“Hall of Fame,” the sophomore album release by rapper Big Sean, was overshadowed by the buzz created by “Control,” a heavily criticized track left off the album but leaked online prior to its release. Featuring a verse by Kendrick Lamar, which sent rappers across the country crying foul after their names were called out —or in some cases not called out — by Lamar in regard to their apparent shortcomings, the hype around “Control” led Sean’s “Hall of Fame” toward a more quiet release.
The intention to keep “Control” off of “Hall of Fame” is understandable, as the track is a stylistic departure from the final 15 songs that make up the album. “Control” maintains the cocky attitude and unflinching confidence that has become synonymous with Big Sean’s flow, but presents itself as a glaring attack on his industry peers rather than the fun-loving celebration of life that “Hall of Fame” essentially is.
And Sean has the right to celebrate, as the young rapper continues to make a name for himself with high-profile guest spots on tracks and singles that can’t be avoided by anyone with a car radio. Sean has established himself as a rapper who can produce hits, and “Hall of Fame” serves as his moment to shine in the limelight. The song “Toyota Music” is a hypnotic exploration of the caveats of living life on top of the world, while songs like the old-school throwback “First Chain” help describe the fruition of a dream come true. Sean treats his subject matter carefully however, avoiding narcissism by presenting an upbeat and motivational flow that highlights the merits of the journey rather than focusing purely on the successes.
The uplifting tone of the album also serves as a direct message to the people of Sean’s hometown of Detroit, which is referenced numerous times in the album both in flashbacks to Sean’s youth and in regard to the current hard times faced by the beleaguered city. If anything, “Hall of Fame” is a shout out of encouragment to the city by its unofficial ambassador.
Only a few tracks on the album depart from the feel-good tone — a noticeable weak point that leaves the listening experience a mostly one-dimensional affair. The song “Ashley” provides a poetic story about breakups, and with a soulful cameo by Miguel, stands out as the most striking departure in tone for the album.
Monotony is mostly avoided by strong production and numerous guest artists who keep the tracks fresh and allow each one to have a unique feel. The beats are bass heavy and keep the album moving at an energetic pace, particularly on the sample heavy track “Nothing to Lose,” the soulful sounding “Fire” and the made-for-the-club song “MILF.” Sean is able to showcase the versatility of his flow on the album, deftly switching up his delivery and sound to match the subtle nuances in the beat of each track. The attention to detail in the production of the album helps in delivering a clean and fluid sound from start to finish. Guest artists, including hip-hop heavyweights like Lil Wayne, Nas, Kid Cudi and Nicki Minaj, along with Sean’s clever lyrics, bring the album around full circle.
“Hall of Fame” is hardly the album that will place Sean among the hip-hop elite, but the flawless production and inspirational lyrics ensure that the album is an undeniably good time.
Follow Chirag Patel on Twitter: @cbpatel86
As published in the Sept. 5 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.