The Riff
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The Riff

Big Sean Embraces Life’s Pain on “Deep Reverence”

The song sees Big Sean continue on a train away from empty opulence toward humbled self-examination.

Can you call a multi-platinum selling rapper underrated? For the last decade, Big Sean has winded his way around chart topping hits — Finally Famous, Dark Sky Paradise and I Decided. all went platinum — while simultaneously being labeled among the game’s corniest artists. His biggest misstep came in 2013, when he was clowned for being out-rapped by Kendrick Lamar on Sean’s own song, “Control.” More frequently, Sean popped up in hip-hop circles for things like awkward portmanteaus and cheesy punchlines that removed the Detroit native from making meaningful associations with the city he so fervently claims.

But over the last few years, Sean has taken to wielding his rapid-fire cadence for more than bars about giving “her that D, ‘cause that’s where I was born and raised in.” Last summer, he dropped “Overtime,” an introspective solo cut that features a grandiose beat switch and a tonal shift from his “I Don’t F*ck With You” days. Released as the lead single from his then-untitled album, Sean managed to dive deeper into his self-conscious than he seemed capable of doing on previous records (even if he did conflate his influence in hip-hop with that of Eminem).

It took another year for Sean to return to the public eye, but he does so firmly picking up where he left off. On Aug. 25 he dropped “Deep Reverence,” the second single from his forthcoming album, Detroit 2. The warped beat, produced by PartyNextDoor affiliate G. Ry, sees Big Sean continue on a train away from empty opulence toward humbled self-examination. Sean’s timing is impeccable. The sun setting on summer is accompanied by an inevitable dread. Fears of a second wave of COVID-19 are strengthened by a lethal tonic of American politics, ultimately making for a bleak outlook on life. Sean echoes the unsettled sentiment through his own experiences, ranging from enduring a miscarriage to dealing with anxiety. “In high school, I learned chemistry, biology/ but not how to cope with anxiety/ Or how I could feel like I’m by myself on an island/ With depression on all sides of me,” he raps toward the end of his lone verse. In a morbid way Sean’s rhymes are a comforting reminder that not even the richest among us are invincible.

At the very least, the song is a harbinger of hope for Detroit 2, which has a lofty name to live up to. Big Sean’s Nipsey Hussle feature assuages any concerns that the oxymoronically named rapper lacks awareness about the importance of artistry beyond hit records. Just as Drake tempered wealth with relatable, boyhood fantasy on this month’s “Laugh Now Cry Later” video, “Deep Reverence” is Big Sean proving capable of painting a human picture of himself in the face of pressures money can’t control.

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