“I Decided” is Big Sean’s fourth studio album since his debut in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Def Jam Recordings)
Benjamin St. Pierre
Detroit rapper Big Sean has been on the scene for a while and is one of the biggest names in modern rap music, but he hasn’t done a whole lot to create a clear picture of what exactly his style is. In “I Decided,” Big Sean tries to decide on what exactly he brings to hip hop, but his over-reliance on popular genre norms hold him back from achieving all he can.
The “Intro” track is basically a summary of how Sean has felt lately – a monologue about being in a rut and feeling separated from God and his family. The next song “Light” (feat. Jeremih) is introspective and moody, with a sparse and synthy beat that, when combined with Jeremih’s high-pitched hook, creates an overall uplifting song even if it’s a little boring.
The next song, “Bounce Back,” is a lot livelier and grittier. Featuring production from Metro Boomin, Young Metro’s signature quick-paced hi hats and rhythm form a strong backbone for Sean to boastfully flow about loyalty and staying true to himself. This is one of the best songs on the album, if not the best.
“No Favors” is next in the track listing and features Eminem. While the beat and Sean’s hook are infectious (yet simple), Eminem’s verse is way too long and out of place on a beat like this. Sean and Eminem’s styles don’t mesh too well, even if they’re both from Detroit and trying to represent the city.
Sean veers off the gritty path for the next song, “Jump Out the Window,” in favor of a sing-rap R&B-type song. He croons of old love and sounds pretty much like Drake; the problem is, while I enjoy what the song is trying to do, I can’t find what’s original about it – I can’t pick out anything individually “Big Sean” about it. It could be an enjoyable song if recorded by just about any artist who can sing a little bit. Also, the lyrics are a bit cringeworthy in some spots, like this line about a girl from a past relationship who he’d play Mario Kart with: “And you always picked the princess / I realized you was a princess.” Yikes.
The next song, “Moves,” returns to a grittier and more low-key sound, but is pretty much filler. “Same Time, Pt. 1” (feat. TWENTY88) is also filler-like, as it’s only 1:30 long, yet slow and sparse.
Things pick up in “Owe Me,” which is centered around Sean feeling like an old lover owes him for a lot of heartache after things turned sour. There are clanging church bells in parts where the intensity is meant to pick up, but his delivery is too relaxed – if it were fiery, louder, and more passionate, this song could’ve been a lot more powerful. If everything came to a head towards the end with Sean growing more and more emotional, complemented by the church bells and horns slicing through, this song would be amazing. But it’s still good as it is.
“Halfway Off the Balcony” is another darker song, featuring a haunting whistling synth line, but it’s ruined by some “ba ba bum” ad libs in the background that come in around 1:25 and completely ruin the eeriness.
“Voices in My Head / Stick to the Plan” is a two-part song, but both parts are equally filler. It’s like Sean knew both songs would be too lackluster to have as their own tracks, so he shortened them and combined the two’s best parts into one song. But it’s still not good, even with Metro Boomin producing “Stick to the Plan.”
The next song, “Sunday Morning Jetpack,” is back to the same energy of “Light” – it’s airy, uplifting, and The-Dream’s voice (on the chorus) even sounds like Jeremih’s. The beat is beautiful, featuring melodic strings and synths that appear distantly in the background. It could’ve been better if the drum pattern that kicked in towards the end was livelier and had some hi hats, but it’s still a beautiful song.
“Inspire Me” is another positive song and is entirely dedicated to Sean’s mother. It’s a wholesome and lovely idea for a track, but the song itself isn’t too great.
“Sacrifices” features Migos and more production from Metro Boomin, but Offset and Quavo feel a lot more at home on the beat and bring more to the track (especially Offset) than Big Sean. The song is a lot more entertaining once Offset comes in around 2:15.
The liveliness continues on the album’s final track, “Bigger Than Me,” which is its second-best song after “Bounce Back.” Featuring the Flint Chozen Choir (a nod to Michigan and all that Flint has gone through) and Starrah, the chorus is huge and beautiful. Sean and the choir combine to sing “All I wanna do is make the city proud,” an homage to Detroit, and the entire song is well put-together and powerful. There’s a definite Kanye West influence in here as well, and I wish more songs on the album had this much power to them.
Big Sean may not have carved out a distinct identity for himself on “I Decided,” and there may be a lot of lackluster moments on it, but he undoubtedly has the talent and ideas to warrant a place in popular hip hop. Songs like “Bounce Back” and “Bigger Than Me” demonstrate his ability to succeed on drastically different beats and atmospheres, and hopefully, the perfect niche for Sean is there for him to find.
Sean’s lyrics aren’t always the most complicated or conscious, but he’s genuinely wholesome – he tries his best to be true to himself, loyal to his loved ones, and even dedicates an entire song to his mother. Hopefully, he can keep working towards what being true to himself means for his music, and he creates more well-rounded art in the future. He flashes potential, but is bogged down by doing too much to sound like everyone else.