in the game who was open to taking one. Let’s be real here, ain’t nobody got time for that in 2015 when we’re trying to move forward with dope music. The teaser at the beginning was so rude because you get the soul sample, you get hype, and then it switched up and then the annoying (but eventually catchy) hook comes in. This is really the call to the exes for anyone who just needed that one track to let them know how they really felt about the person that they were once locked in with. It’s cool, we get it. It was a funny song for about 2 minutes and then I had enough. E-40 isn’t a rapper that I’ve ever liked on a consistent basis. Maybe if you’re not from the Bay Area, you may not appreciate him, but he’s been around for a long time, and whereas he is a hardworking rapper who puts out albums as often as bread gets changed in the grocery stores, it’s just not in my particular taste. The reason why I kept this song on (although E-40’s verse is edited out) is because of the 3rd verse when the beat switched back to the Kanye/DJ Dahi soul sample, and then Big Sean just let it out.

“I swear I hear some new bullshit every day I’m wakin’ up
It seems like nowadays everybody breakin’ up
That shit can break you down if you lose a good girl
I guess you need a bad bitch to come around and make it up”

So, the 3rd verse was in fact about his ex, Naya Rivera (I thought the whole song was, but whatever) and because I’m truly a sucker for the beat itself, I had to keep it on. It sends chills, man. That’s the Kanye production that I genuinely appreciate wholeheartedly, and Sean did it justice by putting some authentic lyrics overtop. Now, if this had been the production for the entire song, minus E-40, then this discussion wouldn’t have been an issue from the beginning.

The transitions on this album are pretty solid, as it goes right into the Guy sampled song of Play No Games. Chris Brown & Big Sean haven’t really missed when it comes to their collaborations. I don’t know how many they’ve done, but Sellin Dreams from Detroit, was one of my favourite songs on that mixtape, and subject wise, this song is relatively in the same ball park when it comes to relationships – or at least getting to that point where you can call it one. Big Sean has the ability (and money) to cater to any woman with the expenditure of lavish things that he can shower, which makes him a step above (what he believes) any other man that tries to court whatever woman he’s also pursuing. Now, given that he’s dating one of the biggest stars in music (Ariana), that doesn’t seem to be an issue. There’s actually an Instagram video of Sean & Ariana rapping along the words of this song, and it’s ‘relationship goals’ type of cute, I can’t even lie. They already look like a high school couple, so that just added in to the cool relationship that they portray as it is.

“And even when you tripping, we tripping, I pay for ya
Gourmet for ya, chauffeur arranged for ya
I’ll take that flight alone earlier in the day for ya
Just to beat you there and prepare, let you know I’m waiting for ya
Finally famous”

Ty Dolla Sign seems to be that T-Pain replacement of having vocals on everyone’s songs and enhancing them just a little bit (shout out to the Godfather Nate Dogg, may he rest in peace), but Chris Brown does a great job on the hook. It’s a chill song itself, and certainly provides some lines that I know will be slipped into text messages as the internet-created ‘Cuffing Season’ is still in full force.

Paradise was one of the 4 free songs that he dropped out of the blue, and his flow was utterly disrespectful. The beat itself was nuts, and you knew that it was going to be something once you heard the thunder roar come back into the forefront. This song had a similar feel to Blessings, because he’s showing his appreciation of the fact that he had big dreams coming from a city where few make it out to really achieve those dreams. Let’s be real, Detroit is a tough city (not to mention broke) and for him to be where he’s at, knowing his story and how he got to be in this position, he really deserves the good things that come to him. What he’s believed, he’s achieved.

What you think this life just landed on me?
My whole city look like it’s abandoned, homie
And we came straight out of those abandoned homes
Every wish we ever had got granted, homie
And I’ll never take that shit for granted
Even when the marble floor and counter top is all granite
Back before I got paid any advances
Back when my rollie was ticking, no dancing

Now, originally, the song only had 1 verse, but the extended version that made it to the album sees a 2nd verse that absolutely makes no sense. Now, I know that it’s easy to get caught into the hype of a double time rapper to say “yo, damn, wow, he bodied this shit” (see: Kendrick, Logic, Machine Gun Kelly, or anyone who raps fast), because you can be saying stuff really quick but not really be saying anything at all. But really, Big Sean came through the door and took no prisoners on the 2nd verse. Bars on top of bars on top of metaphors on top of just the suppressed frustration that he lets out, he said it best – “I hit the booth and I just went super saiyan.”

First and foremost, I’d like to welcome back the production of T-Minus to Hip Hop, because he was really missed. He’s the producer of Win Some, Lose Some, which features Jhene Aiko (who appears on the album twice) and this is the 3rd (and upcoming 4th) time that the two have collaborated (Beware & I’m Gonna Be being the prior 2). The life of an entertainer is seen as simply glitz and glamour, whatever’s on the internet, or in magazines. They see the endorsements, the money, and popularity, but we as the fans fail to see (sometimes – more times – all the time) the human aspect of their lives. People say “well they have all this money, so why should I feel bad for them?” I believe it was a one Notorious B.I.G whom once said “Mo money, mo problems”, and all these years later, there aren’t exceptions to the rule. I like this track, because it highlights the struggles with the conflict of the Hollywood life and the home life that clash together behind closed doors, without media access.

“Niggas want handouts, and I only got two
Now I’m on the phone talkin’ to my mom like I only got you
Gettin’ dressed up for court, that’s a law suit
Ain’t wearin’ V necks, but niggas ask what happened to the crew
Now I’m in court for some shit I didn’t do
Cause of my nigga, knowin’ my career could’ve been through
So when it’s time to travel management say I only need two
Listenin’ to them when I’m the one that makes the rules
I’m just a victim of the life though that I ain’t tryna lose”

Whenever someone from a crew ‘makes it’ to the big time, everyone expects to be put on, even if they had no purpose in helping elevate you to that position. They see it as “well, I was there before you were anything, so I want my reward.” We see it when people hit the lottery, and when athletes make it into the league. It’s a very common narrative, but in Sean’s perspective he breaks it down to the point where he wasn’t always rich, but he was just able to buy his mother a new car, and that the business doesn’t exactly just reward you right off the bat. You still have to work to truly get paid out. It’s the balance of winning and losing that’s still common, even with the personal success you deal within life.

“Real life will teach your ass way fucking fast
I always thought my last girl was supposed to be my last
I got four aunties, two uncles, one dad
One mom, two brothers, and 200 niggas mad
And it’s only one me, divide it and do the math
I’m the one that dropped out, got no time for the class
How am I supposed to have time for everyone I just said?”

People really don’t understand that when you’re goal oriented and you have things you want to achieve, the communication barrier gets widened and there won’t be personal time for everyone. Believe me, I know what it’s like, and there’s just hoping that people understand, but obviously you’ll come across people who won’t. They’ll say “you’re too Hollywood to show love” or pin in on you forgetting where you come from. It’s an interesting portrayal of the honesty in the reality of Sean’s life, but also what could be (and likely is) common in other artists’. I liked that Big Sean’s dad was giving words of wisdom (much like Common’s dad did for essentially every album) and you got a peep of that relationship they have. It adds to the element of growth and emphasizes how close to the heart this album is, beyond the others.

One time for the people who actually helped you to this position where you’re able to celebrate. Stay Down is one of those tracks where you’re in the club just turning up with the boys, popping bottles, and plain ol’ fashion having a good time. That’s what it’s all about. His hook game has really got a lot better, but like many of the songs on this album, it’s the 2nd verse where Big Sean shows off the skill and flow (oh yeah, and some bars).

Now, if I Know isn’t the stripper anthem of the album, I don’t know what is, because it’s just a sexy ass tune that I’m sure will give women all over the urge to be a personal dancer whether for their mirrors or their significant others. First of all, this beat doesn’t sound it’s produced by DJ Mustard, maybe because he didn’t have his overly used signature pianos used (although the pianos are evident). The flow of both Big Sean (sounding like he’s drunk or high or both) and Jhene Aiko (sounding sexy as ever) is really what captivated me. Jhene’s voice has it’s subtle sexiness to approach and when you bring in her ability to spit like a rapper, she’s pretty dope. The duet of the both of them makes it my favourite song on the album, just because how they worked well together, and where the beat is pretty plain, they did it justice anyways. The end when a new beat switches in and goes right into Deep, that was pretty cool.

Lil Wayne hasn’t done much to really (recently) warrant him as the rapper that he used to be about 10 years ago, when you could make the case that he was the best rapper alive. You can’t tell diehard Wayne fans anything, because they’ll really try to fight you, and it’s never that ‘deep’. However, I will say that he came to play on this track, and I really had to sit back and say, “Wayne really bodied this” for the first time in what seems to have been eons. HE FINALLY PUT DOWN THE LEAN!

“You ain’t got that metal on your side
Police gon’ work it like Magneto if they need to, it get deep
Deep, deeper than telekinesis
Deeper than your sister dying and you’re telling your nieces
The deeper it gets, boy, the pressure increases
But pressure make diamonds” –
Big Sean

The pressure of success can break anyone down, and that’s what both rappers are emphasizing as they are in polar opposite positions in their careers. Wayne is essentially on his last legs of rap, while Big Sean is emerging to hopefully have the longevity of Wayne to certify himself as one day, one of the best Rappers to ever do it.

“I got some miles on me, but it’s cool cause I never give an inch
And I don’t give two fucks about what your mouth say
Cause this shit is deeper than rap, I cannot say
That shit enough times like somebody rewind me
Like shit is deeper than rap, I cannot say that shit enough times
I feel like Sean, don’t get enough shine
Is it because he ain’t got the tattoos? He ain’t throwing up signs
Well, let me throw up mine
And also let me show this vision of mine”
– Lil Wayne

As Wayne continues to go through the legal battles and the ever controversial split with him and Cash Money Records, you can tell that the frustration and hunger is coming out in his rhymes, as he looks to end it off on a high note and his verse adds in more significance because of the stresses of the label that have come to light, although many people had the foresight of this happening, since Birdman is a damn criminal who doesn’t want to pay people their dues. It’s a shady business, which is truly ‘deeper that rap.’

Hard to believe that this is the 2nd last song of the album, because it really flowed well and you got that healthy mix of songs to put the album together in a well bonded way to give it a solid album compliment. One Man Can Change The World is a very emotional ballad that I know will bring out the onions and allergies to well up the tear ducts in your eyeballs (too descriptive?). The reason why this song really hits home for me is because it’s dedicated to Big Sean’s grandmother who passed away prior to the album releasing. The grandmother I grew up with passed away when I was still a teenager, so I didn’t have that opportunity to really go through the important years leading into adulthood with her in my life, but that still doesn’t mean that she didn’t have a significant influence on my life as I was growing up. Big Sean’s grandmother was a very important woman, as she was the first Black woman to be a captain in World War 2. She had a great impact in teaching him the ways of life, and thus you get a positive song to come out of it to everyone that inspires them to go after what they want to achieve in any aspect to make the world a better place, in which he aims to do with his music.

“But when you’re getting fast money, slow down, don’t crash
With all the drive in the world, swear you still need gas
Look, think about it, close your eyes, dream about it
Tell your team about it, go make million dollar schemes about it
Success is on the way, I feel it in the distance”

John Legend and Kanye West don’t do it any justice by preventing the tears from forming and falling (I didn’t actually cry, but I would) and overall it’s just a beautiful song. Adding the brief conversation between Sean & his Grandmother would send anyone over the emotional edge into a sea of feelings and sorrow, and to that I say well done, Sean. Well done.

This album deserves whatever praise that’ll be sure to come in the coming weeks and months. It’s his best album by far, and as I listen to it more, I really gain an appreciation for his talent and that this is really his arrival and statement in Hip Hop that he has a place, and others should take notice, because he’ll be here for a while. I just hope that it translates into consistency down the road for years to come. The Outro brings everything together as the dark sky opens up and a sun shower rains down in glory for the work Sean has put in. The happier tone of the outro gives Big Sean the opportunity to speak on what’s on his mind that hasn’t already been said from the beginning of the album. This track reminded me of So Much More in a way where he’s just pouring out and in dope fashion by all means. Leaving his phone number at the end of the track, much like Mike Jones on Back Then was hilarious to me, but really the confidence in his demeanor is so much more evident from his first album to now, and it translated into a great album. The bonus tracks are even wicked, as he features Mississauga’s own, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and even his current girlfriend, Ariana Grande, on Research (which is actually a damn good song). Platinum & Wood is one of the best songs on the album as a whole, mainly the beat tempo switch is crazy, but when he brings back to the roots and the struggle of the come up. It was just real and the beat itself was suitable for the storytelling. It was melodic & and I was really into it.

“And everything I want off in the world is a must-have
I realized that at the bus stop with a bus pass thinking “fuck rap”
Cause there’s niggas in the streets
Getting money under my nose that I must stash
I’ve seen people get murked who ain’t deserved that shit
Cops should’ve protect-and-served and shit
But still pull me over, disrespect and search my shit
Ask “why the attitude?” cause bitch, you deserve that shit”

Detroit vs. Everybody was a song that Eminem dropped that showcased some of the premier artists in the city, and Sean being one of them is a statement. It’s a tough city to come out of, but he wasn’t taken seriously then as he will be from this point on, because he let loose and dropped some meaningful music that has the potential to have a good lifespan to speak for itself maybe 3-5 years from now (who knows?). I’m proud of the fact that we got a great album by Big Sean, because I’ve been a fan of his for about 5-6 years now, so I’ve seen the growth from the UKNOWBIGSEAN mixtapes, Finally Famous mixtapes, and his first 2 albums. Third time was the charm in the case where he stepped it up, he dropped the corny rapper moniker that was really plaguing his growth, and he really has the ammo to put his peers on notice as one of the better rappers of the new generation. It’s great for him, it’s great for the culture, and it’ll certainly push others forward to step it up to Big Sean’s level. My expectations were exceeded, and it’s one that’s worth the price of purchase. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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