Music

Big Sean’s Verse on “All Me” Is Verse of the Year

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Big Sean is stupid. The dude expected to get laid for saying the words “ass-tray.” That’s a level of intergalactic overconfidence most of us can only dream of orbiting. Nobody knows why Big Sean is famous, except for Kanye West, who seems bewilderingly taken by the walking snapback he signed almost seven years ago. He has not been responsible for a single non-hilarious piece of music throughout his entire career, his biggest hit is literally called “Dance (A$$),” and even that had to gratuitously sample a song nobody has taken seriously throughout the entire history of pop culture. He is the only XXL freshman to be outclassed by Donnis. He’s had a career served up on a silverplatter, but he feels entirely justified to walk around with a giant chip on his shoulder. In a generation of Macklemores and Flo Ridas, Big Sean is still somehow the biggest cornball to ever grace the Hot 100.

See also: Why Big Sean’s Song “MILF” Isn’t Funny

So when we first heard Big Sean’s verse on “All Me,” we all
thought it was really funny. We’re used to Big Sean sounding like an
idiot, but this was a whole new level. Seriously, what was this guy doing? Why does it sound like he is
falling off a cliff when he yells “HO, SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Why does he try that
weird little Lionel Richie run when he says “tiiIIiime,” why does that weird double-time thing in the middle
sound so hopelessly out of sync? Why does this verse have absolutely nothing in
common with the moody themes of the overarching song? Why didn’t Drake ask Big
Sean to try another take? Why is Drake even friends with Big Sean? How often
does Drake ignore Big Sean’s texts? 
These are just a few of the questions the internet asked itself while
endlessly playing the verse again, making sure it all wasn’t just a dream.

Months passed, Nothing
Was The Same
was released, and “All Me”
was picked up by the radio, and on it Big Sean’s verse is infectious,
his enthusiasm is resonant. He’s a cocksure fratboy freestyling on top of a tapped
keg. He finally figured it out. Party Rap is not subtle, but it is wise, and
Big Sean boiled it down to its wonderful essentials. He turned artifice into
art. And it’s enthralling. Even Drake has taken to rapping it acapella at his live shows when performing the song.

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“My new girl is on Glee and shit, probably making more money
than me and shit!” Big Sean screams this towards the end of his verse, moments
before flipping an excruciatingly obvious “99 Problems” hat-tip. If you’re
listening to pop music, you’re probably not very good at rapping. Neither is
Big Sean, and that’s the point. Big
Sean doesn’t bother with form, or execution, he instead invites us along for
the ride. Our pleasure-sensors eventually wear down our taste. That’s the
underrated brilliance of Big Sean. Sure he’s a violent whirlwind of swag-rap
id, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a conscious
violent whirlwind of swag-rap id. He managed to write something that’s infectious,
meme-able, and outstandingly joyful. What are we really gaining, if we make a
concerted effort to not enjoy a line
like “WEARING RETRO SHIT, THAT’S OLD FASHIONED!” Are we really gaining
anything? Are we better humans? Is Big Sean knowing what makes our heart race
somehow more invalid than whatever “real hip-hop” is? Personally, Big Sean’s “All
Me” verse is the most fun I’ve had listening to rap music all year. Who cares
about any implications? At a certain point Big Sean’s mic skills don’t even
matter.

This conversation inevitably ties back to the relative
self-awareness of hip-hop as a genre, the kind of claims that come up when we
try to excuse Kanye West or Tyler, the Creator for occasional misogyny. “Oh he
can’t really mean that, he’s just playing a character.” But that thought
process can’t be restricted to the top-dog artists, who’s to say Big Sean isn’t
self-aware? He abandoned everything that adds up to a traditionally sound rap
song, and somehow ends up with something that’s totally dominated the world. Big
Sean understands that sometimes bad rapping can make great rap music, and that’s
an exceptionally rare talent.

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