Big Sean reaches for the top with solid “Dark Sky Paradise”

By Troy Kowalchuk

With the Feb. 24 release of “Dark Sky Paradise,” and the newfound maturity and skill that came from it, Big Sean has truly become a rapper to watch. Produced with the likes of Kanye West and Drake, “Dark Sky Paradise” is a record that has vaulted Big Sean into the highest ranks of hip-hop artists.

“Dark Sky Paradise” finds strength in its consistency. Focused on his growth and improvement, the album nearly becomes a status symbol to show where Big Sean is in the industry. On top of this, Big Sean, the stage name of Sean Michael Anderson, features songs about love and loss.

The album begins with “Dark Sky,” a song in which Anderson states his own relevance in the rap game, the increased success of his career and the work he’s put in to get to where he is. The track also lays the foundation for the rest of the LP. Though it begins with the boastful and self-aggrandizing bars expected of any rapper, Anderson delves into deeper emotions throughout “Dark Sky Paradise.”

Though the album’s first few tracks show more of Anderson’s childish and arrogant side, he matures as the album settles in. On the album’s seventh track, “Win Some, Lose Some,” Anderson’s tone begins to change. He values his success, but he begins to face the realization of the length of his journey to the top, something that makes him quite emotional.

On “I Know,” Anderson’s vulnerable side becomes more visible. This is Anderson’s admission that he has lost the person he loved. It is an admission that “Big Sean” is not actually this deity, but someone who is more flawed.

“Deep” contradicts his earlier claims of immortality. The track argues if his career is even a reality; that while he’s made it, he’s still not big enough for his own, high standards.

The emotions of “Dark Sky Paradise” reach a climax in “One Man Can Change the World,” a piano ballad dedicated to Anderson’s recently deceased grandmother. The song becomes a dedication to the values and words that his mother taught him, and gives his grandmother the immortality that Big Sean strived for.

“One Man Can Change the World” hits heavy, because he’s paying homage to the work he has done, and the work his mother did as a black female captain. The hooks are varied, with Kanye West and John Legend helping Anderson reinforce his grandmother’s words.

The song ends with a quick phone conversation between Anderson and his grandmother. The last line ends with a single “bye” from his grandmother and fades out to the outro. This affirms that while his grandmother may be gone, her words and her memory are not lost.

The transitions between each track on “Dark Sky Paradise” are so seamless that it’s hard to tell where some songs end and others begin. By carrying multiple messages that intertwine, Anderson’s flow of words are just as seamless as the flow of the tracks themselves.

Not to say that “Dark Sky Paradise” does not have its share of issues. While Anderson has improved immensely as a rapper, he still has a lot more work ahead of him. He even admits to himself throughout the album that he has a long way to go. But, Anderson wants to be one of the best in the genre, and “Dark Sky Paradise” shows that this ambition is quite possible.

Troy Kowalchuk can be reached at [email protected]