Hall of Fame
** (out of 4)
It needs to be addressed before we go any further that this album should come with an asterisk. “Hall of Fame” will forever be overshadowed by what isn’t on it. Sean’s choice to release the fiery “Control,” (you might know better it as “Kendrick Lamar goes in on damn near every current rapper and oh yeah Big Sean was on it too”) before this release may end up biting him in the butt. (The song was cut due to sample clearance issues. Speaking for a lot of people, [bleep] whoever denied that claim.)
As rap fans, we can lose ourselves in the nuances that can compartmentalize our feelings for an artist’s work from our feelings about how that work is perceived. (Hold on. That was a Top 5 music journalist sentence and I’d like it known. ) The issue with Big Sean’s music, like so many other current rappers from J. Cole to Wale is that their full-length albums always come up emptier than what we know they could produce.
The brief moments on “Hall of Fame” where Sean turns down his bravado and lets people know the real him, like opening track “Nothing is Stopping You,” are the best. He weaves a sufficient beginning-to-end tale about the day he rapped for Kanye (an act that got him signed), his current rap star life and a young rapper who approaches Sean with the same goal. Bringing it all back, Sean intersperses random audio from the guy who convinced him to go rap for Kanye and his mom. It’s awesome to hear him be so proud! I would be too!
Unfortunately, there are way more fake-braggadocious records concocted in a “will get played on rap radio” laboratory than introspective moments. (On that note, do rappers realize you don’t have to make the exact same songs when talking to the ladies?) Also, the fact that Sean put the vulgar “Milf” and the sappy “Sierra Leone” back-to-back is funny, like looking into the phone of a guy who texts his mistress grimy things and then immediately follows with a lovey-dovey piece of BS to his wife. Either you’re pimping or you’re in love, my man.
Between the 15 songs on “Hall of Fame,” there are three great records: the previously mentioned “Nothing is Stopping You,” “First Chain” and “Milf” (add “Guap” if you bought the deluxe version). The rest is a bunch of high-fructose cornball rap. Big Sean has proven many times he can spit rhymes that catch attention and steal the show on a feature, but performs better on away games than at home. Here’s hoping that changes on his next release.