I Decided. (Review)

In the opening track of Big Sean’s album I Decided., an elder version of the rapper is heard speaking to God, recounting his regrets, and failures as a man. “This ain’t what I’m supposed to be doing in my life, man”, the elder Sean declares in a raspy and aged voice.People are then heard behind him he enters traffic, and evidently kills himself.

The album cover pays tribute to this seemingly deadly duality. The Sean on the right is the elder one who seemingly never made it big as a rapper, and lives a life filled with regret. The one on the left is the current Sean, filled with life (and angst). I Decided. is the ground on which they meet.

Big Sean’s fourth studio album is a melancholy ode to the monuments that brought him to where he is right now in his life. In this 50 minute reflection, Sean quips about his issues with women, his relationship with his mother and other important family members, and his ever-present fear of death and failure.

Rapping over a repurposing of Drake’s “Going in for Life”, instrumental, Big Sean declares “so many people wanna see my insides outside…”. On I Decided. Sean’s profound love and crippling fear for his city are on full display. Lines later, he raps “Whole city got my back on some photo bomb shit”.

On “No Favors”, Sean makes brash declarations, yet offers painful reflections. The D to Flint, kids who get sick with lead / Others get hit with the lead / From where they need a handout. Lines later, he says “When my grandma died, I realized I got an angel /
 Show me everything’s a blessing dependin’ on the angles
”.

Evidently, Sean’s aged conscious remains inescapable. On “Halfway Off the Balcony”, it comes back. While Sean dodges calls from his mother, the paternalistic voice can be heard, imploring “I think you should answer…”. In “Voices in My Head” menacing voices can be heard screaming, “You always do the same shit!” and “Stick to the plan!”

However, the masterpiece of this album is “Sunday Morning Jetpack”. Over a mellow and entrancing beat, Sean recalls memories from his childhood. He speaks of his high school prom, and his grandmothers home cooked meals. Yet, it’s evident that he’s still haunted by the same anxieties. “Lately I’ve been talking to ghosts / Didn’t learn faith in school but that’s what I’m testing the most”. On this track, it’s evident that Sean can’t and won’t forget who or what made him.

The album boasts few features. On No Favors, Big Sean joins forces with another battle-tested Detroit local, Eminem. On Light, Jeremih offers vocals, and on Sacrifices, Migos offer tempo. Otherwise, it’s a solo mission, over frosty beats produced largely by Amaire Johnson. Metro Boomin’ helped produced a few of the tracks on the album.

On I Decided. Sean’s demons are out to play. However, armed with valuable insight and self knowledge, he makes out alright. Big Sean’s fourth studio album is a masterful journey into self.

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