The Motor City rapper’s latest highlights his personal and artistic growth, but suffers from a bloated tracklist.
Over the course of the last decade or so, Big Sean’s inconsistency has become the biggest hindrance to the quality of his projects. Historically, the Motor City rapper’s flashes of greatness have often been overshadowed by an abundance of corny punchlines and weak deliveries. Detroit 2 tries to correct this trend, as Sean is at his most refined — but while it makes for higher highs, it also makes the lows more apparent.
One of this album’s clearest strengths is Sean’s growth. It’s apparent that the man who made juvenile and shallow singles like “IDFWU” and “Dance (A$$)” has left those days behind him. In spending years meditating and reflecting, his newfound clarity and focus has also manifested in him becoming a much better rapper. Detroit 2 sees Sean improving lyrically and sees an exponential boost in his confidence on the mic, making him much more interesting to listen to.
The majority of the album’s tracks are his most mature to date as well, dealing with anxiety, depression, romance and emerging from his darkest period with a newfound sense of purpose. Songs like the Nipsey Hussle-assisted single “Deep Reverence” and “Everything That’s Missing” see Sean discussing his struggles with mental health and his lack of fulfillment despite his fame and accolades. There’s a level of introspection and depth present on this album that we’ve yet to see from Sean up to this point, and they result in some of the best songs in his catalogue.
Unfortunately, while the album does have a lot of quality tracks, a chunk of its songs range from mediocre to bad. “Friday Night Cypher” which features 10 of Detroit’s finest rappers, including Eminem, is a mixed bag, to say the least. With some jarring beat switches and some extremely phoned-in guest contributions, it’s a jumbled mess even with its bright spots. The album’s lowest point though is “Time In” performed by Sean and Jhené Aiko as TWENTY88, a song that sees the pair harmonizing about their relationship over an airy, synth-laced instrumental. It features Sean’s worst performance on the album, as both his rapped verse and vocal harmonies are horrible.
This album could’ve used more quality control, as there is a great album hiding in Detroit 2’s overly-long, 71 minute runtime. There are enough highs here that if the 21-song tracklist was cut down to about 15 or so tracks, including the fantastic guest stories, it could’ve been his undisputed magnum opus. Still, in spite of its flaws, Detroit 2 is Big Sean’s best album in years, maybe his discography, even if it doesn’t quite live up to its potential.