I Decided. (2017)
Rap / Hip-Hop
GOOD Music / Def Jam
When you stack up Big Sean’s I Decided. against his previous albums like Hall of Fame and his debut Finally Famous, it is quite clear that the Detroit-based rapper has taken a more introspective turn in his career. Songs like “Dance (A$$)” and “Guap” are a thing of the past compared to his more recent offerings. Dark Sky Paradise was a good indication of this change, mixing fun and more lighthearted party rap with deeper, reflective tracks. I Decided., Big Sean’s fourth studio album, is not unlike what other rappers have been doing lately, but it still is Big Sean’s best work yet.
Things get rolling, theme-wised, in the album’s intro track. Big Sean’s older self, voiced by actor J.R. Starr gets hit by a car and dies. He is then reincarnated as his present self in another life. The whole album serves as a reflection on Sean’s life, with his older self is giving him advice and wisdom every step of the way. It is a cool theme, but one that is underused. The intro track came and went but I was only reminded of the theme later in the album on “Halfway Off the Balcony.” I Decided. has a clear and consistent message throughout, but I would have liked the bits with J.R. Starr to be sprinkled a little more throughout.
“Bounce Back,” the most popular song from the album, also happens to be one of the highlights from the project. It is an upbeat banger about bouncing back after taking an “L”. Big Sean has some great flow on the track, similar in style to the flow found on Drake’s song “6 Man.” Next on the track list is “No Favors,” a controversial collaboration with everyone’s favorite rabble-rouser Eminem. Produced by WondaGurl, the song marks the first time Eminem has appeared on a Big Sean’s album. Big Sean’s verse is great, but the biggest take-away is Eminem’s verse, where he makes a bunch of verbal jabs, including a threat against Ann Coulter. Whether he meant it or not (he probably did not), people are still taking some offense. This is not the first time Eminem has said something controversial. He is the king of controversy of course. It should not be a surprise to anyone.
These are not the only bangers that appear on the album. “Voices in My Head/Stick to the Plan,” produced by Metro Boomin, is another great track with a double-edged sound. In the song, Big Sean tells himself and his listeners to stay true to himself and to heed the advice of your elders. Then things heat up and quicken as Metro steers the beat in a new direction with the second part, where Sean convinces himself to stay focused amid the endless distractions of drugs, money, and sex. One of the more personal tracks, “Sunday Morning Jetpack,” is a song full of nostalgia and the struggles and how they made him the person he is today. The song features The Dream, who gives a great hook over a breezy beat. The song almost acts as an alternative “One Man Can Change the World,” one of the strongest offerings from Dark Sky Paradise.
Not every track is a slam dunk. “Same Time Pt. 1,” featuring Big Sean’s lady friend Jhene Aiko, is an underwhelming ballad that features a less-than-stellar verse from Aiko. I was expecting a little more from the TWENTY88 duo. There is also “Inspire Me,” which is a cliché and sappy tribute to Sean’s mother and the role she has played in the rapper’s life. It is sweet in concept but does not bring anything fresh to the table when compared to similar tracks from other rappers.
I Decided. is capped with “Bigger Than Me,” a booming track featuring Starrah and the Flint Chozen Choir. Big Sean wraps up the album, going off about how he has made it to the top but still needs to improve as a person. There are some great moments with the choir and a nice verse from Starrah. The track ends with a phone call with Big Sean’s grandma, just like his previous albums. A lot of I Decided. is predictable, but it is the culmination of Big Sean’s career in a good way. Big Sean has matured as a rapper and a person and that is prevalent in almost every corner of his latest project. There are bangers galore and reflection aplenty. Big Sean fans will rejoice.