Dark Sky Paradise (Deluxe)
“I should have known back then I wasn’t gonna stop / ’Cause even then, I was infatuated with just sitting at the top,” Big Sean reflects on “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers),” the opening track of Dark Sky Paradise. Since his first foray into the industry, the Detroit MC has been recognized for rapping candidly about his most crucial wins alongside his ongoing battles. His 2015 opus underscores that approach. After experiencing significant losses in his personal life—the death of his grandmother, a called-off engagement, a fall-out with one of his best friends over business—Big Sean sought to create an album that addressed his challenges and highlighted his ability to overcome them all. Dark Sky Paradise begins and ends with the same message: Big Sean’s father asking, “Sean, it’s good to be home, isn’t it?” With this clip, Sean Don, a proud Detroiter, acknowledges that he had to circle back to his humble, hard-working origins to progress musically. The project sees Big Sean casting aside others’ opinions and diving into the depths of his own mind and soul to investigate what drives him through hardship. The juxtaposition of light and dark, successes and setbacks, remains at the core of Big Sean’s signature style. Glimmers of Big Sean’s future as a mental health advocate are detectable on this project through songs like the contemplative, Lil Wayne-assisted “Deep,” which features the MCs assessing the impact they have as hip-hop artists, breadwinners, and cultural influencers. “Blessings” with Drake is Sean’s opportunity to reiterate that there’s no turning back in the life he’s created for himself. In addition to a stacked roster of featured artists, the album boasts production from some of hip-hop’s most sought-after beatmakers, including Kanye West and DJ Mustard. Even among a cast of stars and kingmaking talents, Big Sean shines bright through his sheer ambition. While Dark Sky Paradise is often weighty and gravely serious, Big Sean takes time on the album to provide levity. The high-energy hit “I Don’t F**k With You” featuring E-40 has become a go-to anthem for anyone who’s ready to remove themselves from a relationship that’s no longer serving them. Big Sean also joins forces with Jhené Aiko, who’s featured on credited (“I Know”) and uncredited (“Win Some, Lose Some”) tracks within the album, giving listeners a preview of the duo’s eventual collaborative project, TWENTY88. On “One Man Can Change the World” with Kanye West and John Legend, the rapper pays homage to his beloved late grandmother, a decorated WWII veteran. In addition to honoring his roots, Big Sean acknowledges how much further he wants to go as not only an artist, but also as a human being.