Big Sean recruits Ellie Goulding, Nas, Nicki Minaj, Young Jeezy and more for 'Hall of Fame.'
Big Sean is tranquil. The G.O.O.D. Music rapper is centered in a room full of journalists and label personnel, many of whom impatiently wait to listen to the soundtrack of the next phase of his career, and be reassured that the rapper has survived the dreaded sophomore slump.
"I'm not nervous. I'm actually excited," he says before previewing a handful of tracks off his upcoming album, "Hall of Fame" (August 27), at NYC's legendary' Jungle City Studios on Tuesday (June 30). "It's just, it feels like it took forever."
Two years after the release of his Def Jam debut album, "Finally Famous" — which he's said "wasn't all the way where I wanted it to be" — Big Sean is decidedly focused on creating moments that both define him and resonate with an even greater audience.
His growth shouldn't come as a surprise if you've followed Big Sean's latest vlogs, in which he freestyles thoughts about various subjects at hand, whether it be family or fear, over a montage of moments that embody his stream of consciousness.
Big Sean, wanting to create a "well-rounded album," nods to genres like R&B and EDM on "Hall of Fame," as on a slow-building, Ellie Goulding-assisted song, "You Don't Know," about a girl that's got the rapper on a high. Big Sean jokes that the song incorporates "electronic mixed wtih some Blackstreet shit."
The majority of the album that was previewed finds Big Sean being sounding deeply sincere, in both comical or heartfelt moments. On the bouncy, Da Internz-produced "Mona Lisa" he raps about a threesome, and Big Sean says his interest in the subject is genuine. "I don't care what people say," he says. "Yes, I want to have a threesome." Meanwhile, on a slinky ode to MILFs, respectfully titled as so ("M.I.L.F.") and also produced by Da Internz, Big Sean recruits Nicki Minaj and Juicy J to recreate the fun of "Dance (A$$)," even re-using its signature handclaps.
"Hall of Fame" features insight into Big Sean's former relationships, like on his single "Beware." On the Key Wayne & No I.D.-produced track, "World Ablaze," which kicks off and closes with what sounds like James Fauntleroy, Big Sean shares two "real," heartbreaking scenarios, the latter of which is of his "girlfriend at the time's" mother diagnosed with cancer.
"Ashley," dedicated to his ex-girlfriend, begins with a chilling verse from Miguel, who belts, "And I wouldn't trade it for the world, world, world/ And I'm just so fucking lucky you're my girl, girl, girl/ And I wouldn't trade it for anything, no, no, not anything/ And you, can't nobody do it like you." Big Sean apologizes for his wrongs and reminisces of the good times: "My bad for those long, long nights," he echoes at the end of "Ashley."
Sprinkled throughout the full-length are anthems dedicated to the grind and his hometown, one of which features Young Jeezy (who "gets more love in Detroit than people from Detroit") and Detroit's own, CTE/Atlantic Records' Doughboyz Cashout. The Detroit anthem closes with a few words of the city's current state: "Detroit, once the backbone of the country now the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy… People of Detroit are really going to have to stick together to make it through these hard times."
Nas and Kid Cudi join Big Sean on "First Chain" to share their memories and impact of a rapper's epitome of success. "I be stuntin'/ Stuntin' like I got my first chain... B.I.G. was the first one that had it/ Then I saw Nas' chain, man, that was 'Illmatic'/ Then, I saw Kanye's hanging from his gold necklace/ Then 'Ye gave me mine, I'll show you my work ethic," Big Sean raps.
Before closing out the track with some harmonizing, Kid Cudi shouts out G.O.O.D. Music ("G.O.O.D Music ni--a forever, understand?") — which to Big Sean, who revealed Cudi "re-recorded his verse after he left G.O.O.D. Music," is "to show it's some family shit, deeper than anything."
Big Sean left those in attendance wondering if his collaboration with Eminem will make the cut, or if he's holding out on a Kanye West feature, by wondering himself if he needs the features seeing that he's stood alongside rap greats such as Jay Z and Kanye West. He continues to say that the features previewed weren't to "stunt" but came together organically, and were selected for the good of the song and the album as a whole. It's apparent, through commentary and what was previewed, that Big Sean is dedicated to creating a sophomore album that fully represents who he is.