Throwback: Big Sean

This month’s throwback is going to be a little different; we’re going to look at Big Sean’s mixtape Finally Famous Volume 3, and his progression since dropping the highly acclaimed 20-track project. With Dark Sky Paradise, Sean’s 3rd studio album just releasing, we’re going to talk you on a walk down memory lane and discuss the tape that point him on to the masses, and his rise since.

Big Sean is one of those weird artists, some really like him others don't. Most however just take him as is. They have no real feelings toward Sean, if he's there that's cool they'll listen, if not no skin off their back. No one is really breaking their neck to listen his next work. I'll admit, I overlook Sean sometimes. But then I sit back and look at his overall body of work and realize it's very solid. Maybe he should get a little more credit in the game.

Finally Famous Vol. 3 is regarded by some as Sean’s best work, and I might have to agree and say the same. Even though I have personal bias of why I might say FFV3 was my favorite project of his. 

FFV3 was the tape that really put Sean on the map and in the limelight of the rap world.  It was a bold statement saying, “I'm here and I'm here to stay.” We were introduced to his playful punch line flow that just keep going and going and going, which was evident on the song “Supa Dupa Lemonade.” That flow was later coined the supa dupa flow by Big himself. I thought Sean came off as very laid back and just fun overall on the tape.  With a good mixture of underground artists, established stars, and rising stars in the game at the time, like Drake, I thought the project flowed together nicely.  Sean’s held his own with everyone that he had feature on FFV3.  He flexed his newfound fame, style, and female interactions on many of the mixtapes 20 tracks. But he also threw in deep records where he talks about relationship dramas and takes listeners down memory lane to recall the times of his youth in his hometown, which have become staples of all Big Sean works.  I did think Sean was a prisoner of his punch line flow at this point in his career, he was so reliant on that style of rap early on and that turned some people off.  If there was one downfall to this tape it was that.

When Family Famous The Album dropped I can’t say I was disappointed, I don’t even know if I had high hopes for it. But I wasn’t impressed. I personally compared this album to when Hollywood tries to make a TV show into a movie. The lights get brighter, the cast gets more makeup, the drama gets deeper, but in the end it all just seems a little over the top. That’s what this album seemed like; it was forced and was over the top. I think, like most artists, Sean felt the pressure to deliver on his debut. The result ended up being the album coming off very poppy, almost like he was trying to make hits. It wasn’t the worst album I ever heard, but very forgettable. Couldn’t honestly say I can name 5 songs off the whole thing.

I didn’t know what path Sean’s career was going to take when he dropped the mixtape, Detroit. I wasn’t sure if he was going to be one of those artists that are just known for their guest verses or could he be more. But after hearing it I was pretty positive that he was headed in the right direction again. Detroit really seemed like he found his place and was growing as a rapper. He still had his patient flow, but it came off a light harsher, more serious like, less playful on this tape. Almost like he knew people were starting to doubt so he had to reassure them. Or like a 3rd year player in the league who wasn’t just happy to be there or satisfied with looking back at his current success up to that point, now that he had the learning curve under his belt it was time to make an impact. On Detroit, Sean was starting to move away from the punch line flow slightly, developing in other ways. The artists that were featured were placed on the right songs that fit their styles; it wasn’t like he was just throwing big name people on the track in hopes to make a hit. The beat selection wasn’t so poppy, and went nicely with the direction the tape. Overall this tape was forgot about, however it was very solid. Features something for everyone.

Now we move onto Big Sean’s latest works.  Many overlook Hall Of Fame, which is Sean’s 2nd studio album, and I’ve heard some that venture to say they didn’t like it as a whole.  But when I listened to HOF, I heard a new Sean who developed his story telling skills and could now alternate between punch lines and just keeping a steady flow.  He found his footing and where he belonged. The same themes he talks about on other projects are discussed throughout this album, although he adds new stories about the new pressures of fame he’s encountered. HOF doesn’t have that radio smash hit and it came out just before NWTS, so that probably adds to the reason he got overlooked. A friend of mine just straight out said he thought it was boring, not nesscarily bad, but it just didn't do anything for him. I understand his views but disagree. It wasn't the best album, but it was no slouch. As far as studying the growth of a artist, you can hear Sean still growing throughout HOF.

This brings us to Dark Sky Paradise. I'm not going to go to deep into the album because I'm still letting it sink in. But I can say this, as I went back and listened to FFV3 to now I can definitely see the growth in Sean as an artist. Still making songs with the likes of Drake and Kanye, he’s moved away from the underground artists like Mike Posner and others. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re a vet in the game. Sean still displays his gift for making reflective records about past events, like when he got signed, a personal favorite of his clearly. Relationship records are still there, and the adlibs and phrases he always seems to coin are there as well.  But it’s really the growth in his flow and delivery that stands out to me on this album. Still true to his punch line roots, but able to really change it up on this album. His story telling ability has really improved, and he definitely has some big hits on this album. He’s able to showcase his talents to the fullest without sounding like he’s trying so hard to make radio records, like he did on Finally Famous The Album. Everything seems to come so naturally while the album really flows through, and I think fans are really able to pick up on that.

Big Sean isn’t the same person who released FFV3 in 2010, but deep down inside he still is. He’s not making his way on anyone's top 5 list and maybe that's because he hasn't had the major break out project since really blowing up after FFV3. Maybe it's because his works get over shadowed by bigger releases by other artists. Or maybe it's all timing. Either way, I think if we look a little harder we can appreciate the growth of Big Sean.