Like J. Cole’s recent, opinion-splitting Born Sinner, Detroit-born Big Sean’s sophomore LP is long. 18 titles fill the tracklist on Hall of Fame. The album definitely has songs you can jam to (“Mona Lisa,“ MILF” and “Fire”) and others that will surprise you (Particularly the trippy background trip-synth progression combined with Big Sean’s roaming delivery on “Toyota Music”). It’s mostly entertaining.
In an interview with Vibe, the rapper said he wanted to inspire people and shine light on some of the social and economic issues plaguing Detroit. “I wanted [Hall of Fame] to be a vessel of Detroit," he said.
Critics offered good marks on Hall of Fame, but the general consensus seems to be that Big Sean wasn’t the most qualified candidate for the story he is trying to tell.
“Such full-throated realism takes insight and gravitas he doesn't quite have.” — Rolling Stone
“Sean has a bouncy, gum-snapping voice that makes him sound as if he were teasing someone on the schoolyard — he raps like a kid clamoring for attention — and partly it’s because he sounds forever impressed with his own cleverness. … Big Sean’s ear is working smarter than his mouth.” — New York Times
Maybe part of the problem is the sheer magnitude of big name features this album boasts. More than half the songs are loaded with the likes of Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Miguel, to name only a few. Not included in that list is the Kendrick Lamar-assisted ex-track “Control,” which sent the hip-hop world into a tizzy ahead of the LP’s release and surely diverted attention. Did Big Sean get lost in his own circus?
What is less clear about the album, at least according to Big Sean himself, is his work ethic. (“I’m even working half days on my day off,” from “First Chain.”)
Hard work, on top of a good message is difficult to look down on from anyone, so we can’t help but feel good about this one. We give Big Sean a B for substance and good intentions, even if it doesn't always land.