Review: ‘Double or Nothing’

Metro Boomin pulls the thin rope on Double or Nothing while Big Sean holds on for as long as he can without providing any useful assistance.

2017 has truly been Metro Boomin’s year. Despite the Grammy snub for Best Producer, Double or Nothing is his third credited collaborative project of the year (not including Gucci Mane’s Droptopwop). This is also Sean’s second album of the year after February’s forgettable I Decided. When the lead single dropped in November without any other announcements it was clear a collaborative album was coming, but the unconventional pairing of Big Sean and Metro Boomin raised a few eyebrows. Whether this would prove to be a fruitful collaboration was the question everyone was asking.

Just like most collab albums this year, there’s only 10 tracks to listen to. Within this time, it is quickly proven that Double or Nothing is not a collaboration where both artists are putting their best foot forward.

Generally, Double or Nothing severely lacks ideas. That goes down from the song concepts to the lyrical content and hook-writing. These flaws were masterfully avoided in Without Warning, which possessed a sense of melody and thematic approach.

The opening track “Go Legend” begins and ends with a Diana Ross sample – something we don’t typically here in Metro Boomin beats – and is carried by the hook of Travis Scott (even though it doesn’t make sense). Outside of those elements, the song doesn’t make a captivating impression, practically feeling like it is unsure whether it wants to be an explosive banger or mid-tempo filler.

The most evident flaw of the album is within Big Sean’s lyricism and performance. The problem is that Big Sean is not interesting enough to keep your attention even for a mere 40 minutes. With no partner to compete against like Offset and 21 Savage on Without Warning, Big Sean is left to fiend for himself, sprinkling a string of corny lines over every other track.

On some tracks, Sean ends up over-rapping when it feels like the song has already told you it wants to end, such as on “Who’s Stopping Me” where Sean comes back on the “This shit sounds like Narcos” beat for second helpings. The song would have been ideal as a 2-minute interlude when it is already lacking any creative longevity. On other tracks like “Even the Odds”, Sean is outshone by the guest features. Young Thug eats up the track with his most normal delivery since Drake’s “Sacrifices”. In contrast, Big Sean flows like he is half asleep to suit the “moody” beat. Difference is, Young Thug can sound moody when he wants because his vocal delivery is consistently versatile. This doesn’t work with Big Sean, who always delivers in the same vocal register from start to finish.

Right in the middle of the album is “So Good”, which is perhaps the worst hip hop song I’ve heard this year. The cringe-worthy track discusses sex in the most uncreative way possible to the point where it is unlistenable. It’s a fine example of the lack of assertiveness by Metro Boomin with this project – did he really think that was a good song? The duo could have easily made a better filler track.

Even though Big Sean is the main weak link of the album, Metro Boomin doesn’t provide the best of his infectious production either. There’s no more than two or three truly memorable beats, perhaps proving he is out of comfort zone by having to tailor beats to suit Big Sean. It only furthers the argument that Big Sean & Metro Boomin is a complete mismatch.

Luckily, “Pull Up N Wreck” and “Big Bidness” make their identities clear, with memorable production and solid guest verses from 21 Savage and 2 Chainz respectively. The saving grace of the album is “Savage Time”, a two-part song which tailors to Big Sean’s strengths, surprising us with subtle vocals by Travis Scott, proving that less is sometimes more. Although it is lyrically scattered, it is the album’s best display of song-crafting. Out of the ten songs, these are the only three with replay value.

Double or Nothing is an indication that these surprise collaborative projects will remain unwarranted unless both parties produce songs that match up to their best work. The subpar song-crafting, lyricism and mediocre production results in Double or Nothing being the most disappointing collab albums of 2017.

Rating: 5 / 10

Favourite tracks:  “Savage Time”, “Pull Up N Wreck”, “Big Bidness”

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