LOS ANGELES TIMES / TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
Big Sean (left) arrives with Ariana Grande at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. LOS ANGELES TIMES / TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

Big Sean has evolved. He is no longer  the butt-obsessed, young artist yelling ad-libs or leaning on featured artists to get record sales. Instead, his third album “Dark Sky Paradise,” released on Feb. 24, shows a rapper willing to dive into his thoughts and give meaningful content.

The album does not start in the usual Big Sean manner, or a fast-paced staccato flow and lyrics that are braggadocio. Instead, we have a young, hungry Big Sean in “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers)”.  This song demonstrates how he wants to become part of the discussion when it comes to who is the best rapper.  He wants the most money, he wants success.

This theme continues into the single “Blessings,” featuring Drake.  After “Blessings,” Big Sean moves on to his girl problems.  After breaking off his engagement to Naya Rivera, Big Sean decided to throw shots.  The Kanye West-assisted track “All Your Fault,” as well as standout single “IDFWU,” are proof.  Unfortunately, Big Sean reverts to his same old self in the latter half of the album.

The mispronunciation-for-the-sake-of-flow rapper is back in “Stay Down.” While it is only a song, the reemergence of the “Finally Famous” Big Sean is never a good thing.  Also, one of his biggest faults is his flow never really changes up. It goes back and forth between his usual breakneck speed and a sing-song flow. He does, however, pick great production to help hide his weaknesses. The tracks seem to be effortless to rap on, yet they still display complexity.

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Big Sean’s production comes from the hit-makers of 2014. That list includes DJ Mustard, Mike Will Made It and G.O.O.D. Music boss West. G.O.O.D. Music label mate Travi$ Scott also has a production credit in conjunction with the young, up-and-coming Wondagurl.  The signature horns and beat switch-ups by Mike Will Made It make Big Sean’s tornado flow seem almost natural. And what album would be complete without the sound of DJ Mustard’s bass synth and snare? West’s production does not show up until the outro of the album, where his sped up samples make a beautiful comeback. Producer Key Wane also had three production credits.

“Dark Sky Paradise” is the next step in Big Sean’s path to greatness.  No longer is he asking Nicki Minaj to feature on an over-sexualized song in order to get plays. Now, he is calling out his ex-fiancé and even featuring his current girlfriend in the deluxe edition. His yearning for greatness makes the opening tracks great. While the middle tracks are forgettable, he ends the album on a high note with production from West.

This albums is not album of the year, not even close, but it is a great one for Big Sean. If you are already a fan, this album is definitely worth buying. If not, take a listen and respect the fact that G.O.O.D. Music’s little brother can finally hold his own against legends like E-40 and West.

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