Dark Sky Paradise (2015)
Rap / Hip-Hop
Label: G.O.O.D. Music & Def Jam
Let’s take a moment and look at what has been happening in rapper Big Sean’s life the past couple of years. His sophomore album Hall of Fame proved to be a sophomore flop, he had a pretty public break-up with now ex-girlfriend Naya Rivera, found a new (and even more public) girlfriend in Ariana Grande, and he recently signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label. That’s a lot of fuel for a big fire. With Dark Sky Paradise, Big Sean’s third studio album, he manages to kindle those flames to produce his best album yet.
If you want a summary of the things Big Sean reflects on his introspective album, all you have to do is refer to the opening track “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers).” Big Sean keeps it raw and goes into the sorts of themes that are scattered all over the album, including the girls he has been with, the successes he has had, and some of the mistakes and struggles he has had to deal with along the way.
With a title like Dark Sky Paradise, you would think that Big Sean would follow the apparent progression from his struggles of his past to the paradise that he’s a part of now, but this is not the case necessarily. It seems like a missed opportunity to me, but it’s hard to argue with how an artist decides to order their tracks.
The album has a really strong start with some pretty heavy beats. “Blessings” and “All Your Fault”, which feature Drake and Kanye West respectively, go into the successes that Big Sean has had, and how he is literally “blessed” to be at his level. Both Big Sean and Kanye West go bar for bar on the last verse of “All Your Fault”, which was probably one of my favorite moments on the album.
These songs then lead to the massive commercial hit “I Don’t Fuck With You”; a song that can be possibly linked to Sean’s relationship with Naya Rivera. At the surface level, there doesn’t seem to be too much depth to the song. However, E-40 lends a great verse with his signature style and Big Sean once again gets introspective with the last verse, which he later revealed that he wrote with Naya Rivera on his mind. The song also contains some good production from DJ Mustard which makes it a heavy-hitting banger.
It was at this point that the album started to trail off a bit for me. “Play No Games”, featuring Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign, and “Paradise” both were average songs that didn’t really do it for me. However, I can’t deny that the sound of “Paradise” was probably one of the best sounds on the album. “Win Some, Lose Some”, the first duet with Jhene Aiko, and “Stay Down” were not that special either.
It was Big Sean’s second duet with Jhene Aiko, “I Know”, that was one of the highlights on the album. The two trade verses on a track about the struggles that someone in a rough relationship is going through. The two both offer their support in a sexy and soulful duet. “One Man Can Change the World” was another soulful track that dived into the subject of Big Sean’s grandmother, who recently passed away. She was the “father figure” of sorts during his childhood, and he owed a lot too her, which he talks about on the track. Sean also brings on Kanye West and John Legend, who were both fitting features on the track of tribute to Sean’s grandmother.
Although there were a couple of missteps along the way, Big Sean hit hard with Dark Sky Paradise. It’s a cool experience to see the rapper go through his life and the problems he has had to put up with, and then reflect on how they have impacted his life. There’s some moments on the album where he talks about what it would be like to “lose it all.” It’s a good reflective question to ask yourself once in a while, but with an album like this, it’s hard to see Big Sean really “losing it all.” He has picked himself back up from the disaster that was Hall of Fame and has moved on to his Dark Sky Paradise.