Following 2016’s Twenty88 collaboration with Jhené Aiko, Big Sean has returned in 2017 with his fourth studio album, I Decided. With three prior albums and three tours under his belt, the Detroit native has been grinding and working hard to reach the top of the rap game for years, but has never made it. Although I Decided is easily Big Sean’s strongest and most cohesive project, he continues to fall short of greatness, plagued by poor lyricism and musical laziness.
Straight from the start of this project, it’s evident that I Decided moves in a softer and more relaxing sonic direction. Following the intro, opening track Light begins with soft electric piano chords more akin to a neo-soul album than a Big Sean project, but it ends up working. With Jeremih jumping on the hook, Light turns out surprisingly well and sees Big Sean delivering one of his strongest verses from the entire album. Many songs on I Decided go down this route of hip hop&b, with features from longtime collaborator Jhené Aiko as well as The-Dream.
Bounce Back picks up the pace and moves straight into an uptempo but lowkey trap banger. Unlike a lot of Big Sean’s rapping on this album, his performance on this track is full of energy, doing the Metro Boomin production tag justice. Big Sean works best on these powerful, fast paced trap joints like Bounce Back, Moves, and the Migos-featuring Sacrifices – on weaker tracks like Owe Me and Jump Out The Window, Sean feels uninterested in his own songwriting at the best of moments. Big Sean’s flow is lazy, and it sounds like he has little confidence in his own rapping ability.
With WondaGurl on production and Eminem providing a guest verse, No Favors sounds like the recipe for a great track, but is disappointing and lacking in something. Big Sean’s verse sees him alternating between being overambitious and sounding completely bored, whereas Eminem’s lacks energy and is far from captivating – the Detroit legend is past his prime, and this track definitely feels like Eminem joining random rhyming words together for a phoned in feature.
Production is where I Decided stays most consistent – despite shortcomings surrounding Big Sean or his featured guests, instrumentation is strong from start to finish, headlined by notable production talent like Metro Boomin, DJ Dahi, DJ Mustard, and WondaGurl. It’s a shame Sean doesn’t deliver on a lot of these tracks, especially when smoother tracks like Same Time Pt. 1 and Voices In My Head/Stick To The Plan could easily complement his lazy flow had he put more effort into other aspects of his songwriting. Closing track Bigger Than Me is a powerful, choral trap anthem, but it’s barely Big Sean that makes this track interesting but his talented production team.
Despite being unmemorable, I Decided is not a sluggish or unbearable project – you might never listen to a lot of these tracks again, but you won’t find yourself desperately skipping them on your first listen either. Often, Big Sean’s lyricism is laughable and terrible, especially on tracks like Moves or Sunday Morning Jetpack, but it’s also the kind of thing expected from pop rap artists like Drake, whose hip hop&b influences can be heard everywhere on this project. Rather than intricate lyricism or interesting flows, I Decided prefers to go down the route of poor punchlines and bad puns. Could Big Sean deliver better lyrics? Probably, but he’s not going to.
Big Sean’s fourth studio effort is just that – an effort. It’s not a terrible album by any stretch, but it’s the sort of hip hop you could put on in the background at a house party or while you’re taking a bath and it would quickly be drowned out by other things. While there are definitely some good ideas being thrown around on this album, Big Sean needs to sharpen his lyricism and build some energy and confidence if he wants to progress.