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Review: Big Sean - 'Dark Sky Paradise' (Deluxe Edition)
With an all-star supporting cast of Drake, John Legend, Lil’ Wayne, Chris Brown, Ty Dolla Sign, Jhené Aiko, current girlfriend Ariana Grande, mentor Kanye West and more, Detroit rapper Big Sean releases his third studio album, ‘Dark Sky Paradise’.
Exuding dynamic confidence without ever sounding overly aggressive or threatening, the 26-year-old is multifaceted on ‘Dark Sky Paradise’.
Big Sean can be fearlessly dexterous and precise with his wordplay – whilst never being too serious about the words themselves.
He can spit like a round-the-way-boy and just as casually follow up these bars with details about recent visits with Kim and Kanye – as well as motivational meets with Oprah.
More importantly, everything the hip-hop star does on ‘Dark Sky Paradise’ is doused in a comfortable sense of style.
In contrast to the somber, enigmatic vibe of the record’s artwork, ‘Dark Sky Paradise’ has its fair share of fun.
The anthemic, shameless ‘I Don’t F**k With You’ featuring E-40, is one of countless cuts on ‘Dark Sky Paradise’ that’s boosted by the force of Sean’s showy personality.
Fellow Detroitian Key Wane’s ‘Play No Games’ is stuffed with memorable old school elements, and thanks to competent vocal contributions from Chris Brown and Ty Dolla Sign, the tune expands comfortably on a classic Guy sample.
Sean wins switching up his verbal assault on ‘Stay Down’ and Mike WiLL Made-It’s ‘Paradise (Extended)’ is an effective booming, trippy showcase for the rapper’s casual versatility and hip-hop flair.
As one of the project’s executive producers, Kanye West’s overall influence on ‘Dark Sky Paradise’ is hard to ignore.
Between a couple of Tom Cruise mentions, Kanye peels through a stack of pop culture references on ‘All Your Fault’.
The melodic, sincere ‘One Man Can Change The World’ featuring John Legend and West, has the latter’s over-reaching grandiosity all over it.
Big Sean doesn't truly impact on the rap ballad until after reflecting on the state of his hometown, he delivers devastating lyrics about the recent passing of his much-adored grandmother.
The GOOD Music rapper fondly recalls first meeting Kanye West with the help of Canada’s PARTYNEXTDOOR on unhurried bonus track ‘Deserve It’, and raps adeptly over samples from late funk/soul singer Darondo’s ‘Didn’t I’ on ‘Outro’.
The Lil’ Wayne assisted ‘Deep’ and ‘I Know’ featuring LA singer/songwriter Jhené Aiko, both work a lo-fi lean.
Aiko brings a sass to ‘I Know’, however, the cut could benefit from a touch more spark.
That being said, as the rapper’s vocals overlap enticingly with Aiko’s towards the end of the tune, ‘I Know’ opens up a little more and goes very temptingly…Dark Sky.
Big Sean reignites and stays energised over the laid back, moody beatwork of ‘Deep’ by repeatedly, nimbly swerving up his flow.
The rapper then gives listeners a quick tour of his past on hidden gem ‘Platinum & Wood’, and everyone’s favourite couple – Big Sean and Ariana Grande – come together for bonus track ‘Research’.
Due to an underwhelming hook, ‘Research’ slides quickly into forgettable territory. Still, the tune rumbles with beefy synth-bass sounds and Grande's looped backing vocals undercut the tune nicely.
The album’s general preoccupation with its own stylings peaks on the innovative, unencumbered, Drake-featured single ‘Blessings’.
There is substance on ‘Dark Sky Paradise’, but the project isn’t driven by it and as a result, the long term appeal of the tracklist is undermined.
Luckily for Big Sean, he’s blessed with enough charisma to sell even the weakest, most interchangeable material on the record.
Yet his powerful showmanship can’t hide the fact that for the most part, ‘Dark Sky Paradise’ is another case of – admittedly impeccable – style over substance.