Detroit 2: A Review
Detroit rapper Big Sean, aka Sean Michael Leonard Anderson, comes out of a multi-year hiatus with his album Detroit 2 which serves as a sequel to one of Sean’s early mixtapes Detroit that was released back in September of 2012. Consisting of an astounding 21 tracks, this album features a plethora of varying sounds ranging from turn-up tracks to more somber and insightful tracks that showcase Sean’s ability as a lyricist. Notable features from Lil Wayne, Post Malone, Travis $cott, the late Nipsey Hussle, and numerous Detroit rappers; including Eminem, help to elevate the tracklist and keep Sean’s fairly consistent delivery from becoming redundant and boring. Sean utilizes this album to talk about himself and his current mental state; as well as touch on areas of his life that he struggles with and how he wants to change them. Sean does realize that he can’t speak on himself without bringing his city into the discussion and this is mostly where the albums concept lies; speaking on Big Sean and elevating not only himself, but the city that supported him throughout his career.
Part of the concept of this album is tied into the stories which are synonymous to skits and are put in place to tell tales of famous peoples’ interactions with Detroit and how it’s a wonderful city consisting of wonderful people. For me personally, the only story of note is Dave Chappelle’s where he recounts a failed comedy show in the city and his backstage counseling afterwards from none other than Big Sean’s father. While Stevie Wonder and Erykah Badu provide engaging stories, they fall short for me because they become derivative following Chappelle’s and even more so after Erykah’s to the point where Stevie’s doesn’t add anything worth telling about Detroit that hasn’t already been said. I understand and appreciate their inclusion, but I feel that the more “skit-oriented” side of the album could’ve used a little more fleshing out and creativity.
But what really makes an album an album isn’t the skits included in it but the songs; and this album has plenty of those on offer. To most listeners an album with a longer tracklist is usually a turn-off due to how lengthy playthroughs can be. In the case of this album, its length does serve as more of a detriment as the track list begins to drag on and is seemingly filled with filler content by the time you reach the end. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy some of the tracks on this album. In fact, since this album released, I’ve been playing at least a handful of tracks on it every single day; not just in preparation of this review, but also because I honestly do enjoy them. My personal favorites include “Lucky Me”, “Wolves (feat. Post Malone)”, “Harder Than My Demons”, “ZTFO”, “Don Life (feat. Lil Wayne)” and “Friday Night Cypher”. For most albums, my enjoyment of six tracks would be plentiful and easily lend itself to a higher rating in my eyes. However, in the case of Detroit 2, the ratio of liked tracks to skippable ones doesn’t look good compared to other projects I’ve enjoyed.
My main gripe with this project is its lack of substance above the surface level. Sean talks a big game as the album goes on saying a lot of things that sound insightful but then essentially devolves into repeating these things using different phrasing. This isn’t to say there isn’t any substance to be had from this project at all.
In “Deep Reverence” for example, Sean discusses the difficulty of celebrity relationships and the miscarriage him and Jhené Aiko suffered during their time together before their split. Coupled with the tasteful Nipsey verse, it’s a nice track that speaks on celebrity and loss in a unique way.
Most of my issues with Detroit 2 stem from the inclusion of Sean’s newfound “enlightenment”. I’m not one to knock on another’s mental state; especially when he seems to have found peace with himself and life around him. However, this enlightenment seems to have taken the foreground in Sean’s conscience as it seems like all he can talk about in this project. I can see the appeal in this, but for me it ultimately becomes redundant and contrived as I go through the tracklist and hear the same overall messages.
Speaking on the production of this album I found it to be a mixed bag. Some tracks, like “Don Life” stand out more to me than the more RnB inspired “Time In” that sounds bland by comparison. In terms of pacing, I feel that this album managed to coordinate it fairly well. “Don Life”, for example, fits right in with the tracks around it as the vibe seems to become more mellow around “Full Circle” and leads itself well as a segway into Erykah Badu’s story. Unfortunately, the stories also suffer in regard to this field as well, with a seemingly lazy choice to use the same instrumental for each story. Badu’s version does sound like it has some distortion to set it apart from the others, but otherwise it is exactly the same. Despite these critiques, the beat choices seem to compliment Sean’s flow as he seemingly maneuvers his flow in multiple ways on each track; either through tempo increases or just playing around with his rhyme schemes to better compliment the percussion. A couple of tracks have Travis $cott accredited as producer and I found I enjoyed those tracks for their standout sound compared to some of the less elaborate ones on this record.
Ultimately, I found myself disappointed with this project as much as I hate to admit it. I thoroughly enjoyed Sean’s last project I Decided for the ways that Sean had evolved musically as well as the stellar production choices and simple concept. Detroit 2 tries to reach to the heights of its predecessor but unfortunately falls short in my eyes (or ears) as trying to hard to be something it’s not. The lack of innovation from Big Sean left me disappointed as he essentially sounds the same as he did four years ago. Coupled with the fatiguingly lengthy tracklist, I found myself struggling to get through the last third of the album, despite “Friday Night Cypher” acting as a “light at the end of the tunnel”. It never looks too good when most of your features bring more to the table on your own songs than you do, and in Sean’s case this happened far too often (although not EVERY time). It is because of these reasons that I Decided to give Detroit 2 a 5/10.
Rating: 5/10- Average
Written By: Michael Miserendino