Throughout his career, Detroit staple Sean Anderson, better known by his stage name Big Sean, has had the labels of “corny,” “immature,” and “bland” stapled to his persona. I, however, think he gets way too much hate as his slick rhymes and intelligent wordplay make it impossible for me to dislike him. For some reason though, I have never been able to rise above this like for Big Sean and truly begin to love his sizable discography. Detroit 2 was so close to remedying this problem, but unfortunately the antidote wasn’t in a high enough dosage.
Detroit 2 is Big Sean’s best album by a wide margin, and therefore is a good album. However, just one listen told me it shouldn’t have just been good. This album could have been something truly special, but its bloated runtime and structural problems succeed in squandering its sky high potential, leaving it just a few meters off of the ground. My disappointment with this album can best be explained by separating all of the whopping 21 tracks into three different categories.
- The Mixtape: Everything That’s Missing, ZTFO, Full Circle, Don Life, Friday Night Cypher
- The “Features”: Wolves, Body Language, Respect It, Lithuania
- The Album: Why Would I Stop, Lucky Me, Deep Reverence, Story By Dave Chappelle, Harder Than My Demons, Guard Your Heart, Story By Erykah Badu, FEED, The Baddest, Story By Stevie Wonder, Still I Rise
First, let’s get The Mixtape out of the way. This section of the album, primarily existing in the back half, consists of songs that are mostly harmless but just do not add much to the table for me. The instrumentals are solid but not great, Big Sean’s performances are decent but nothing to write home about, and overall these just come off as pretty basic compared to this project’s core. If Anderson had released songs like the smooth “ZTFO” or the insanely fun “Friday Night Cypher” and “Don Life” on a mixtape or EP by themselves, I would have appreciated them a lot more, but when nestled in this tracklist, they do nothing but dilute the unique sound that other songs promote.
Next, The “Features.” This section of the album consists of a lot of the songs that Big Sean had a feature on. I’m sorry, did I say “had a feature on?” Because I definitely meant to say WAS a feature on, because these are Big Sean’s features’ songs, not his own. “Body Language” sounds like a Jhene Aiko and Ty Dolla Sign collaboration that Big Sean just happens to appear on, “Respect It” sounds like a low-tier Young Thug song, and “Lithuania” sounds so much like an Astroworld throwaway that I genuinely had to make sure that I hadn’t clicked on Album Radio. None of these are bad, they just aren’t Big Sean, and when you combine that with a majority of these being in the middle of the album, it damages the overall atmosphere that the project is trying to create.
Finally, The Album. If this project were just these songs as well as the three really cool monologues from Dave Chappelle, Erykah Badu, and Stevie Wonder, I think it could’ve been something really special. The main reason I believe this is because the vibe and style of this core collection is something I have never really heard pulled off so effectively. When I hear these songs, the thing I see in my head is Big Sean at the head of a parade strolling through his hometown of Detroit with a marching band at his back. It starts off in the beginning with the song “Why Would I Stop?,” a song in which these screaming synths and booming bass combine to give the listener a sense of something epic. Big Sean combines this with his usual solid flows and punchlines to make a truly great album opener. The opener is followed up by two equally great tracks, “Lucky Me” and “Deep Reverence,” the latter of which features a grand performance from the late rapper Nipsey Hussle. The songs “Harder Than My Demons” and “FEED” are both songs that sound like the choir feeling the holy spirit, while “The Baddest” and the album closer “Still I Rise” sound like Big Sean freestyling over a professional marching band. The sheer gravitas of those songs cannot be understated. Lastly but certainly not least, my favorite song on this album, “Guard Your Heart,” which features Wale, Earlly Mac, and the fantastic Anderson .Paak, is a tender ballad in which Big Sean raps skillfully about some of the problems he sees in the world. I think the best plug I can have for this song is that while Anderson .Paak is fantastic even by his own standards, Big Sean’s performance still gives him a run for his money.
In conclusion, this album is good, but it could have been great. There are no real low points or outrageously bad songs, rather sharp variations in style that succeed in undermining the atmosphere parts of the album effectively create. This review can be distilled into three words: keep it short.