Rating: 7.5 / 10
Don’t believe the hype; Big Sean can rap. Being included with the whirlwind of talent that is G.O.O.D. Music, Sean has become one of the favorite picks as the possible weak link in the crew. Perhaps acting with something to prove, the now mainstream-successful artist returns to his roots to drop Detroit, a mixtape with all original music. With major releases on the horizon, this project was solely for his fans- and naysayers too.
Contrary to what the basic black and white cover may lead you to believe, Detroit is filled with flossy, ambitious anthems; some more abrasive than others. “24K of Gold” featuring J. Cole is one of the project’s standouts, with an aspiring chorus and instrumental. Following this theme even further, “I’m Gonna Be” has Sean and TDE-favorite Jhene Aiko trading inspirational sing-alongs. Nevertheless, it’s clear that Big Sean is the most comfortable when he’s speaking on the fruits of his labor; showcased in the starry “How It Feel”, intoxicating “Experimental” featuring King Chip and hilarious Juicy J, and club slapper “Do What I Got To Do” (appropriately featuring Tyga), which is an ode to the ladies, an ode to substance abuse, and an ode to the ladies, again.
There are more serious moments though, such as “100” with Royce Da 5’9 and Kendrick Lamar, where ambitions are spoken on with more gravity than earlier. “Sellin Dreams” tackles relationship problems over cinematic production and a Chris Brown hook; the two rekindling the chemistry of “My Last” past. Maybe the best example of veracity, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” appears at the end. With rising star Hit-Boy backing him, Sean proclaims, “There’s no turning back now”. Indeed, the Detroit emcee has established himself, but is still growing as an artist. Stepping further out of his flashy comfort zone to the shadows of truly resonating material, Big Sean is still searching for the right strings to pull- and he’s not too far off.
The gray area here is the raunchy, brash records that neither impress nor disgust; “Mula”, “FFOE”, “RWT” are all expendable. Though this is a mixtape, and the routine seems to be for rappers to give sub-par material for the sake of giving it, let’s hope these are mere sketches of the final product that will appear on future projects. Despite these, Detroit does seem to be more sincere than the overflow of free releases nowadays, and that could be due to a number of things. The three “Story” interludes with Common, Young Jeezy, and Snoop
Dogg Lion are a nice personal touch, as well as the roster of big names featured that give the mixtape a ‘not-so-mixtape’ feel.
But maybe it’s just because Big Sean is really that good. Or at least he’s getting there.