Big Sean is, unquestionably, one of the most successful rappers of his generation. Since first releasing music under the Big Sean alias in 2007, Sean Don has released five studio albums under the G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam banner along with various mixtapes, numerous memorable features and collaborative projects with the likes of producer Metro Boomin and singer Jhenè Aiko.
While his contemporaries rose to fame alongside him and have released career-defining projects that hip-hop heads hold near to their heart — such as Drake with 2011’s “Take Care” or Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” in 2015 — Sean’s career is muddied by inconsistencies. His legacy is in danger of becoming another well-respected MC who doesn’t have a classic release under their belt — such as a Ludacris or a Busta Rhymes.
On “Detroit 2,” the follow-up to his 2012 “Detroit” mixtape, Big Sean takes another step in that direction. At 21 tracks and an hour and eight minutes in total runtime, “Detroit 2” is the longest studio album in the Big Sean canon. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that number of tracks on the surface, it has become increasingly evident in the streaming era that padding out a track list with an overabundance of content is bound to have some missteps, glaring examples being Migos’ “Culture II” in 2018 or Drake’s “Scorpion” from the same year. Unfortunately, “Detroit 2” features a handful of those same pitfalls. “Wolves” with Post Malone sounds like a forced radio single, while “Time In” with Jhené Aiko is a horrible attempt at Big Sean’s own “Player’s Anthem.”
“Why Would I Stop” is a limp tone-setter for the project, and almost sounds like it would fit right in on the original “Detroit” eight years ago. “Friday Night Cypher” — although it features the most stacked feature list of any track on the record — tries too hard to be a grand posse cut. Unfortunately, the production lets the track down monumentally throughout, and the verses presented by some of Detroit’s finest MC’s are far from their best. “Body Language” and “The Baddest” are just reworking the same formula there’s always been, and the outroduction, “Still I Rise,” is treated as more of a closing message than an actual song.
With that being said, the album is also strangely some of Big Sean’s best work. Songs like “Lucky Me,” “ZTFO” and “Guard Your Heart” are some of the most genuinely interesting songs in the Big Sean catalogue. And while Big Sean is always at his best when he acts as a compelling narrator, what really makes the album is the guests that were invited to make appearances. Tracks like “Deep Reverence” and “Don Life” are enhanced a ton by appearances from the late Nipsey Hussle and Lil Wayne respectively, and Big Sean floats well over songs like “Lithuania” with Travis Scott and “Respect It” with Young Thug and Hit-Boy. Though it’s clear that he’s following the leader’s style on each track.
When talking about guests on the album, however, there are three that stick out the most: comedian Dave Chapelle, R&B legend Erykah Badu and the one and only Stevie Wonder. In a continuation of an original “Detroit” idea, these revered figures came on board to talk about stories they have about, and the love they share for, the motor city that Big Sean hails from. Each interlude is a sweet way of paying homage to the city on an album that does little to follow any sort of theme or sound originated there.
In the end, nothing will change because of this album. Sean will garner some hits to play on radio stations, but nobody will remember this album on the whole in a couple of years. “Detroit 2” is the best mixed bag in a career defined by mixed bags.