Kyle Anderson
August 29, 2013 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Hall of Fame

Current Status
In Season
Big Sean
music label

We gave it an A-

Big Sean wasn’t necessarily wrong when he called his 2011 debut Finally Famous — he was just two years early. Since then, the Detroit native and junior member of Kanye’s crew has fulfilled his own prophecy, garnering an A-list guest roster — Nicki Minaj, Ellie Goulding, Miguel, Lil Wayne, Nas — for his stellar sophomore release, Hall of Fame (clearly, the guy has a theme), and landing Miley Cyrus to star in the super-sexy video for his single ”Fire.” That track is the centerpiece of Fame, an infectious antidote to his famous mentor’s self-seriousness.

Here’s the first thing you need to know about Big Sean: He has almost nothing to say. Unlike contemporaries like J. Cole and Lupe Fiasco, Sean has no political leanings or big pronouncements; his raisons d’être include reminiscing about his jewelry collection (”First Chain”) and banging your mom (”Milf”). But Sean delivers these simple missives with so much panache that he can make pedestrian pursuits sound positively sublime. He’s a great rapper in the way that Keith Richards is a great guitarist, instinctual and seemingly effortless. Hall of Fame also has the sort of just-happy-to-be-here vibe that used to run through Diddy’s extended Bad Boy crew in the late ’90s — had Sean been born 15 years earlier, he would have fit right in rapping between Lil’ Kim and Mase. Then again, maybe he doesn’t need a team; Fame finds him rising above even his strongest guest stars. Maybe that’s the message of the album: In this fun-loving, hedonistic carnival, Sean is the barker in the center ring. A-

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