09:00AM ET July 1st, 2011
Contributor: DeAndre Rozan
A Rocky Williform Company
Despite a hit song featuring R&B superstar Chris Brown and several appearances on the hottest talk shows of the moment--never mind the fact that he's the first "Next Big Thing" from Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music imprint--Big Sean isn't quite the household name some of his fans think he is. That may seem like a ridiculous thing to say considering Finally Famous is his debut album (technically-speaking); but in this era of Internet infamy when contemporaries like Drake and Wiz Khalifa seemed to be industry veterans before they ever recorded an album, it's almost quaint to see a young artist who hasn't been splayed all over every magazine cover and blog site non-stop for months.
But the drawback to that, when listening to Sean's Finally Famous, is that you realize how this album might not do a whole lot to set Big Sean apart from his peers.
But Finally Famous is an assured-if-somewhat-indistinct debut album from a clever emcee who throws enough pop culture references in his rhymes to be on par with very early Common. Like Common--or at least, the teenage Common Sense--Big Sean shouts out TV shows, movies and seemingly anything else that pops into his head. It's all fodder for his punchlines.
The Detroit rhymer spits heat over an MC Hammer sample on "Dance (A$$)"--a song that works far better than it should, and Sean even finds a way to work Pootie Tang into the lyrics somehow. But its impossible to hear a song like "Memories (Pt. II)" and not think 'here's another quasi-introspective stoner track a la Kid Cudi or Wiz Khalifa.'
“I swear I’ve been through everything in life but the coffin/You say the sky’s the limit, hi bitch, I’m moonwalkin’” he raps on "So Much More." The track epitomizes Finally Famous as an album: its pretty much your standard-issue 'this is my story' sort of track, but Sean saves it from being pedestrian through the sheer wit and sharpness of his rhymes.
Big Sean didn't have the white-hot spotlight glare on him that Drake did in the months leading up to the release of Thank Me Later, so Finally Famous won't be anywhere near as polarizing as that record was. But when hearing Sean toss off half-baked lines like "“Sometimes I dream bigger than I live/Sometimes I think better when I’m lit," one can't help but wish that he'd been allowed to take a few more risks and assert his vision. Because as it stands, Finally Famous is a strong album, that could've been a remarkable one had he stepped outside the box.