DarkSkyParadise_DeluxeI’ve listened to Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise twice through, under two circumstances, and my opinion varied wildly on the second listen through.

The first time I listened to the album, I focused only on the music, intently listening to his lyrics, the production, how the songs flowed together. It made me realize that Big Sean is like that rich kid in your high school who gets all the girls, all the attention, has all the blessings that money brings. He has a cocky attitude because, hey, he’s got everything.

Back when he signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music, he looked like one of the new kings of hip-hop, West’s protege. Both albums he’s dropped have floundered, generally considered misfires by critics and fans alike. All that heat surrounding Sean dissipated.

Then, in September of last year, something magical happened. He dropped a four-track LP, including IDFWU, which has since become Sean’s anthem. It trumpeted the nearing release date of Dark Sky. Suddenly, all that heat came right back, and we’d forgotten about the flops Finally Famous and Hall of Fame.

As the rich kid of hip-hop, Dark Sky showcases how well connected the rapper is. Kanye West, Drake, Chris Brown, John Legend, Lil Wayne, and Jhene Aiko all make an appearance. Has there been more high profile features on a single album in recent memory? Not to mention the all-star group that produced the album.

However, the flaws of his previous albums are audible on Dark Sky as well. Sean only has one style: arrogant. That makes tracks like IDFWU and Blessings fun. But when every single track has him boasting about his place in hip-hop, or the money he has, the women, the connections, it had the album feeling shallow.

When he tries to open up, like he does on One Man Can Change The World (about his grandmother’s death), he still raps like he’s superior to those listening, and that makes him hard to sympathize with. How can we feel sorry for him when he’s spent the majority of the album gloating about how great his life is?

Then I listened to the album again.

Only this time, it was background noise. I fell in love with the album. The crisp production played well with Sean’s clever lyrics. The cameos added variety and depth.

That’s the issue. Big Sean is one of the most forgettable artists in hip-hop. He plays best when his music is on in the background, which makes him a great candidate to get radio love. And while Sean has all the potential in the world, until he’s willing to drop the superior stance he always seems to project, he’ll only play well in the background, never being the A-list rapper his potential projects.

I have high hopes for Big Sean’s future, and this album is a step forward for the rapper. If he can keep himself surrounded by these brilliant musical minds, and tap into some of that promise he showcases, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.