Pain often leads to introspection and, sometimes, great art, but it just seems to have made Big Sean bitter. His third effort, despite creative production, finds him wallowing in hurt, expressing such deep resentment toward women that it becomes numbing. This is clearly a catharsis record after his high-profile breakup with Naya Rivera, which left scars that hip-hop bravado can’t hide. The MC spends half the disc superficially pondering life (“Deep”), the other half denouncing all the lying, scheming, social-climbing women around him. “I Don’t [Expletive] With You” is overtly about Rivera; “Stay Down,” “Outro,” and “Research” overflow with shake-your-head misogyny. When Sean does harness his undeniable skills (“One Man Can Change the World”), he shows he’s capable of much more. Twice, he wisely enlists Jhene Aiko, who has become rap’s signifier for bruised emotions. Yet the conflicted despondency throughout (“I Know,” “Win Some, Lose Some”) never yields to enlightenment; the results are more murky than dark. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “One Man Can Change the World”Steve Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nightafternight.