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Big Sean has always been a joke. From the infectious but ridiculously stupid “Dance (A$$),” to the hilarious ass shake/assquake/ass-state/ass-tray bit on “Mercy,” we’ve never stopped laughing at Big Sean. Recently, his messy break up with Glee star Naya Rivera, and current relationship with emerging diva Ariana Grande have further overshadowed his music. In 2014, the problem was that no one believed Sean had the chops to be a true rapper.

Boy, were we wrong. Big Sean comes in guns-a-blazing on his third and best studio effort, Dark Sky Paradise. In the first six tracks, Sean shows you just how effortlessly he can move between flows and how rapid his delivery can be while still maintaining his trademark humour. In addition to the ubiquitous “I Don’t F**k With You,” which is the theme song any university student should live by, Sean includes an extended version of “Paradise.” Over a Mike-Will-Made-It beat that occasionally stops completely to allow for a cappella spitting, Big Sean has two verses that will make anyone turn their head.

Kanye West executive produced the album, and his influence is strongest in the beats that are partially inspired by My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He lends a hand in “All Your Fault,” where the two rappers trade lines so effortlessly it could comfortably sit in Watch the Throne. Kanye also drops another great Kanye-ism, “I imagine that’s what Chris told Karreuche. Girls be acting like diamonds be in their coochie.” Drake, E-40, and Lil Wayne also make appearances, but Sean is never lyrically overshadowed.

The only quibble that could be made comes in the latter half of the album, where Big Sean gets personal, dark, and intense. He raps about sacrifices made for fame, failed relationships, and his journey so far competently. “One Man Can Change the World,” in particular, is a standout track about the death of Sean’s grandmother. The issue is that the transition from bangers to introspective cuts is nonexistent. Big Sean is also not a good singer, but he gives it multiple shots throughout his more reflective tracks. It doesn’t help that vocalists like Chris Brown, Jhené Aiko, Ariana Grande, and fellow G.O.O.D. music label mate John Legend constantly upstage him.

In Dark Sky Paradise, Big Sean makes a bid to join Kanye, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar at the mainstream rap table. While he’s not there yet, at least now they all know that Big Sean is no joke.

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