Big Sean can’t lose with Finally Famous, and he knows it. He is, after all, Kanye West’s golden child, currently running rap radio with a hit single featuring Chris Brown and a deep, deep album, featuring some of the best production money can buy. But the deck being stacked in his favor does little to change that Big Sean is one of the most anemic, half-assed rappers working today. Sean has absolutely zero charm, charisma or lyrical depth. His voice is one of those flat, thin tenors so completely devoid of personality that it sounds absolutely unlistenable coming from anyone other than noted vest enthusiast Fabolous. What’s even worse, he’s one of those rappers who adlibs coquettish, insipid laughter over his self-satisfied, lazy punchlines that at first blush seem clever but reveal themselves as obvious and, well, completely fucking stupid.
With the quick oscillation from rapping to autotuned singing, and all with a grandiose self-consciousness, Big Sean is sort of going for a Drake vibe on Finally Famous, but by the standards of the Young Money powerhouse, he falls supremely short. Big Sean’s brags are semi-clever, but ultimately dismissable. Meanwhile, when Drake boasts, he does so with wide-screen aplomb, not just saying he is powerful, but illustrating this point through a short anecdote about how he’s going to call border patrol and convince them to allow his felonious ingénue to fly to Paris. In a situation such as this, Big Sean would say something to the effect of, “I’m really powerful. Boieeee.”
The production on this album, however, is tremendous. Crafted mostly by No I.D., cohort of Kanye and responsible for some of the most famed beats in the rap canon, the production veers close to Mr. West’s earlier work on such albums as The College Dropout and Late Registration. It is interesting, then, that Yeezy chooses to drop in on the sex anthem “Marvin & Chardonnay,” which also features Roscoe Dash, who seems ecstatic about having made the jump from pop-rap also-ran to mercenary R&B hookman. However, the beat, produced by Andrew “Pop” Wansel and Mike Dean, is such an over-the-top sensory overload that perhaps the only person in the universe who might find it sexy is Michael Bay. West’s rapping – concerned chiefly with intercourse, of course – is positively ebullient, perhaps overly so, as if he had just lost his virginity prior to writing his verse.
Other songs shoot for beyond the obvious. “High” features Wiz Khalifa and is exactly 4:20 long, because of course it is. On “My Last,” Chris Brown croons, “I’m a-hit this ass up like it’s my last.” Given his less than stellar history of not punching his girlfriend repeatedly in the face, it's especially painful. Meanwhile, “Wait For Me” features Lupe Fiasco, and sees Lupe as a pop star who has found a way to make himself more annoying than he was when he rapped about how he never wanted to be a pop star. Its a semi-conscious song, but Sean torpedoes that by saying "Suck my dick." Talib Kweli this is not.
Perhaps the album’s biggest flaw is Big Sean’s ham-fisted logic. When he says things like, “I got the whole rap game tryin’ to sound like me,” “You tell me that wasn’t verse of the year,” or refers to himself as, “Greatest of all Bigs/Greatest of all Seans,” it seems that he assumes that they are true, simply by virtue of his having said them. Big Sean, in fact, does not got the whole rap game trying to sound like him. He is trying to sound like Drake. And sweet Christ, in no universe will Big Sean be greater than Notorious B.I.G. or Big Pun, and at the rate he’s going he’ll be lucky to end up a better rapper than Sean Combs, let alone Sean Carter.
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