This is one of those times that Nas’ “New York State of Mind” introduction comes into my head ….. “I don’t know how to start this man!” I probably could have written this review about 2 days after the mixtape came out. But I held off because I have been debating with myself on exactly how I feel about this mixtape. The problem is; I am not some kind of huge Big Sean fanatic who has followed him since he put his first record out. He came onto my radar about 2 years back but to be totally honest and for full disclosure I was not really impressed.
So what can I say about this particular mixtape given that context? In trying to be completely objective I actually think there is much to like about this mixtape.
The mixtape actually plays like an album, with Sean bringing in his own production crew (like Key Wane) as well as the new breed of sought after hit makers like the aptly named Hit Boy. These are all original beats to my knowledge. The mixtape has a pretty contemporary and cohesive sound to it all the way through and I would be lying if I said the production quality was not of a high standard especially considering that this is free product. Sean also invites J Cole, Royce the 5’9” and Kendrick Lamar and Juicy J (amongst others) for some pretty good feature appearances.
It all kicks off with the Key Wane produced “Higher” with Sean going on a self glorification journey “I made myself a boss and promoted myself” or something like that he states. The beat is nice and smooth but with some nice rolling drums to keep it interesting and it serves as a nice introduction to the album. Sean is essentially laying out the theme for most of the rest of the album, telling us that he had to hustle hard but now he’s made it and gets to stand next to Kanye and Jay. We then roll into what I think is one of the standout tracks, “24 karats” ft J. Cole. A nice sung hook which sounds like something that could have been on “Cole World”. Sean continues with the rags to riches theme, slipping in a few bars of actual social commentary about the education system. J. Cole doesn’t deviate and comes through and does what he does. He doesn’t really steal the show but adds a nice compliment to the song. The next set of songs continue to maintain the tempo and are consistent with what I think of most this mixtape; pretty entertaining but not mind-blowing in anyway. Juicy J shows up on the bouncy “Experimental” and French Montana shows up on the following track ”Mula” which to me is the weakest joint on the mixtape. Just sounds like a rip-0ff of a Rick Ross song along with 3X repeated hook and holy ghost reference.
Then we get into introspective Sean for a couple of songs, with Kendrick Lamar stealing the show on the first of those on “100″ which also features a subdued Royce The 5’9″. The second song “Sellin Dreams” is one of the best joints on here I think. Sean basically recounts a lovers quarrel with what seems to be his jump-off and it shows Sean opening up a little emotionally and he executes it well. And from there the mixtape again stays consistently decent but not mind-blowing. I will say that “I am Gonna Be” ft Jhene Aiko is hella catchy, this could easily be a successful radio single. The consistency is there all the way through into the bonus track at the end which i think has Wale and Wiz Khalifa on it as well. Along with the consistency another of the highlights of the tape to me are the skits, where Sean brings in Common, Jeezy and Snoop to talk about the experiences they have had in the “D”, with short anecdotes about their time in Detroit. I thought that was a very original idea. So the overall the mixtape is not bad right?…..well like I said to begin with I was and I still am conflicted as to how I feel about this mixtape.
If there is a negative about this tape it is Big Sean’s delivery and cadence. This is not to say this is all Sean’s fault, in fact in this case this is about personal preference and perception. The problem is the only thing I can think of when I am listening to this mixtape is that it sounds a whole lot like I am listening to a Drake album. I know this is very unfair, many Big Sean fans (and he himself) would argue that in fact it is Drake who sounds like him and has copied his “style”. Again I know the comparison is both unfair and easy to make but Big Sean many times goes into harmonies during his bars and I can not help but think of Drake. His voice doesn’t help either and many times based on the pattern he is using, I could swear I am listening to a Drake joint. The end all and be all of that thought is not that I think Sean is bad or a biter, its just that he conveys no charisma on the mic for me. I really can’t “connect” with him and I find him very generic. He is to me the definition of the “average” emcee in this new class along with J. Cole, Wale, Wiz Khalifa, B.O.B and Drake and himself. The other issue I have is that the mixtape itself does little to scream out “Detroit” for me. The darkness I would associate with Detroit was not there. There was no Elzhi, no Phat Kat, not even Danny Brown who I would have loved to hear on “100″.
However the mixtape overall is definitely worth a download. The fact that it is free means you are getting incredible value and if you are a fan of any of the emcees I just mentioned I think you will like it.
Rating: Its a free mixtape, Download it!