The wait for big things from Big Sean is over.
The Detroit rapper and Kanye West protégé has been on deck for two albums now surrounded by enough stars to keep him afloat in mixed reviews, but on "Dark Sky Paradise" (Def Jam), he gets his home run.
Once again, Big Sean has an enviable supporting cast, from girlfriend Ariana Grande to Lil Wayne and Drake, but this time he is more in control. Only West outshines him this time out. During a fine bit of articulated rage in "All Your Fault," while a clever sample from Ambrosia's yacht-rock classic "How Much I Feel" plays, 'Ye declares, "Cops choking [expletive] out in the media, we're gonna have to protest to tear the city up."
Sean even holds his own with West during the emotional "One Man Can Change the World," as he winds through the wishes his grandmother had for him.
He shines brightest, though, when the spotlight is solely on him. During "Paradise," where producer Mike Will Made It keeps the backdrop simple to allow Sean's rhymes and his increasingly unhinged delivery to unspool as he references everything from the Baltimore Ravens, to ramen and "Everybody Loves Raymond" in one impressive roll before deciding, "Life's a [expletive] paradox, a paradise. If they're not rolling with you, then they're parasites."
The song is the centerpiece of the album's theme, finding bright spots in darkness and darkness in what should be heavenly moments. In "Blessings," he sounds furious even as he talks about "blessings on blessings on blessings." As he appreciates what he has, he also doles out threats, rapping, "Check after check, checking off my checklist / Try and blow my cake, just know that's a death wish."
It's a dark view of life, but when the road to success has taken as long as it has for Big Sean, it's no wonder he doesn't want to let it go.
THE GRADE B+