Is Big Sean a bust?

After blowing up following his Finally Famous Vol 2 and 3 mixtapes, Big Sean was catapulted into the mainstream. However, he never quite got over key musical inconsistencies that plagued his first three mixtapes. Did Big Sean get popular too quickly?

Did Big Sean get popular TOO quickly?


     Somewhere down the line between Finally Famous Volume 2 and Finally Famous Volume 3, Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music signee Big Sean made the jump from a largely unknown underground rapper, to an originator of flows  (specifically the stop-and-go punchline scheme), to, in 2011, one of the underground rap scene’s golden boys.

Around the time of Drake shouting him out and collaborating on their 2010 song “Made”, and somewhere between Sean’s collaborations with underground sensations Mike Posner and Curren$y and also his standout verses during G.O.O.D Music’s G.O.O.D Friday release series, Big Sean caught a hold of a certain audience – the rap blog world, which eventually catapulted him to the mainstream crowd.  With this newfound spotlight on him it became apparent that a mainstream crossover was inevitable although Big Sean was still a largely underground artist.

Big Sean in is signature TI$A Taz Arnold snapback circa 2011

Think back to early-2011. Big Sean is still underground. People are still wondering about the unfamiliar “TI$A” symbol on his hat and the underground Hip-Hop crowd, while praising Big Sean in some aspects, is still deeming him as laregly inconsistent.

Big Sean is your prototype punchline rapper – hit or miss with a collection of addicting catch phrases and adlibs – “Boooy“, “I Do it!” being the most prevalent. Think about it – it’s a recipe for mainstream success!

My problem is this:

     Big Sean’s music was always a work-in-progress. On his first mixtape Finally Famous Vol 1, you can hear his potential, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to good music. There’s not many redeeming qualities about it, which is why it’s really never mentioned by fans or brought up by Big Sean himself. On his second mixtape Volume 2, arguably his best project, you can clearly see why Big Sean was signed to G.O.O.D Music in the first place, and why the rap game began to mimic his style of rhyme and punchline delivery. Although he is incredibly inconsistent on the tape – he’ll often have one great verse, then one bad verse and some of his punchlines will impress you, while others will have you lowering your head in shame.

On Sean’s third and most recent (at the time of writing) mixtape, Finally Famous Volume 3, the audience can hear Sean’s progression – it’s extremely evident. Evident also is that he plans to take his music to the mainstream level (hinted at by the catchy choruses and hooks, style of production with more pop influences, amongst other signals). Although Sean is still inconsistent on Volume 3, we get the feeling that his next project will be great, because the progression from Vol 1 to Vol 3 was so great. The talent is there. All Sean needs is another tape to process and gather his confidence and mic presence, recognize his progression, and string everything together cohesively to max out his abilities, and he’ll be respected as one of the better rappers out.

But wait!

That next tape never came and that process where he evolves into the next level beast of a lyricist never happened probably will never happen. Why? Because he got popular seemingly out of left field. From my perspective, Chris Brown is to “blame” for this as Big Sean’s appearances on Chris Brown’s songs is what branched him to that higher level of mainstream accessibility (as well as Chris Brown’s appearances on his songs i.e. My Last; his appearances on Wiz Khalifa’s Cabin Fever mixtape also contributed to this, in my opinion). Because of this, Chris Brown’s fans have also become Big Sean’s fans, which then creates demand for Big Sean in the mainstream audience. This affects his progression because:

  • He’s not going to max out his potential or even become a consistent artist like he was so close to doing.
  • He’s going to reap the benefits of his mainstream success and continue to remain at the level he was at after FF Vol.3. Why? Because it worked and made money.
Big Sean circa 2011 Finally Famous Vol 1, 2, 3

“Big Sean never dropped his signature, career defining project where he comes together as an artist”

     Big Sean never dropped his signature, career defining project where he comes together as an artist like Drake had with So Far Gone Kendrick with GKMC, and like Wiz had with KushxOJ where their music quality hit a peak prior to them them blowing up mainstream – they’ll probably never create music similar to what was on those projects, but they can make music at the level of those projects because they maximized their potential and found the consistency in their music that Big Sean has not found yet.

Big Sean never passed through his “inconsistent” stage because he didn’t get the chance to release the project where everything organically comes together for him prior to blowing up mainstream. Big Sean went from inconsistent with potential to insanely popular. There was no middleground and as an artist, Big Sean will likely suffer from it. Big Sean blew up too quickly in my opinion.

Only time will tell.

Original article written in 2011 | Did Big Sean get popular too quickly?

Ed. Note October 2017: Everything I said in this article still holds true for me. Big Sean still has not released a defining project and has stumbled with releases such as Hall of Fame in 2013.

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