Big Sean’s latest album, “Dark Sky Paradise,” is his masterpiece. It is, in fact, the culmination of his ascent to becoming one of rap’s biggest names— just look at the list of the featured artists on this album. Some of the industry’s biggest stars, such as Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and John Legend make appearances, along with other well-known artists such as E-40, Jhene Aiko, Chris Brown and Ty Dolla Sign. Their talents, combined with Big Sean’s renewed focus on words that have both coherence and meaning and a background track which fits the tone of each song, are what makes “Dark Sky Paradise” reign supreme over every effort that the Santa Monica-born rapper has released.
Following the brash introduction “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers),” Drizzy pops in for a collaboration entitled “Blessings.” Unlike Big Sean’s rise to the top, Drake’s was meteoric. However, their combined presence on the track is a powerhouse. After Big Sean’s opening verse in which he proclaims, “For my n****s who gon’ go to Hell and back for me/ I’mma give ‘em Heaven on Earth/ Or a hell of a check, yeah, whichever come first,” Drake follows with a flow of his own: “You gotta come to my side and see how we live, yeah/ I cannot see Heaven being much better than this, yeah.” The hook in which both rappers state that they are in fact “blessed” is just icing on the cake.
“All Your Fault,” the album’s third song, features Kanye and as you might expect he dominates the beginning of the song, but Big Sean steals the track right back once he begins his verse. The two stars go head to head on the final set of lines, both clashing and harmonizing simultaneously. This is followed by “I Don’t F**k With You,” another collaboration with a talented artist in E-40. This is arguably the album’s biggest hit yet, as Vine videos all over the internet belt out “I don’t f**k with you!”
The album’s fifth song also features other artists: Brown and Ty Dolla Sign show up on “Play No Games.” Unlike the previous three collaborations on the album, Big Sean does most of the heavy lifting lyrically. Dolla Sign’s riff at the end of the song echoes Big Sean’s message, and Brown’s hook flows with ease alongside Big Sean’s words. This is followed by “Paradise,” which is the second solo effort of the album. This is a loud affirmation of Big Sean’s lifestyle today, as well as essentially telling his critics to shut up.
After the outlandishness of “Paradise,” Big Sean follows with “Win Some, Lose Some,” which slows down the tempo big time. Even though she isn’t credited on this track, Aiko pops up, echoing Big Sean’s lyrics while the slow background music calmly marches along. “Stay Down” is the album’s eighth song, and is not only the best solo effort on the album, but the album’s best song, period. It mixes together everything that makes a typical Big Sean song: slowed down background instrumentals, a steady stream words that pack a punch, and a simple refrain that brings home the song’s message. He closes the song with this phrase: “Girls handing me their heart, how could I not break that s**t?” Better not let Ariana Grande hear that last line, Sean.
“I Know” features Aiko, and this track definitely bears her style, which has some similarities with Big Sean’s. The song opens up with Big Sean stating, “I know you’ve been goin’ through some things, uh huh/ I know you don’t even love the same, do you, do you?/ I know you’ve been runnin’ on empty, runnin’ on empty.” However, Aiko easily holds her own, countering with: “I know you’ve been going through some thangs, wanna get away/ Baby, let me be your vacation.” The slow, bass-heavy beat accentuates the sexually charged exchanges between the two artists. Along with “Blessings” this is the best collaboration on the album.
Next up is “Deep” featuring Lil Wayne, which features a background tune that’s dark and moody, but that just fits Weezy’s persona. It’s also a classic matchup between two rap heavyweights: Big Sean leads off with the intro, hook and his own verse, followed by a team-up of both rappers on the ensuing hook, and Lil Wayne’s own verse right afterwords. Much like the other collaborations, the two of them work off each other extremely well.
The album closes out on a strong note with “One Man Can Change The World” featuring John Legend and West and “Outro,” which is a strong yet simple solo effort that finishes with a flourish. “One Man Can Change The World” is the most powerful and soulful message on the album. In the song, Big Sean discusses his own life at length, and also delivers a strong message to his listeners. Legend and West alternate hooks to close out the song, which makes Big Sean’s message in the song even stronger. “Outro,” which is also known as “Dark Sky Paradise” as well, is an introspective one-verse track which features some of Big Sean’s best words on the album, and is an apt way to finish off which should now be known as his finest piece of work yet. This album truly is a “Dark Sky Paradise.”
Jordan Llanes can be reached at Jordan.firstname.lastname@example.org