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Album Review: Detroit 2 (September 4, 2020) – Big Sean 

Review by Evan Cardinal, Albright College '21

Sep 18, 2020

The Context – Detroit 2 is the fifth studio album from hip-hop artist and rapper Big Sean. The latest record was released almost eight years to the date of its predecessor, the 2012 mixtape Detroit. Big Sean’s first LP Finally Famous propelled him into the hip-hop/pop limelight; however, it was the Detroit mixtape that solidified Big Sean as a star in the hip-hop game.

Detroit 2 comes off the heels of the 2017 Big Sean/Metro Boomin album Double Or Nothing. A promising project on paper, the partnership fell flat as Big Sean could not match the hype of Metro’s famed trap beats.

The Content – To quote Big Sean, Detroit 2 certainly “bounced back” from the shortcomings of Double Or Nothing. Sean packs heat from the get-go with the intro track “Why Would I Stop?” A boisterous track with bars like “I am unstoppable (Hol’ up) why would I stop?,” Big Sean flows at a rapid-fire pace while adding relevant quips (e.g. “this the cure cancer flow/Stop a pandemic and the globe”). The well-crafted aggression of “Why Would I Stop?” sets the tone for what seems to be a victory-lap record for Big Sean.

The second track “Lucky Me” begins a little sleepily with an almost Snoop Dogg-like talk rap delivery with some hokey anecdotes casting doubts on Western medicine, yet a beat-drop after the mid-way point drastically turns the track into a heavy-hitting banger that compliments the opening track well.  The solid momentum built up from the first two tracks is continued in “Deep Reverence.” Big Sean’s flow is more pointed in this song as it takes a more reflective tone on dealing with death, mental health, and the drawbacks of fame, but still maintains a sharp edge with the pulsating beat and the echoes of the late Nipsey Hussle.

Despite the strong start to Detroit 2, the album declines following the opening triad. “Wolves,” a monotonous attempt at a dark pop-crossover with fellow hip-hop star Post-Malone, is lackluster to say the least. To me, “Wolves” sounds like a weak song on a high school basketball team’s pre-game warmup. Big Sean follows “Wolves” with a prototypical sexy hip-hop track in “Body Language.” The track is overtly decent with ok features from Ty Dolla $ign and Jhené Aiko overwhelming a marginal rapping effort from Big Sean.

“Harder Than My Demons” is mediocre as Big Sean’s flow flames out quickly in its two-minute run time. “Everything That’s Missing” is another melancholic track that lacks the vigor heard in the introduction to Detroit 2. Big Sean transitions into an anti-climactic bass-heavy trap song “ZTFO” that builds up the entire track without a climax. Anderson .Paak’s soulful voice is perhaps the only redeeming factor in “Guard Your Heart”—yet another mild song. “Respect It” and “Lithuania” both try to imitate the more alternative sound of contemporary hip-hop popularized by the likes of Lil Uzi Vert and Travis Scott (the feature in “Lithuania”), but Big Sean fails to mirror the style. The sexual track “Time In,” the eerie spoken word of Erykah Badu, and the sleepy distortion of “FEED” end the run of the pedestrian sound.

“The Baddest” and “Don Life (feat. Lil Wayne)” are two gritty tracks that have a booming personality of note. Their energy perfectly set-up “Friday Night Cypher,” a nine-and-half minute-long epic rap collective highlighting a smattering of Detroit’s finest rappers. The beats are minimalist as to shift attention to the artistry of the bars from Big Sean, Tee Grizzley, Kash Doll, Cash Kidd, Payroll, Boldy James, Drego, Sada Baby, Royce da 5’9, and Eminem. In particular, Eminem cements his legacy as a living rap legend with his two-minute cypher concluding the collection. “Still I Rise” ends the project on a heavenly high note with sacred lyrics and a gospel undertone indicating the resiliency of Big Sean.

The Skinny – Detroit 2 attempts to be both a loud declaration of Big Sean’s talent and success in hip-hop over the last decade as well as a moody, sentimental lamentation of the artist’s hardships. Big Sean strikes a nice balance between these two tones throughout the record, yet it is the combative former that is much stronger than the emotional latter. The temperamental identity crisis does not plague the record for Detroit 2 is ultimately emblematic of Big Sean’s musical versatility and the Motor City’s rugged liveliness (complimented by Dave Chappelle and Stevie Wonder’s non-musical interludes).

The Rating – 7.8/10

Detroit 2

Tracklist

  1. Why Would I Stop?
  2. Lucky Me
  3. Deep Reverence (feat. Nipsey Hussle)
  4. Wolves (feat. Post Malone)
  5. Body Language (feat. Ty Dolla $ign & Jhené Aiko)
  6. Story By Dave Chappelle
  7. Harder Than My Demons
  8. Everything That’s Missing (feat. Dwele)
  9. ZTFO
  10. Guard Your Heart (feat. Anderson .Paak, Earlly Mac & Wale)
  11. Respect It (feat. Young Thug & Hit-Boy)
  12. Lithuania (feat. Travis Scott)
  13. Full Circle (feat. Key Wane & Diddy)
  14. Time In
  15. Story By Erykah Badu
  16. FEED
  17. The Baddest
  18. Don Life (feat. Lil Wayne)
  19. Friday Night Cypher (feat. Tee Grizzley, Kash Doll, Cash Kidd, Payroll, Boldy James, Drego, Sada Baby, Royce da 5’9, and Eminem
  20. Story By Stevie Wonder
  21. Still I Rise (feat. DOM KENNEDY

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