If anything positive can be attributed to the curveball known as ‘2020’, it would be the abundance of musical entertainment made available during quarantine. On Friday, September 4th, Detroit-born rapper Big Sean gave his own addition to the recent musical scene with the release of Detroit 2, a spiritual successor to his 2012 mixtape Detroit. The rapper’s passion and adoration for his home couldn’t be made any more obvious, as he styles himself as a walking representative for the music of the Motor City.
During the 71 minutes that encompass the album’s 21 tracks, Sean displays a cohesive and impressive display of growth. On his opening track “Why Would I Stop,” producers Hitboy and Chayahed help the rapper introduce listeners to the eclectic lo-fi sounds popularized and influenced by legendary Detroit producer J Dilla.. Though his attitude in the opener comes off as naturally regal, Sean takes a retrospective view on the turnarounds of his life with “Lucky Me.”
The song jumps from being a soul-sample laced journal entry to a gritty street-gospel lined with the signature Detroit sound. This duality of sentiment and vigor continues into “Deep Reverence,” with the late Crenshaw-native Nipsey Hussle setting the stage for Sean’s commentary on the intensity of the Black experience. “Body Language” is an anthem of pure eroticism backed against a grinding sample of “Soulful Moaning” by Detroit singer Shawn Harris, featuring the sirenic West Coast artists Jhene Aiko and Ty Dolla $ign. Aiko and Big Sean later reunite as TWENTY88 on the ambient and poetic “Time In,” where the rapper ponders on the risks of love. “Sometimes my imagination moves faster than reality happens,” he muses.
The album is interspersed with beautiful tributes to Detroit by cultural figureheads like Dave Chappelle, Erykah Badu and Detroit’s own legend, Stevie Wonder. They emphasize the uniquely futuristic nature and diligence of the city, which is illustrated through the fusion of jazz instrumentals and avant garde sampling all throughout the project.
“ZTFO” breathes the carefree and balanced energy of Big Sean’s carefree attitude over a glistening trap-beat, with guest vocals from Houston rapper and producer Travis Scott, who later delivers his own melodic rhymes in his signature trip-hop style on “Lithuania.” Sean delivers a lyrical and aggressive performance on the pugilistic “The Baddest,” where he takes on the comical Detroit flow while praising himself and the woman by his side. Although the entire project includes a heavy-hitting cast from Lil Wayne, DOM KENNEDY, Young Thug, Anderson.Paak and many more, the highlight of features lies on “Friday Night Cypher.” Over a shapeshifting beat, a Detroit guest list of Kash Doll, Tee Grizzley, Cash Kidd, Payroll, 42 Dugg, Boldy James, Drego, Sada Baby and Royce da 5’9 come together to deliver their best flows, with the final blow being delivered by seasoned rapper Eminem.
Detroit 2 shows a respectable evolution in Big Sean’s sound since his debut in 2007, with his diverse musical inspiration being apparent. He perfectly encapsulates the magic of his home, and the never short-changing the myriad of sounds from the city. Beyond sonic value, Sean illustrates his new level of understanding that his extensive career has brought him, not failing to understand the importance of vulnerability and wisdom at his level. As it is, the rapper communicates one thing very clearly, and it certainly doesn’t take much to realize it: Big Sean loves Detroit.