Big Sean - Finally Famous: The Album
Record Label: G.O.O.D. Music / Def Jam Recordings
Release Date: June 28, 2011
So, this is kind of a big deal.
Big Sean's debut, the aptly named Finally Famous: The Album, is the finale after years of similarly named mixtapes. His connections to Kanye West and the GOOD Music camp have afforded him ridiculous amounts of support over the years, and each release shines because of it. Releasing a full-fledged album is a much different affair than putting a mixtape together, and it brings a whole slew of new pressure that causes less experienced artists to buckle. That being said, Big Sean stands on his own two feet throughout the whole of this release, carried admirably by numerous features the few times he begins to stumble.
Over half the album contains such features, but Finally Famous fortunately affords Sean some time to go in by himself. After a promising “Intro” opens the album, “I Do It” hits the scene as the first true track. Sean shines with references to X-Men characters and Captain Planet, all the while dropping info on all his exploits up to this point in his career. “I Do It” is a banger rife with catchphrases and one-liners, and Sean exhibits an impressive flow through various tempos and varying degrees of lyrical capability. “What Goes Around” makes an appearance later in the album, Sean-centric in both lyrical content and delivery. He weaves his way through piano driven melodies courtesy of producer and GOOD Music president No I.D., showcasing a surprising level of self-diagnosis as he details his career and the places he plans to go. Sean is painted in an exceptionally humble light even as he brags about his connections, and he obviously realizes he has some work to do before he's regarded in the same breath as the genre's greats.
For all the overblown ego Sean spits through this release, he still takes time to offer a more personal look at his life and what got him where he is. “So Much More” is triumphant in every sense of the word, a rags-to-riches themed track that chronicles Sean's rise from obscurity to performing a cypher on BET with Common and Kanye. His exceptional verse from that cypher finds a perfect home alongside another standout No I.D. beat, and overall the track shines with a charming joyfulness. The more ominous “Don't Tell Me You Love Me” is a painful peace about failed relationships. Sean's lyrics are even parts regretful and antagonistic, delivered with a magnificent flow that showcases some of the best Finally Famous has to offer. The dichotomy in production styles from track to track helps differentiate the tracks thematically and, although some of the sampling feels sloppy, it's generally on-point throughout the whole album.
With the exception of Chris Brown's forgettable performance on the otherwise strong track “My Last,” every feature feels autonomous and unforced. From Lupe Fiasco's brass tacks appearance on “Wait For Me” to John Legend's beautiful choruses on the nostalgic “Memories (Part II),” Big Sean uses the talent he's been afforded admirably, playing off them with a curious fascination while still holding his own. Even the unfortunately predictable Wiz Khalifa and Chiddy Bang make strong showings, sticking to what they know on the fittingly named “High.” The three artists work well together without dethroning Sean as the main attraction. The only track that tends to lose Sean in it's grandeur is the bonus track “100 Keys” featuring Rick Ross and Pusha T. Ross uses his commanding presence to reel the listener in, and Pusha keeps them engaged with clever wordplay and an endearing personality. With that kind of talent on a single track, it's understandable when Sean ultimately forfeits the song's full focus and offers a short, solid verse near the end. His lack of visibility in this track is regrettable, but the knowledge he's gaining from these kinds of partnerships is sure to work in his favor in the future.
Big Sean is a captivating figure throughout the whole of Finally Famous. He details his past, present, and hopes for the future in a very human way, eschewing typical hip-hop egoism with celebratory verses and production. Sure, he's still a bit braggadocious, but he delivers those moments with such sincerity and excitement it's hard not to buy what he's selling. With brilliant production from the likes of No I.D., Kanye West, and The Neptunes as well as an amazing supporting cast of lyricists, Sean has crafted an exceptional debut album without losing the charm of his comparably solid mixtapes.
great album, great review. i've been rockin with big sean since uknowbigsean vol 2. good to see him get the spotlight at GOOD Music.
Although I disagree with one thing: I think Chris Brown's feature is part of the reason why My Last is doin so well as a single on radio stations. I don't like the guy but I wouldn't call his guest spot "forgettable."