Photo Credit: Julian Klincewicz
You can tell from the very beginning of Big Sean’s fifth number-one album Detroit 2, that the Michigan native sounds more balanced and elevated as a person and as an artist than ever before. As a sequel to the 2012 mixtape titled Detroit, the project is stacked with a stout star-peppered lineup of guest appearances. Even including a few surprise cameos by a comedian, an R&B legend and a fabled diva to note. But we’ll get to that later. At a lengthy but eventful 21-tracks, Detroit 2 kicks off with the ambitious and insightful track “Why Would I Stop.” The song serves as a personal preview of Sean’s enlightened perspective on fame, balance, and personal strife. You can see this message reiterated and delivered intentionally throughout the LP.
Take the standout “Lucky Me” where Sean boats spitfire lyrics as if he’s finally found a purposeful spot in a life he’s personally content with. This continues on the poignant and finely composed “Everything That’s Missing” featuring Dwele. He bounces back and forth about the pressures of being famous, making mistakes and inevitably learning to be better from them. With one liners like: “I’m ’bout to delete my Twitter and follow my intuition // Been in and out the mud, but somehow I’m in mint condition.”
However, this is not so much a confessional, but more of a testimonial. It is more hope driven than self-pity stricken. Sean is not dwelling, he’s reflecting and deciding to move in a more progressive direction. This is the main intangible that separates Detroit 2 from all of the MC’s previous work. Seemingly choosing not to allow his demons to defeat him. This is on full display on the most introspective track of the album “Guard Your Heart”, which is assisted by the multifaceted Anderson Paak and Maybach Music’s consciously aware protégé Wale.
Sean continues on his personally awakened mission with diplomacy while still encompassing his vintage free-flowing style. This is defined most when he teams up with some of the industry’s most cognizant artists. For example, on the popular heavy hitting lead single “Deep Reverance” featuring the late west coast icon Nipsey Hussle. On “Supa Dupa” and “ZTFO” (Zen The F*ck Out”) Sean is at his finest lyrically (think similar to his classic seething guest verses on 2012’s “Mercy” or 2013’s “All Me”). The marvelously produced “Don Life” also serves as a nice duo addition, quarterbacked with a fine cameo by Lil Wayne. Even after 20 years in the game Weezy still manages to bring his usual energetic flare to the table. With that said, throughout the album you see the flawless production fingerprints of GOOD Music head honcho Kanye West, who executive produced the entire project along with some help from young production genius Hit-Boy.
Elsewhere, the current single “Body Language” with Ty Dolla Sign along with beau Jhene Aiko also provides some commercial candy-like quality. Sampling the Detroit R&B classic “Soulful Moaning”, Aiko compliments perfectly bringing her fluid flowing artistry as usual. The clever hip hop game changer, Travis Scott, contributes on the track “Lithuania”, which has also been in heavy rotation as of late and is one of the better collaborations on this project.
However, the brightest moments on the LP come on the featured interludes. Composed in two minute segments throughout, featuring three of the entertainment industry’s most prolific and influential entertainers (Erykah Badu, Dave Chapelle and Stevie Wonder). As they share genuine sentiment and thoughts on Detroit’s deceptive artistic depth and what their professions have meant to them. The flavorful and sometimes humorous perspectives give the project a more relatable and genuine feel.
For all the light and promise that Detroit 2 entails, there are also some missteps. Mostly because the album could’ve sufficed with a solid 15-tracks and five less guest appearances, and it still would have stood equally as effective. The overkill inevitably makes the ladder part somewhat convoluted after some time. This is apparent on “Time In” which is a fairly good song but by the time you get to it, the attention span is long gone. The same can be said on the 8-minutes of “Friday Night Cypher” sampling Clipse’s 2002 “Grindin” beat with Kash Doll, Payroll, Cash Kidd, Tee Grizzley, Royce da 5’9″ and even Eminem, which is an admirable track but is just entirely too long. The Diddy assisted “Full Circle” is decent but sounds like it should’ve been shelved somewhere on his 1997 blockbuster Puff Daddy & The Family.
Subsequently both “Harder Than My Demons” and “The Baddest” come off as forced and similarly fall flat after about a minute in, which is rare on a Big Sean album. Even dating back to his 2011 debut jewel Finally Famous days. The LP concludes with the mediocre but all summarizing “Feed”, which only in the last ten seconds makes it a more than qualified ending to what is his best work to date. As he gives himself a self-made pep talk seemingly oblivious to the instrumental fading out. Making self-proclaiming statements such as “We must disconnect to reconnect” and “What is my purpose?”
At that point, you can tell this is what Big Sean’s ultimate intention was the entire time. Not for the clout, the glitz, praise or the glamour. This was a message of redemption, healing, and maturity along with humility. From an artist that from the very beginning of his career has aimed to embrace and inspire cultural hope while still making good music, and who still proudly holds the heart of Detroit hip hop on his shoulders with the poise and polish of a champion, Big Sean is thriving now more so than ever.