When I was young, I would mix my favorite soft drinks together at the soda fountain to create a concoction commonly referred to as a “suicide.” A few years ago, feeling nostalgic for my childlike reverence of this drink, I made a suicide during a fateful trip to Burger King, mixing Coca Cola, Sprite, and Dr. Pepper together in a single cup. It was awful, and I hated it. Big Sean’s newest album, Detroit 2, reminds me of this experience.
Detroit 2 is a 30-mile long charcuterie board where all of the items are either tasty or intriguing, but none of them compliment each other. It is the musical equivalent of an EpicMealTime video: high quality, gargantuan, messy and stupid. It contains some of the best moments in Big Sean’s musical discography while also being a compositional nightmare. Imagine if shopping malls distributed goods by collecting all of the items from all of the stores in one big pile and randomly sorted them into gift bags for you to pick up at the front door. If you opened the bag, there would be some good things, some weird things, and none of the things would match. Detroit 2 is that gift bag.
This album has it all, just in the worst way possible. In 74 minutes, Big Sean will run you through a Wonka-esque gauntlet, including a nine-minute long cypher, an Erykah Badu ASMR interlude, a manufactured radio-hit with Post Malone, anti-vaxx propaganda, a dozen other features from all across the hip hop spectrum, and a ludicrous variety of flows, subject matters and beats. I felt tired when it was done. The great shame is, within this crazy mess are tons of really great moments, like when Sean effortlessly speak-raps on “FEEL” or his chemistry with Young Thug on “Respect It,” Lil Wayne on “Don Life,” and Nipsey Hussle on “Deep Reverence.”
Even on the basis of individual tracks, many of the songs suffer from befuddling choices. “Lucky Me,” for example, is somehow both relaxed and cocky, has a luxurious piano beat paired with silenced gun shot effects, starts out as a diss track against Western Medicine, then transitions (with a great beat switch) into a “Bounce Back” style banger. It was also one of the better songs on the project, but it left me feeling like a crash test dummy after conducting seatbelt safety tests.
Yet, nothing is more insane than “Friday Night Cypher,” which has features from 10 Detroit artists, including heavy hitters like Eminem and up-and-comers like Sada Baby and 42 Dugg, all on one track. It is, without a doubt, one of the coolest songs released in my lifetime. It is also an awful song. It is awful DESPITE every single artist turning in a great verse, and it is exclusively because of how poorly it was constructed. It switches between half a dozen beats, seemingly at whim, with absolutely no cohesion from verse to verse or beat to beat. All of the instrumentals used are also laughably bad, and help turn what should be an epic triumph into a “what-if?” oddity. There is just no excuse for how wasted the components of this song were, and it borders on the unforgivable.
If there is any saving grace to Detroit 2, it is the sheer amount of love Big Sean clearly poured into this project. This love, combined with the technical skills, mostly-good production and thoughtful lyrics that are to be expected out of Sean help salvage this messy project and turn it into something that is more frustrating than bad. There are a thousand criticisms I can give for this album, but I still somehow enjoyed it through gritted teeth, which is impressive in its own right.
Vincent Rendon can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @VinceSagebrush.