Big Sean is very rich and successful. But don’t worry if you didn’t know it already, as the Michigan emcee spends the majority of Hall of Fame trying to convince listeners of his achievements through descriptions of his wealth and its afforded luxuries. Hip-hop has long obsessed with presenting lifestyles filled with fine clothes, expensive cars, jewelry and having sex with beautiful women. When done well, such subjects can act as entertaining victory laps for the artist and motivational dream-tales for the listener. Unfortunately, without especially clever rhymes or charisma, Big Sean’s album fails to engage beyond the polished beats suitable for clubs, house parties and cars with big subwoofers.
Big Sean will never go down as a great lyricist. For every mildly clever line, he drops two clunkers (“motherfuck taking a vacation, put palm trees up in my house and have a staycation, getting paid while I’m chilling, that’s a paycation”) and the majority are cliché-filled boasts you’ve heard countless times before. And unfortunately, on the rare occasion he turns to more serious topics, he doesn’t seem to have the emotional depth or maturity to add credible insight. For example, he sabotages an otherwise sincere grappling with the meaning of success on “all figured out” by calling himself “Rosay Parks” because he sits in the front of the plane and comparing his drunk driving to OJ Simpson’s infamous car chase. It doesn’t help that the album’s deluxe version weighs in at a plodding 18 tracks, totaling 80 minutes. With such a singular message and cohesive sound, a few of the weaker songs could certainly have been scrapped.
Of course, there are many arguably classic albums recorded by mediocre writers. However, besides great production, those rappers, typically have the benefit of an appealing mic presence and exceptional voice or flow. Sadly, Big Sean’s lyrical failures are made all the less forgivable by his thin tone and stumbling, at-times off-beat, delivery. Weather he’s fumbling in an attempt to match a beat’s tempo as on “First Chain” or scream-whining such as on the oddly offensive chorus for “10 2 10″, Big Sean simply does not have the vocal skills needed to makeup for his trite lyrics. Thankfully, on many of the tracks, he is joined by A-list rappers that are more technically proficient (Nas), more charismatic (2 Chainz), have better voices (Jeezy) or are downright more entertaining (Nicki Minaj).
Beyond securing great guests, being a member of Kanye’s G.O.O.D Music means a big budget and pick of the best beats. No ID, Key Wane, and Da Internz provide lush production fit for Big Sean’s descriptions of excess. Lavish strings slither silk-smooth on “Sierra Leone”, “Toyota Music” features tingling keys and throbbing bass perfect for rumbling out a Land Cruiser, while the Caribbean sounds on “Guap” make the track an ideal soundtrack for getting wild on a white sand beach. If the listening situation allows for focus on nothing but the production, Hall of Fame is a pleasant, if not especially memorable experience.
Despite his new album debuting at number 3 on the billboard charts and selling an impressive 71,000 copies in its first week, Big Sean’s biggest contribution to hip hop in 2013 will likely be his offering Kendrick Lamar a chance to pound his chest and taunt his peers on a track that isn’t even on Hall of Fame. Considering the songs actually found on the Michigan MC’s album, that legacy seems about right.
2.5 out of 5
You can buy Hall of Fame on Amazon.