Big Sean

Dark Sky Paradise

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Artistically, three is the charm for Big Sean as Dark Sky Paradise is much more expansive than previous efforts, sometimes grinding with executive producer Kanye West's love of the dark, and other times bouncing with the snark, swagger, and style that propelled this Detroit rapper to the top. "Paradise" is a prime example of the latter as it busts into the strip club with a Mike-Will-Made-It beat as Sean strings expletives together for an intricate weave, but the man who yearned to be Finally Famous with his debut got it, and is no longer drunk on fame, because as the song explains, the hangover is well underway. Just as infectious and twice as slick, "I Don't Fuck with You" featuring E-40 drops sly lines like "These ho's chase bread, all day/She got a bird brain," while the great "Now I wear v-necks, people ask what happened to the crew?" comes from "Win Some, Lose Some," a key track that links the pop side of the album to the problems side. Problems like the loss of family, as the elegant "One Man Can Change the World" gains strength from the bittersweet swirl of emotions commonly known as the five stages of grief; then there's the ridiculous and winning "Deep," which ruminates and stomps as if Three 6 Mafia were subbing for this week's philosophy class. Mentor Kanye's fingerprints are all over the beginning of the album as "Dark Sky (Skyscrapers)" slowly unfurls like a West-styled album intro, while "Blessings" and "All Your Fault" both sound as if Drake took a swing at Yeezy's 808s and Heartbreak album and then shattered all expectations. There's no filler, and the overall LP flow is near perfect on any non-Deluxe version that doesn't run past the "Outro." Wise, infectious, memorable and, as the song says, "Deep," Dark Sky Paradise suggests that grown-up doesn't necessarily mean beat-up, even after all the brutal punches life can throw.

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