Big Sean repeatedly shouted that he was “finally famous” during his sold-out concert at the Midland theater on Thursday.
Boosted by an offensive smash hit, Big Sean is the preeminent party rapper of 2015.
The audience of about 1,500 (the venue’s upper balcony was closed) reacted to the 75-minute set as if they were excitable students at a high school pep rally.
By the relatively low standards of hip-hop concerts, the production for Big Sean’s Kansas City debut was excellent. A DJ, keyboardist and drummer were positioned atop a small bank of video screens as the rapper roamed the stage.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Born Sean Michael Leonard Anderson in 1988, the Detroit rapper received his big break when he caught the attention of Kanye West in 2005. “Dark Sky Paradise,” Big Sean’s third album for West’s record label, was the bestselling album in the United States the week of its release in February.
The doltish “I Don’t (Mess) With You,” the album’s lead single, catapulted Big Sean to stardom. He’s long employed “finally famous” as one of his primary catchphrases, but the claim has only been fully realized in recent months.
The misogynistic song is indicative of the majority of Big Sean’s repertoire. While his rapping is lyrically unambitious, the shimmering production is spectacular. As is usually the case with Big Sean’s best material, a guest rapper furnishes the most interesting ideas.
The contribution of E-40, the man who lends a modicum of substance to “I Don’t (Mess) With You,” was excised from the version performed at Thursday’s concert. The raps of West, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and other top-tier artists who have collaborated with Big Sean were similarly lopped off from other selections.
The effect was like eating icing without any cake. Big Sean typically provides a song’s sugary hook while leaving more complex content to others.
Thursday’s concert, consequently, was almost entirely free of significance. Big Sean’s favorite subjects are money, intoxicants and his flourishing career. “One Man Can Change the World,” a composition he dedicated to his late grandmother, was one of the only songs that wasn’t irredeemably shallow.
The everyman persona that makes Big Sean likeable worked against him Thursday. He resembled a demonstrative fan more than the star of the show.
Only his a cappella rap on “Outro,” the final track on “Dark Sky Paradise,” possessed a sense of urgency. His caustic attitude on the song contrasted sharply from the remainder of the fun but frivolous concert.
Paradise, All Your Fault, Gang Bang, Mercy, Sanctified, Dance (A$$), Open Wide, High, Detroit, I Know, Play No Games, Stay Down, Research, Mula, Burn, My Last, Beware, One Man Can Change the World, Blessings, Marvin & Chardonnay, Guap, I Don’t Like, Clique, All Me, I Don’t (Mess) With You, Outro