Review: 'Detroit 2' is a journey back to Big Sean's roots

Big Sean's latest album is an ode to his hometown, including features and skits from some notable Detroit stars

When I was 11 years old, my dad gave me his busted old Blackberry to use as an MP3 player. My brother used one of those suspicious Youtube to MP3 converters to download all of his favorite albums, sending me off on my journey with music. 

It was 2013: the year of J Cole’s "Born Sinner," Chance the Rapper’s "Acid Rap," Eminem’s "The Marshall Mathers LP 2" and, of course, Big Sean’s "Hall of Fame." 

My love for rap is rooted in the cracked screen of my dad’s Blackberry, and Big Sean always feels like coming home. 

When the Detroit rapper dropped "I Decided." in 2017, the struggles I was facing were reflected directly in his words. Big Sean bridges the distance between himself and his listeners with advice and spiritual understanding unlike any other artist. 

"Detroit 2," released Sept. 4, is an extensive homecoming album. Big Sean takes us on a journey to his roots featuring an assortment of skits and stories by Dave Chappelle, Erykah Badu and Stevie Wonder. The album also features major artists including Post Malone, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne.

Big Sean’s first ode to Detroit, his 2012 mixtape "Detroit," had collaborations and skits featuring a litter of Detroit headliners including Eminem and Danny Brown. 

"Detroit 2," however, is the most definitive ode to his hometown. Between the seductive and soulful “Body Language” with Ty Dolla $ign and Jhene Aiko and "The Baddest," both songs sample 90s R&B classics that he connects back to his childhood and adolescence in Detroit. 

While some critics reproach the album as “inconsistent,” I find the beauty of the album is in the juxtaposition of styles — the inconsistencies draw a map of Detroit in music. It is reminiscent of free styling with hometown friends. The album's exploration of different Detroit artists' music while connecting back to the concept of home is what makes this record truly unique. 

The album evokes the token Big Sean feeling of inspirational nostalgia, locked in by the penultimate track "Story by Stevie Wonder" featuring Stevie Wonder’s advice to his son. The introspective “Guard Your Heart” featuring the incredibly talented Anderson .Paak, Earlly Mac and Wale connect back to the biblical proverb regarding guarding your mind and your heart. 

He reflects on situations where he felt split and conflicted between the past and the present as he says in "Guard Your Heart," “thought I was past my past, but let's be clear, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” 

Big Sean took on two major feats that stand out in this album: Nipsey Hussle’s posthumous feature on “Deep Reverence” and the ten-feature “Friday Night Cypher.”

“Deep Reverence” reflects on mortality and loss. He explains Nipsey Hussle’s untimely death prompted him to reach out to Kendrick Lamar, who he was rumored to have "beef" with, and goes on to reflect on a miscarriage with his girlfriend, Jhene Aiko. He reflects on the uncertainty of life and how the petty miscommunications “from people fueled by their ego” is “like mixin' flames with diesel” — unnecessary dangers that don’t even matter in the end. It’s a relatable revelation that anyone who has faced loss can understand. 

“Friday Night Cypher” is the most concentrated Detroit-inspired piece on the album. He features 11 other Detroit rappers, including Kash Doll and Tee Grizzley, along with three Detroit producers: Key Wane, Jay John Henry and Helluva Beats. The song is passed between these artists with beat and production changes, following the classic freestyle or cypher rap battle scheme. Despite the differences in individual styles, the song proves an easy listen that threw me back to teenage freestyle games with my friends.

Life’s most difficult times send us home with our heads hung and our hearts aching, searching for clarity in our roots. Big Sean’s introspections in this album reflect on his decision to stop running from his past and to instead look back for understanding. 

He advises emerging artists in "Everything That's Missing" to work hard to “make, not money, (but) a difference” and to understand the materialistic riches and the glittery friends you will win will never compare to the lessons you’ve learned and the people who really love you. As an emerging artist myself, "Everything That's Missing" is definitely my playlist topper on this album. He describes his journey from dream to reality, an inspirational guide that highlights the importance of understanding and persevering throughout the long and winding path to success. 

"Detroit 2" emphasizes his realization that Detroit will forever be his center, and home is what tethers and grounds us in this otherwise superficial world.  


Reach the reporter at vaishalini@asu.edu and follow @thevaishalini on Twitter.

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