While Big Sean’s musical output hasn’t lived up to the hype, he has remained a big name in Hip-Hop for a few years now, boosted by his relationship with toddler-faced Pop princess Ariana Grande. Given the sex-starved manner that Sean often raps about intercourse, an invitation to collaborate with the delicate, angelic Jhene Aiko on an R&B record would be too much to pass up (for any straight male). Jhene is as sultry as ever, complementing Sean’s testosterone with her effortless hooks and her role as genuine girlfriend-material is perfect for this project.
They work well together and dare I say it, they have good chemistry. It’s pure girlfriend/boyfriend music, full of lust, with the futuristic approach to production a welcome change from the sleepy backdrops Jhene usually opts for. At eight tracks long, it’s halfway between a short LP and a long EP, which I admired about Jhene’s “Sail Out EP”, as her full-length “Souled Out” did drag due to the nature of her sound. “TWENTY88” is a more mixed bag, possessing a messy quality that kind of fits with the theme. The impromptu booty call of “On The Way” and the bickering way the two exchange lines on “Talk Show” (where the lust begins to move in to relationship territory) are highlights, so it’s a shame that there are just as many missteps.
There are moments where Sean’s bluntness ruins the classiness of the production – especially the verse he spits on “2 Minute Warning” which sees him bragging about ‘having you’ – perhaps aimed at Ariana Grande. It’s not even the douche-y attitude that disappoints but the matter-of-fact descriptions of ejaculation and contraception that come across (ahem) like a science lesson rather than a song to f*** to. There are also some illogical lines like “I know all your insecurities, and I don’t mean like mall cops”. Why would you mean that, Sean, unless Jhene has mall cops on her payroll? That’s just poor writing, forcing wordplay when it doesn’t even make sense.
If you can get past some of the dumb lines and the often blunt nature of Big Sean’s approach to seduction, there’s enough solid, modern R&B here to satisfy those craving something a bit more direct than Drake, but it could have been so much more.