Hall Of Fame lives in the same land that so many albums today call home: a safe studio bet sure to spawn a handful of singles, with enough tracks and guest verses to trick Average Joe Rap Fan into thinking that something serious might be in the works. But there’s something different about Big Sean’s sophomore album. The Detroit star has proven time and again that, under the right circumstances, he’s good enough to be great.
From his verse on “Control” to tracks like “It’s Time” and “First Chain,” Sean would, from a talent perspective, appear to be entering something of a career prime. The key word, of course, being “appear”: despite the glaring talents of Big Sean, the rapper, Hall Of Fame, the album, is an average outing.
Sean is at his best when he dips his creative ladle into his interesting past. Make no mistake: his ad-libs can be obnoxious, but the wheels spinning in his head churn out some genuine insight. Take “Beware,” a song that does two remarkable things: takes us to a time when Big Sean wasn’t the ladies man we know him to be, and imparts us with Lil Wayne lyrics that actually halfway make sense. Sean raps: “Man, fuck this tattoo you the reason I wasn’t single in college/What? All because I had you, n***a I dont even have you/How am I suppose to get past you?/And she called the next guy spillin’ some real shit.” From a lyrical standpoint, there are probably better bars from the song to sample, but that image of Sean getting bent out of shape over his old chick is relatable, honest and genuine. And you’ll just have to hear the Wayne verse for yourself, but there are no martian references, so that has to be some sort of victory for rap.
“Nothing Is Stopping You” is another solid glance at the rapper’s backstory, sharing the infamous Kanye freestyle moment from the perspective of a younger Sean. Thanks in large part to his flow, it works. Other highlights abound: “It’s Time” is as good a brag-rap song as you’ll find, with Young Jeezy providing some excellent bars to assist Sean. “First Chain” is a tag team affair with Nas and Kid Cudi, and “Toyota Music” is just trippy and lucid and weird in the best way possible.
When weighed against so many tracks that are really worth your time, the lowlights of this album are that much more frustrating. “Mula (Remix)” is one of the worst street anthem grabs we’ve seen in recent memory, with Sean serving up hot garbage for a hook. The beat is serviceable, but unless you want to grind your teeth and shake your head five times in a five minute period, you won’t be coming back for seconds.
But the lyrical lethargy doesn’t end there. “MILF” sees Sean Don trying to turn a pile of throwaway mom-f*cking punchline bars into a four-and-a-half minute song with Nicki Minaj and Juicy J on standby. Whichever member of Sean’s inner-circle who bit their tongue when Big first floated the idea along, knowing damn well it was a terrible idea, deserves to be fired. Because sifting through the duds is really a chore.
There are more “meh” songs to be had, but the breakdown goes something like: five undeniably good songs, five songs that may or may not be good depending on what circumstances the listener is facing, and five songs that will never be called on, ever. And for somebody who definitely has the mojo to put out something great, that kind of effort just won’t cut it. We might be grading him on a bit of a curve, but Hall Of Fame isn’t the album that it could be.
Label: G.O.O.D. Music, Def Jam | Producers: Sean Anderson (exec.), Kanye West (exec.), Da Internz, Darhyl “Hey DJ” Camper Jr., Hit-Boy, James Poyser, Key Wane, Mike Dean, Million $ Mano, No I.D., Rob Kinelski, Travi$ Scott, Twilite Tone, Xaphoon Jones, Young Chop