Big Sean – I Decided.
by Adrian Forrest (Communications/Sociology), published April 9th 2017
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
2016 saw some of the biggest album drops in the mainstream hip-hop/rap scene: Kanye West’s eccentric The Life of Pablo, Chance’s gospel-infused Coloring Book and A Tribe Called Quest’s spellbinding We got it from Here… , just to name a few. Big Sean undoubtedly knew that he had to follow up with an unparalleled project to set off 2017, asserting his dominance and lyrical presence in the midst of the greats. In that vein, the Detroit-born rapper released I Decided. in February, an album that attempts to target more of his introspection, while trying to demand respect in the rap arena. I Decided. had the potential to situate Sean among the ranks of the rap champs of the new decade; instead it proved to be somewhat lifeless.
I Decided. flips between addressing some of Big Sean’s more emotional corridors, while bringing forth his usual braggadocious fervor in more club-like songs. The persisting problem with his more introspective tracks is how shallow they appear to be. Most of this repertoire consists of him dealing with complicated relationships, but the listener cannot help but sense the lack of depth in his lyricism. In “Jump Out the Window,” Big Sean tries to pull a potential lover from an abusive relationship into his own arms, but he fails to dig deep into the emotional turmoil that presumably plagues her. “Halfway Off the Balcony” attempts to contemplate the significance of careers and nonsensical relationships, yet the track doesn’t dive into Sean’s inner psyche enough.
The consistent issue with his more hyped, banger-type songs (i.e. “Bounce Back” and “Moves”) is their noticeable redundancy. They don’t sound much different than the hits Big Sean showcased from his previous album Dark Sky Paradise. Of course, the beats are vivacious and danceable, but the lyrics are just catchy at best. Prior to the release of I Decided., a prominent question was whether Big Sean could offer something fresh and unprecedented. Unfortunately, even in his more flavorful, boastful tracks, he does not seem to push his pen enough. One of the only arguable instances where boundaries are tested is “No Favors,” but that is largely due to Eminem’s eminent and unforgiving lyricism, where he does not shy away from bringing politics into his intense, rhythmic bars.
Thankfully, not all of I Decided. is as soulless as it portrays itself to be. “Owe Me” is perplexing, and in a refreshing way. Sean professes what it means to leave a toxic relationship, while also being drawn back into it. The song pulls into his heart, where he is not afraid to let his estranged lover know how she left him. He tells her, “Seems like all you got is hate for me, all you ever did was take from me,” as the beat slowly descends from its short-timed, intense buildup, perhaps reflecting the bipolar nature of his relationships. “Inspire Me” also takes a step away from the mundane, generally unexciting nature of the album, where he dedicates the whole track to his ever-sacrificing mother. It details the story of Sean’s journey from rags (“growing up in debt, but never hungry, rich in everything except money”) to riches (“I should take you where you should be taken; Asia, Africa, Dubai, anything you want, I do buy”). In this ode, the listener gets a different glimpse of the rapper from a more vulnerable and appreciative perspective.
Although I Decided. tries to make up for its shortcomings with a couple stand-out songs, Big Sean essentially fails to make any important imprint or statement – unlike some of his rap counterparts within the past year – leaving the album to dry in its superficiality and repetitiveness.
Tasty tracks: “Owe Me,” “Inspire Me”