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Big Sean’s latest album ‘I Decided’ is his best project yet

Love, family and second chances drive this story

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"I Decided" album art

"I Decided" album art

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Big Sean’s newest album “I Decided,” released Feb. 3, is being praised as the Detroit rapper’s best project to date. He manages to both tell a story and incorporate a multitude of talents, showing his underrated versatility as well as his unquestionable passion for both music and family. With every album he gets better. “I Decided” is no different.

“I Decided” is a concept album that brings the listener on a journey in which an older version of Big Sean that has failed his whole life is given the chance to do it all over again and “bounce back.” All 14 of the album’s tracks feel like pieces to the puzzle that is the overall story with quick skits of Sean talking to his future self in between.

“Light” featuring Jeremih is really where the story begins. In this song, Sean is still the same rapper with a love and passion for his city that he’s always been. The beauty in this song comes from the simplicity of the beat. Unlike most rap songs today, this beat features very little drums and relies heavily on what sounds like a church organ. Jeremih fits perfectly into the song, singing the inspiring hook of, “No matter how much they gon’ shade you/Man they can’t f*ck with the light/They can’t stop the shine.”

This song, along with many others on “I Decided,” has a beautiful sound that is often hard to find in hip-hop. The Detroit rapper attributes this new sound to a heavy influence coming from the iconic sounds of Motown records in his city’s past. The album blends older sound with modern hip-hop production, making many songs feel unique.

A perfect example of this mixing of styles comes with “Jump Out the Window.” Produced by KeY Wane, the track begins with a banging club-type of beat and is immediately met with calm piano and the smooth sounding vocals of the Roc Nation rapper that seem unexpected. “Jump Out the Window” feels like a letter to a female friend that Sean has been in love with since childhood. With lines like, “Sometimes I wonder if you even know/How much you worth I gotta know” and “I think I’m ready to jump out the window/And turn that ni**a that you with right back into your friend, though,” it’s clear that he wants to be more than friends and is ready to risk it all.

“Jump Out the Window” and many other relationship-themed songs fill the first half of the album. Sean uses “Same Time, Pt. 1” to rekindle his chemistry with the other members of Twenty88 and speculated partner Jhene Aiko, to show what true love feels like. To contrast this, “Owe Me,” which immediately follows, is clearly directed at a previous flame that “owes” Sean his time back, as well as many other things taken from him. These songs all fit into the story by showing how the older Sean lost true love and went for the wrong partner.

Listeners who prefer more party and drum-heavy Big Sean songs will not be disappointed. The two hit singles “Bounce Back” and “Moves” are also included on the album. Other standouts include “No Favors,” which features fellow Detroit MC Eminem and “Sacrifices” featuring Migos, hot off the release of their own album “Culture.” Both songs give space to let the featured artists do what they do best. Migos shows off their incredibly unique flow alongside with their fun ad-libs on yet another banger.

Eminem’s feature feels slightly different from the others. While it contains the lyrical chaos mixed with controversial lingo for which Eminem is known, it doesn’t really seem to fit the song. It feels more like an Eminem freestyle being forced into a Big Sean track. There are awesome punchlines, though, like “I may be deserving of a pat on the back like a Patriots jersey,” but it has no real meaning. Even the technical side of the song feels off, with the mixing of Eminem’s verse sounding different from that of the rest of the album. While it’s awesome that Big Sean featured a Detroit legend on the album, this just seems more like an Eminem interlude than a feature.

The most unique song on “I Decided” also functions as the climax of the story. In “Voices In My Head/Stick To The Plan,” Sean has an internal conversation with his conscious. The first half of the song addresses the depression that comes from all his failures with lyrics saying, “Voices in my head sayin’ I could do better/Voices in my head sayin’ that I knew better,” over a very melancholy beat.

Just when it feels like Sean is down and out, the beat begins to switch. Producer Metro Boomin’s famous tagline “Metro Boomin want some more, ni**a” hits and the beat immediately changes to a club-type of song similar to previously released singles “Bounce Back” and “Moves.” Along with a change of the beat, Sean’s persona and flow changes as well. His conscience takes control and fights the negative thoughts with the simple line “Stick to the plan” on the hook. This switch in the song represents the moment where the story’s protagonist turns his life around.

After the story’s climax, the songs all feature positive messages and are directed toward Big Sean’s family. “Sunday Morning Jetpack” is arguably the most beautiful song on the album. Alongside the heavenly sounds of a church choir and the unforgettable voice of The Dream, Sean pours out his heart. He reminisces about Sundays with his grandma and the rest of his family.

It’s clear Big Sean put his heart in “I Decided.” His love for his family and his sheer talent is reflected in almost every song on this album. The album deserves 4.5 stars out of 5. While Big Sean may never be thrown into the conversation of “best rapper alive,” it shouldn’t be forgotten exactly how talented he is. This album is Sean’s best work yet and maybe hip-hop’s best album of 2017 thus far.

Email Jonathan at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @JKermWrites

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The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department
Big Sean’s latest album ‘I Decided’ is his best project yet