Big Sean’s spotlight bumrush came in a flash. One make or break freestyle for Kanye West in the doorway of a radio station and bam! he’s signed to G.O.O.D. music awaiting a major label debut. Despite only 3 mixtapes to his credit, his buzz is deafening, but does his debut, Finally Famous, knock as hard as that buzz? Not really.
The album does benefit from the precision beat-crafting of G.O.O.D. Music President, No I.D. His beats (approximately half of the LP) range from the smooth piano and thump driven summer club anthem “My Last” to the gospel-esque vibe of “Memories (Part II). Well conceived and intricate, the sonic foundation for Sean’s bars is full of strings, guitar riffs, horn stabs and layered percussion. Unfortunately, more times than not, he chooses to use that backdrop to spit concepts that creep into sophomoric territory at times. The silly/serious combination could have formed the foundation of a dynamic, layered personality, but in this case it just makes the album seem trite.
“The Intro” finds Sean waxing nostalgic about his journey up to this point. It’s great, in a thoughtful kind of way, until he says he put Detroit on his back. Even with the likes of Royce, Em, Guilty Simpson and Elzhi hailing from the same metropolis? Umm sure. Big Sean turns catch phrase to song with “I Do It,” a slinky, minimal track with evil piano tinkling and enough thumpity thump to rattle glass. Sean parties, gets drunk and has Tony Montana-esque delusions of grandeur after some random chick puts her thong on his groin to make him go boing. Yes, that’s a quote.
The wonderfully-placed “My Last” ups the ante to a level of dopeness as Sean and guest star Chris Brown talk about going for broke and partying like its 1999. But drinking too much has Wanda looking like Beyonce so Sean should get a second opinion before taking her home. No ID’s chunky soundscapes continue with “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.” Sean complains about the rocks in the relationship road on this one, but doesn’t have the voice or presence to contend with this huge track. The song has to be ratcheted down to almost nakedness for him to make an impact on the hook. And his best line “crazy when a heart breaks, it never breaks even” is stolen from The Script’s “Break Even.”
Lupe Fiasco shows up on “Wait For Me,” a track with a bouncy 60’s cadence, piano and a digitally-tweaked vocal sample that might put you in the mind of “Sandcastle Disco.” Sean finds his flow comfort zone here, rolling through the track with as much ease as his guest. But he sounds a lot like Kanye here and the idea of being late is visited so many times lyrically; this song could be the White Rabbit’s theme song. Mike Dean comes to the rescue next with his amusingly literal take on a sex song, “Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay.” The synthesized bed springs are great. The horns and strings are great. The layered vocals on the hook are great. Kanye spews attitude, but his lyrics are pedestrian. Big Sean actually comes off sexy here, with his sing-song delivery. Nicely done.
Finally Famous can’t seem to string two good songs together. Dance (A$$) is exactly that. Provided are a Hammer sample, some Max Hedroom-like vocals, a huge swipe from Lil Wayne (wobble-de-wobble) and a few lines delivered Pooty Tang style. Then the cherry on top of all that is Big Sean telling you to make your ass “hammertime.”
“Get It” comes from Pharrell and as usual his hook warbling is borderline bad. The track however, is beautifully simple. Moody strings and a easy piano swirl around while Sean talks about money stacks that are probably bigger than him. “High” tackles lofty things of any sort, including rent. Wiz adds more punch to his feature on this song than I have heard from him in a long time. Chiddy handles the last leg of the tour well, and the vocal sample, along with the chord changes on the hook are put together well by producer Xaphoon.
Big Sean may finally be famous, but he is meeting fame with a mediocre album in his hand. There are a few great tracks here. There is also middling lyricism and a good deal of borrowing from others. Considering the deluxe version is 16 songs long, this LP could have been edited for filler and bad ideas and turned into a leaner version. The buzz hasn’t been silenced and the sunshine is still peeking through, but Finally Famous is far from the killer bee well all thought it would be.
3 Out of 5
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