Big Sean’s album tells story of second chances

Photo courtesy of Big Sean

Since the fall of last year, Big Sean has had the rap community eagerly waiting for his much-anticipated fourth album, serving as a follow-up to 2015’s “Dark Sky Paradise.” The album’s first single, “Bounce Back,” was released in October 2016. The track served as an appropriate anthem for the last three months of a year sent from hell.

Sean Don had listeners ringing in the New Year by cursing the losses in the past and anticipating future chances to bounce back. Similar to last year’s celebrity deaths and the direction of the nation, “I Decided” puts one into a state of reflection.

On this album, gone are many of the themes from his three previous albums — none of the wild club attitude from “Finally Famous,” the abundant success stories from “Hall of Fame,” or the intense braggadocio found on “Dark Sky Paradise.”

Instead this album tells the story of a man who dies but gets a second chance, and the listener is left with a candid statement about life, the opportunities it gives and how people decide to use them.

After the first listen, the most enjoyable part of “I Decided” is the skillful and effortless word play that Big Sean puts on display. During distinct moments of the album, the Detroit-native struts his stuff when he crams as many syllables as possible into a verse.

The essential humor, ease and intelligence that he demonstrates will allow rap aficionados to put “I Decided” on the top shelf after the first listen.

From simply enjoyable moments of lyrical acrobatics (“Stay away, or your ass might get K.O.’ed, kay today/ Man, that ‘pew! pew!’ hit your ass from like way, oh, ways away”) to the more meaningful lines that leave listeners thinking (“A loaded mind is more dangerous than a loaded weapon”), it is clear that Big Sean has grown immensely into an adept emcee and lyricist.

Highlights from the album include the guest verse from fellow Detroit big name Eminem on “No Favors,” the voice of Jhené Aiko tastefully juxtaposed against the low-pitched vocals of Big Sean on “Same Time, Pt. 1” and the contemplative, piano-led beat featured on “Jump Out
the Window.”

As an artist or celebrity in 2016, it has become a major expectation to have at least a facet of one’s work dedicated to current political or social injustices, and like countless others have, Big Sean does exactly that. On “Bigger Than Me,” the hook is sung by members of the Flint Chozen Choir, serving as an attempt to direct attention and help to the victims of the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Mich.

Besides not having heard much from Eminem in the past few years, “No Favors” offers another surprise. In his classic hyper-combative scream, Eminem mentions Sandra Bland and Philando Castile by name and, not surprisingly, has a couple choice words for President Trump. While well-contrived lyrics and themes weave throughout the album, the album falls short in one area. Across the 14 songs, most of the production on the album does not breach the combination of surging bass and interspersed drum pattern that has come to define most of Big Sean’s recent work.

This continuation is not necessarily problematic, but perhaps if Sean’s production team took a few cues from the music of his contemporaries, the album would have a more diverse,
comprehensive feel.

Taking the impressive lyricism from “Moves” or Jeremih’s gospel-influenced style from “Lights” and combining them with the recent types of unique production from Kanye, Chance or even Mac Miller would have made the album the first all-inclusive masterpiece of 2017.

Ultimately, the version of Big Sean offered on “I Decided” is definitely the best Big Sean yet. Over the course of the album, he proves to be reflective without disowning the original Sean Anderson that fans fell in love with in the first place.

While there are verses dedicated to describing his successes at length, just as many articulate the breakdowns and the sacrifices. All 50 minutes could have easily recounted fantastically crazy events, but most of the songs are dedicated to the people and circumstances that comprise where Big Sean is from.

The story contained within the music of “I Decided” is a classic one, but unlike its main character, listeners are not afforded the same second chance. As opposed to spending life with new people in new places, Big Sean reminds that sometimes it is necessary to stay put and appreciate humble beginnings — maybe even with a bit of 70’s R&B and a glass of
fine wine.