By John Connor Coulston // Staff Writer
Big Sean’s 2011 debut Finally Famous was a perfect example on how not to make a hip-hop album. It was full of cheesy production, sugary hooks and mediocre lyricism.
That being said, I was looking forward to this release.Sean has contributed several impressive guest verses on Meek Mill’s “Burn,” Lil Wayne’s “My Homies Still” and G.O.O.D. Music’s “Clique.” The lead single from Hall of Fame, “Guap,” showed Sean growing as an artist that could craft a solid radio-rap track. Big Sean is full of potential, and I was hoping to see him realize that, much like J. Cole did recently on his sophomore release Born Sinner.
The first half of Hall of Fame is quite impressive. The production is immaculate. The opener “Nothing is Stopping You” features a pitch-shifted hook that wouldn’t have felt too out of place on Kanye West’s Yeezus. “Toyota Music” features an atmospheric beat accented with distorted synthesizers crafted by Chiddy Bang producer Xaphoon Jones. Another standout would be the Ellie Goulding-sampling “You Don’t Know” that could easily win over fans from her realm of indie-pop.
As far as lyrics on the first half of the album, Big Sean shows improvement. While I wouldn’t say the lyrics are great, he abandons the corny verses that plagued Finally Famous. He holds his own on the excellent beats without being too in depth. The lyrical highlight of the entire release comes on “Beware” which sees Sean tackling the narrative of a broken relationship. It’s nice to see him shy away from unhinged bars and tie it all together for an entire track.
But, all good things must come to an end. Starting with the track “Mona Lisa” and continuing through the end of Hall of Fame, Big Sean slips back into old habits. The second half of the album is filled with lackluster production, awful hooks and cringe-worthy lyrics. All these factors reach their apex with the Nicki Minaj & Juicy J collaboration “MILF,” which is a four and a half minute ode to having sex with some kid’s mom.
Another dud comes with “It’s Time,” which sounds like it could have been on any other mainstream raper’s album, and it would have been disappointing there as well. Sean also attempts narratives again on the final tracks “Ashley” and “All Figured Out,” but they only come off as shallow and uninteresting.
Overall, Hall of Fame leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The start of the LP has several fantastic moments in the tracks “Beware,” “Nothing is Stopping You,” “You Don’t Know” and more. The second half, however, kills the album’s momentum. This makes Hall of Fame a disappointing listening experience. Big Sean has loads of potential – it’s just a shame he still can’t fully realize it.