Published Feb 24, 2015The cloudy forecast of expectation hovering over Big Sean's third studio album resulted in a blessing in disguise. Although the Detroit rapper's single "I Don't Fuck With You" was an incendiary success, a string of controversies — previous commercial flops, a newfound role in the tabloids from multiple public relationships and a reputation as a "hit or miss" artist — were enough to draw concern for the G.O.O.D. Music rapper's latest. But Sean braved the conditions, and on Dark Sky Paradise, he uses outside doubt to fuel a candid depiction of his unstable scramble towards success.
Dark Sky Paradise is a tropical vacation during hurricane season, a risky trip that comes with a changing climate of manic peaks and dark sonic skies. Ariana Grande, E-40, Drake and others are welcomed to the 15-track offering, as stormier production and moodier lyricism replace Sean's predictable sunny wordplay and pop culture puns. There's a confident and creative edge this time around, as evidenced by the Kanye West-accompanied "All Your Fault," which samples Ambrosia's "How Much I Feel" and showcases a technical persistence in the rapper and his mentor, who transition back and forth through boisterous and charismatic rhymes. The thunder then rumbles for the DJ Mustard-produced and Jhene Aiko-complemented "I Know." But the clouds part in time for the rap symphony, "One Man Can Change The World," as Yeezy and John Legend add to the construct of the powerful and emotional ballad dedicated to Sean's late grandmother.
As far as features and production is concerned, Big Sean is surrounded by the best, but it isn't the paradise he's referring to. At times, his many featured guests outshine him, as on the Lil Wayne-assisted "Deep," which contradicts his rocky argument of braggadocios claims, as he tries to keep up. Big Sean has reached a personal high by finding his Dark Sky Paradise, and it's his honesty that takes listeners there with him. (Good Music/Def Jam)