Release Date: Feb 3, 2017
Record label: Def Jam
Genre(s): Rap, Hardcore Rap, Midwest Rap
We told you before that every review we submit to the public is a consensus decision. It eliminates bias and adds clarity. Here’s the conversation that led to Big Sean’s rating for his new effort, I Decided. Trent Clark (HipHopDX Editor-in-Chief): I know I wasn’t around back then but I still think it’s a travesty Dark Sky Paradise didn’t get a 4.5 from DX.
Six years ago, when Detroit rapper Big Sean broke out with his inelegant club jam “Dance (A$$),” he seemed an unlikely candidate to cross over into conscious hip-hop. Yet, moments into his excellent fourth album I Decided, the 28-year-old MC rhymes with a perfect mix of personal and political aplomb: “My dad from Louisiana, man the smallest town / Where if they know you brown, they might hold you down / And even hose you down.” On his 2015 full-length Dark Sky Paradise, Sean hinted at fusing social awareness with Drake-indebted party rap; here, he’s perfected the style. Take “No Favors,” a dark early highlight produced by Drizzy collaborator WondaGurl.
Although I DECIDED. is his fourth, Big Sean captures the hunger and enthusiasm of a newcomer on his new studio album. Rapping from the perspective of a reincarnated version of himself, Sean illustrates the ways in which he would live harder, be bolder and express himself more honestly if he made all of his decisions with the gift of 20/20 hindsight. It's hard not to think of Chance the Rapper's 2016 breakout Coloring Book when listening to "Light," "Bigger Than Me" and "Sunday Morning Jetpack." Introspective, spiritual and peppered with sing-song delivery, Sean picks up where Chance left off and brings gospel rap from rarity to certified trend.
Big Sean's fourth full-length, I Decided., is a significant evolution in terms of depth and maturity. While not as exciting and immediate as his great third LP, Dark Sky Paradise, I Decided. is an important step for the Detroit rapper, demonstrating his ability to grow. Even with appearances by Eminem, Migos, and Jhené Aiko (as TWENTY88) -- and with various assists from big names like Kanye West, Travis Scott, and Beenie Man -- Sean is never overshadowed.
2015's Dark Sky Paradise was a massive and hard-earned leap forward for Big Sean. When pressed, he's a very good rapper, and the right selection of beats framed his words with a sense of new importance. The album was also unapologetically mean. Of course, its breakout hit was " I Don't Fuck With You ," but the same bitterness was applied across the LP to foes and exes alike.
Big Sean is still finding himself. On I Decided, a mostly searing collection of introspective rhymes and light trap beats, he comes one step closer to a more self-assured sense of his space in the pantheon of today's most powerful and famous rappers. His fourth album sets out to finish the work of his third, 2015's Dark Sky Paradise, and comes close to completing his transition away from the boyish irreverence of his early era, decidedly marked by his early novelty hit "Dance (A$$)." He has come a long way from then, tackling concepts like rebirth, age and wisdom.
Is Big Sean cool? I don’t mean this in the manner of “Is Big Sean the person cool?” Has there ever been a rap star who, as a person, was not seen as the embodiment of some level of cool? Rather, is Big Sean the musician cool? Because his entirely one-note rap style has not lent itself to critical acclaim by any means, despite being supported and surrounded by the marquee names of this generation. And because he has never had a hit by the zeitgeist definition of the word, a song that so envelops the public’s consciousness that it immediately pops into your head when you think of the artist, it’s fair to ask if the public at large wonders the same thing. (It should be noted that at least amongst rap fans, his most talked-about song, “Control”, is most famous for a verse that is not his and features another verse that soundly defeats his own, despite his recent protests.
The success of Big Sean‘s debut album, Finally Famous, may have afforded him the lifestyle he dreamed of, but the project also came with great expectation, which some critics would say he faltered under, using his underwhelming sophomore effort, Hall of Fame, as evidence of his decline. However, Big Sean would silence many of his critics who had distanced him from the conversation of the top rappers of his era after unleashing Dark Sky Paradise, an album receiving rave reviews, with collaborations with Drake (“Blessings”), Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign (“Play No Games”) and his platinum hit with E-40 (“IDFWU”) all showcasing his potential as a hit-making superstar. But all that glitters isn’t gold, and although Big Sean had reached the top of the mountain, there were still questions within himself that had yet to be answered — questions of love, family, success and loyalty.
Big Sean was on the Angie Martinez show on Friday with a new chain around his neck. Gifted to him by Jay Z, the diamond encrusted piece was a throwback to the Brooklyn rapper's legendary Roc-A-Fella Records days, to a student of the game like Sean, it would be difficult to find a higher honour -- the last time this happened Jay was adorning the neck of J. Cole on his birthday at Madison Square Garden.