Big Sean has been using the slogan “finally famous” for years, but now it’s more of a reality than ever. After a slow burn of a career that began when he signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music in 2007, the Detroit native has garnered a nationwide fan base boosted by ubiquitous online videos, hectic touring and an appearance on the BET Hip Hop Awards. If his official debut is any indication, Sean won’t be letting his fame go to waste.
At its best, Finally Famous conveys how Big Sean’s charismatic talents have evolved through his mixtapes. Establishing chemistry with producer No I.D., he uses a set of melodic, lively soundbeds to boast his skills and chronicle his ascension to the limelight. The stellar “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” sees Sean struggling to cut a good girl loose, and “So Much More” weathers criticism while chasing his dreams with lines like, “They want to see me dead, but I gave ’em dedication.” “Memories Pt. 2” reworks a mixtape highlight by adding a new soundbed and a John Legend chorus to verses about valuing the lows just as much as the highs. Singles “I Do It” and “My Last” showcase Sean’s signature bravado and punchlines, and “Dance (A$$)” narrowly escapes formulaic territory by injecting enough personality, comedy and verbal gymnastics to ably complement Da Internz’ pounding, dance-ready bassline. He also sounds at home with previous collaborators Wiz Khalifa and Chiddy Bang on the aptly-titled “High.”
At other points of the album, star power makes it easy to lose track of Sean’s individuality. “Get It” and “Livin This Life” feature solid, cohesive 16s from Sean, but the cameos and/or production by Pharrell and The-Dream are the most memorable parts of the songs. “Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay” shows chemistry between Sean and Kanye, but their verses are forgettable amongst Roscoe Dash’s catchy hook and the infectious backdrop. Fortunately, each of those songs are still enjoyable enough to avoid the skip button. The lone misstep is the uber-poppy “Don’t Wait For Me,” which dilutes Sean and Lupe Fiasco’s normally potent rhymes into watery placeholders for its beat and chorus.
The deluxe edition of Finally Famous is punctuated by four bonus tracks that would’ve fared even better on the official version of the album, especially the Dwele-assisted “Celebrity” and the soulful “What Goes Around.” Regardless, the final product is a solid debut that shows enough of Sean’s skill and personality to keep listeners stay tuned, with the room for growth for higher expectations next time around. It’s been a long time, but Sean has finally truly arrived, and he’s got the goods to stay around for a while.