Big Sean has always come across as one of the most grounded individuals in the rap game, he’s the same person who can sit at a table with some of the most eccentric people in the genre with Kanye, 2 Chainz and Desiigner at G.O.O.D. music. Then he comes across as a down to earth guy as he talks honestly about relationships and his family on talk shows around the world. People often act as if this as a disadvantage to him, yet with this album I think it brings rap back down to a truly personal experience as opposed to a form of entertainment. It brings back the story telling aspect of rap which hasn’t been around properly for a while.
‘I Decided’ is one of the most thought provoking albums I’ve heard in a long time and one that resonates more and more with each listen. It’s safe to say that with this latest release Big Sean has decided he’s no longer working to realise the expectations of others but instead he’s following the path he feels he is destined for. The narrative that runs down the spine of the album is the self-conscious question that if the life we live was our second chance at living, would you make the same wrong decisions you made in your first incarnation or follow your gut and live to your fullest potential.
Deep. But a theory that I’m sure many people have thought about at some point in their life.
Which is what happens when the album ‘Intro’ begins and we hear the voice of an elderly man who’s talking to God as he leaves the factory job he’s been working at for the last 45 years. He speaks of his regrets, not spending enough time with his family, not sorting the problems he had with the love of his life, not being a role model for the younger generation and how he feels he had more potential that he never lived up to. Then a car swerves, “watch out” and we hear ‘The Light’.
As soft keys of the piano begin to play we join a current day Sean who proceeds to explain his current mind state in the world. “I spent my whole life trying to improvise / I’m not saying that shit for you to sympathise / Spent my whole life trying to find what’s at the end of the tunnel / I should have realized it was inside / So lately I been trying to get what’s inside outside”
Featuring a huge hook from Jeremih as well as sampling Eddie Kendricks classic ‘Intimate Friends’, a sample that has been used in some of the biggest tunes in the genre, Sean pulls out all the stops for what is the beginning of the journey he is about to take us upon. ‘The Light’ ends and we roll into the bass rattling ‘Bounce Back’.
Sean realises it’s time for no more L’s, he goes into full beast mode and is about to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Following on the 808’s stay rattling and Sean’s in no mood to be giving hand outs as he plucks out another classic hip-hop sample from Quincy Jones’ ‘Summer In The City’ for the track ‘No Favours’. Not only does it feature this classic sample but he once again comes straight to loggerheads with fellow Detroit native, the legend Eminem.
People often refer to the time when Kendrick took the limelight on Sean’s track ‘Control’ as a reason why they don’t see him in the same category as the other more lyrical rappers but Sean proves that he’s never letting that happen ever again and easily stands toe to toe with Eminem, someone who can quite easily body any track he features on.
At which point our elder Sean voice comes into play…“I know you’re feeling yourself right now, But I’m not sure she’s the one, I would call them in”. As we all know Sean in recent times has crossed over into the mainstream not only for his music but also for whom he’s been dating, and ‘Jump Out The Window’ is Sean getting in touch with the person he truly believes is the one he’s meant for. As the skit roles on with Sean talking to a girl on the phone…
Sean: “Hey I’m outside”
Girl: “What are you doing here?”
It’s clear Sean has only one idea in mind and that’s leaving the old girls behind him who in hindsight he’s realised were no good for him and getting with someone who’s far more in touch with who he is. Someone who’s wasted as much time with people not right for them as he has… “I think I’m ready to jump out the window / And turn that nigga that you with right back into your friend / We already wasted too much time / And your time is the only thing I wish was mine / I think I’m ready to jump out the window”
The hook which could be a thinly veiled jab at DotDaGenius, is about his current girlfriend Jhene Aiko’s previous marriage situation. Showing how committed he is to turning to a new chapter of his life when it comes to relationships, Sean is being more open about his relationships and heartfelt than we’ve ever heard him. Especially in comparison to the last time in ‘IDFWU’.
As we move into ‘Moves’ it’s the one time we hear Big Sean begin flexing, confident in his new position he’s ready to give everyone a piece of his mind. Now that he has his “partner in crime” Jhene Aiko and cleared up the girl side of his life he’s taking aim at everyone else… “Motherfuck the whole industry / Half of these niggas my mini-me’s / I got this bitch going off more than breaking and entering / You hot for a minute, me / I make the shit that last for infinity”
After TWENTY88 rekindle to show their affection to each other in ‘Same Time Pt.1’; Sean talks about the girls who have done him wrong on ‘Owe Me’; the struggles of fame when it comes to paparazzi and the loaded questions that they tempt him to react to – and then we reach ‘Halfway Off The Balcony’.
A pivotal point in the album it’s where Sean realises that the chase for superficial isn’t what life is about and how he wants to end this process of living and attain a life with more fulfilment. His job is “way more than a salary” and when it comes to girls that “chemistry means way more than anatomy”.
But there’s one last bit of self-doubt that tempts him into being self-consumed at which point he begins to listen to the ‘Voices In His Head’ after he doesn’t answer a phone call from his mum, putting further strain on his family. At this point we hear the determined part of Sean’s psyche that tells him to ‘Stick To The Plan’. Which as we pause from the album narrative is when Sean showcases some of the best flows he’s produced in a minute as he raps double time at the end of the track. Showing that he can still hang with the best of them when it comes to switching up and riding different flows.
As the listener begins to match his speed, he slows it down, we hit ‘Sunday Morning Jetpack’, a personal favourite as the self-realisation of his errors makes him realise the blessings that he has. It reminds me of old ‘Ye, the violins, the hook from The Dream, it’s a classic G.O.O.D. music production and it’s no surprise as it comes from Amaire Johnson, Big Sean’s band mate, who previously produced ‘One Man Can Change The World’ and the person who provides the back bone of production to the album. This is someone who Sean said in his recent interview with Semtex was a student from the great producers, “The Ye’s, the Pharrell’s, the Rick Rubin’s”. Which couldn’t be clearer as it sounds like it could have been picked out of the back catalogues of ‘Late Registration’. So it’s no surprise ‘Ye also jumped on it to assist on production as well. It’s incredible.
After he realises all the blessings he has, we return to Sean in real life, we hear the vibration of his phone and the elder voice in his head say “You gonna let that ring forever”. He finally clears up the last error of his ways and how he needs to do more to let them know although he isn’t always in touch, family is what is important to him. At which point Sean dedicates the next track to his mum in ‘Inspire Me’. Its classic Sean that we’ve come to know and love and even see’s Sean take a go at singing on the hook. He said he was going to try and get someone special for it like “Smokey Robinson” but his mum said she wanted it to just be him to keep it personal. It’s a feel good tune that makes us all think we need to be thankful for those who brought us into this world.
As we come to the penultimate track in the album ‘Sacrifices’, Sean begins to tie up all the sacrifices he’s made in his life and what he’s done to get to the point he is now. Whether it’s the girls he wrongly invested time in or even by playing the rap game by making tracks like ‘Marvin & Chardonnay’, although they aren’t considered Sean’s best work, it helped put him on the map in order to make the music he truly cares about. Sean even managed to get Migos to break from their normal flows and match him in a similar way and even rap relatively introspective. Making the hottest group in the game do that, shows the influence that Sean is beginning to have within the game, once again he’s “no longer an underdog but a big dog”.
Which leads us to ‘Bigger Than Me’ the final track and the one that ties it all together. Sean realises that he’s been through everything during the short time he’s been involved in the game, the money, the girls, the game and how when you try and chase it you realise you’ll never truly achieve your full potential. The world is bigger than him and what he can do is stay true to him and thus achieves something that means much more.
“All I ever wanted was to turn these Gs into Ms and Mercedes keys, Got it and still felt incomplete, That’s when I realized this shit was bigger than me”. Featuring the Flint Chozen Choir who of course come from an area that is going through a serious water crisis after it’s drinking water became polluted. It’s an area that Sean regularly donates money to from his foundation and shows he realises how lucky he is and what he really needs to do is do everything he can to give back to the community that made him and not get distracted from the bigger picture.
It’s obvious the influence he has on his home of Detroit, as the official Twitter for the city even tweeted the release of his new album saying it “has his back”. As the track fades out it ends with a phone call between Sean and his mom. Sean feels as if this is his second time round and how he has to live his life to his full potential. It’s deep and his future self realigns with his current mindset reaffirming himself when he says… “It’s that simple. It’s all about living in the moment. Period.”
The whole narrative is something I think everyone can relate to, it’s easy to get caught up with the monotony of everyday life but everyone needs to check themselves and make sure they are staying on the path that was meant for them.
This album ticks all the boxes, it has both the singles and work as a front to back complete package, with everything from the turn up to the thought provoking. It’s clearer more than ever that Big Sean should be considered with those at the top of the game. He’s constantly pushing himself further by staying in competition with himself instead of looking at what others are doing. He’s decided to stay on the only path he knows and if he truly does stay on it, I think the next stage of Sean will be the most exciting.