Less is more for Big Sean on “Overtime”

The first single from Big Sean’s upcoming album espouses the wish upon a star that birthed his career almost 15 years ago.

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Big Sean has always been trying to prove himself to anyone who will listen. His infatuation with the victory lap, not the shotgun start or mid-marathon slog, was the driving force behind his career’s opening act. Three editions of his Finally Famous series of mixtapes dropped before Sean was ready to release his proper debut, but the wait wasn’t for a lack of confidence. The Detroit native had already gotten to court Kanye West’s ears in 2005, and was signed to West’s label, G.O.O.D Music, by 2007. It was the come-up story to rule them all — a chance encounter led to an endorsement by one of music’s biggest names.

Understandably, Sean’s debut didn’t have the mark of a rookie — he sweated all of that out by Finally Famous Vol. 3, which was loaded with features ranging from up-and-comers like YG and Drake to industry veteran Bun B. After that fateful day in ’05, Sean had access, perhaps too much, which overtook the development of his own artistry. He overdosed on success. One track, he could be laying lines about the opportunities granted to him and his ability to give back (“Nothing is Stopping You”) and the next he could be collaborating with Lil Wayne (“Beware”), Nas (“First Chain”) or Lupe Fiasco (“Wait For Me”). Even his mixtape, Detroit, was furnished with interludes from a bevy of hip-hop all-stars, lending their personas to an artist who never really made good on proving himself. Sean stacked his albums with major names, which did little more than displace Sean from his own work.

“Overtime” is Sean’s first go at roughing it. The solo cut, produced by the triad of TheTuckerBrothers, KeyWane and Hit-Boy, sees Sean forcefully sequester himself from his riches. Big Sean pines for a full reset, before shipping beats to Kendrick Lamar and Drake with the push of a button. “I might set my mic back up in the closet, though/Just to give myself that same feeling from ‘04.” The next album is time for him to push his limits, which might mean going it alone, or working with an ex to re-ignite his creativity (as he does on the second single, “Single Again”). He doesn’t wallow in self-pity for long, and instead uses a climbing beat switch to mark his grandiose re-entrance. Sean convinces that there’s more to his career than a bevy of superstar friends and a plucky mind for punchlines. The star-studded victory lap wasn’t enough. Big Sean is ready to grind.

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Forever hunting for my new favorite music sample. Founder of tripleot.com & abrandbox.com. 🌴🦩

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