Mixtape review: Big Sean welcomes you to ‘Detroit’

REVIEW - Five years, a successful debut album and millions of dollars later, Sean is indeed finally famous...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

There are some people in life who are so positive and driven, they speak their success into existence—people who literally will themselves into good fortune and triumph.

Such is the case with G.O.O.D. Music emcee, Big Sean.

Since 2007, the Detroit native has released five projects, four of which include the phrase “Finally Famous” in the title. Five years, a successful debut album and millions of dollars later, Sean is indeed finally famous.

This is where his latest opus, Detroit, opens. On the mixtape intro, ‘Higher,’ Sean confidently raps about his current success, mindful that he’s far removed from his early career beginnings.

 “Tomorrow never seemed so close / and life aint what it seem no mo.’

‘Til I was standing next to Puff and Hov, off the French coast / a million dollars never seemed so broke.”

While it’s evident that Sean is aware of how in demand he is, as the braggadocios bars are aplenty, it doesn’t come off as annoying or exasperating. This is mostly because not once on the entire project does he focus the attention solely on himself. Big Sean tactfully mixes top-notch, original production with grade A features, making Detroit as well-assembled as Voltron, sharing the success with his collaborators in the process.

Out of 18 tracks, there are only 5 that don’t feature other artists. And even on those five records, the production is so supreme that the focus is never 100 percent on Big Sean. ‘How it Feel,’ arguably one of the project’s best tracks, is a perfect example. Produced by Mano 4 Treated Crew, the soulful sample of Barry White’s ‘Hung up in Your Love’ is so well executed that it’s almost as if Sean is there simply to compliment the beat with vocal garnish, and nothing else.

The other 13 tracks, including 3 commentary skits by Common, Young Jeezy and Snoop Dogg, all feature a well put together list of artists who, for the most part, don’t disappoint. On ‘24K of Gold,’ Sean trades bars with J. Cole over melodic production by frequent collaborator, Key Wayne, while ‘100’ sees him lyrically sparring with two of Hip-Hop’s elite lyricists, Royce Da 5’9 and Kendrick Lamar.

Interestingly enough, though, the tape’s best song might be the Jhene Aiko-assisted ‘I’m Gonna Be,’ on which Sean elects to sing, as opposed to rap. Although perplexing, as Jhene’s soft, soothing, voice could have easily carried the song on its own, the unexpected duet actually works. This was definitely a risk for Sean to take, but one that paid off, providing one of the project’s brightest spots.

The tape isn’t perfect, though. Both ‘Woke Up,’ featuring Say it Aint Tone, Early Mac, Mike Posner and James Fantleroy, as well as ‘Do What I Gotta Do,’ featuring Tyga, could have been left on the cutting room floor. The Hit-Boy-produced ‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy’ also seemed to be a pitfall, as Sean’s sing-song flow didn’t quite deliver here.

Detroit is the perfect time stamp for where Big Sean is in his career right now. While it’s not his best mixtape, or as good as his Finally Famous album, the project is a strong effort and displays the self-assurance we’ve come to see from the emcee lately on tracks like “Mercy” and “Clique.”

Like his boss, Kanye West, Big Sean has managed to rap his way from out of the shadow of his mentor and onto the brink of superstardom. With an untitled album scheduled to be released before year’s end and Cruel Summer right around the corner, Sean’s Finally Famous mantra is no longer just a motivational saying; it’s true.

Download Big Sean’s Detroit here.

Brandon Neasman is a freelance writer who has penned articles for both national and regional publications, including usweekly.com and the Hard Rock Hotel’s Las Vegas magazine. A graduate from Florida A&M University, Brandon is an editor at mostlyjunkfood.com and a graphic designer for the Gannett Company, Inc. You can follow him on Twitter at @Bnease.