It seems pretty unreal that only 2 years separate Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise and his latest release, I Decided. “I don’t give a fuck about a radio song, I don’t care about none of that”, claimed Big Sean, speaking to Zane Lowe on Beats 1 Radio. This was a clear indication of the artist’s change in viewpoint, highlighting his new-found maturity and spiritual progression. Big Sean’s attitude today is reminiscent of J.Cole, who managed to go double platinum without a single feature or heavy marketing, something unheard of before in the industry.
It seems like this is a classic case of the: “out with the old, in with the new.” It’s refreshing to see that albums today don’t necessarily need to be stuffed with big names or shallow radio songs in order to be successful. Cole may have laid out the blueprint with 2014 Forest Hills Drive, and it’s no question that Sean has been paying attention. Big Sean has managed to stay away from the corny lines that he garnered a reputation for in the past, such as the very elementary “I ain’t even gonna lie, I got a million dollar chick with a billion dollar pussy, every time I cum, I swear to God I feel like I be rich” (“Stay Down“) that he spat on his last album, replacing it with the more witty “I realized when it comes to girls that chemistry means way more than anatomy” (“Halfway Off The Balcony”). The Chi-town native toned it down in terms of guest features on the album; surely wanting to prove that he’s able to drop a cohesive album on his own. Yes, “I Decided” does contain a couple of features. However, these exist to compliment the album, rather than just for the sake of having big names on the track listing. This seems to be the case with Dark Sky Paradise, with its scattered features from the likes of Drake, Lil Wayne, and Kanye West all in one project.
The 28-year-old rapper seems to have become much more in tune with himself, preaching some very real life lessons, incorporating elements of spirituality that weren’t often present in his previous body of work. This latest release is a cohesively strong project, gaining listeners’ attention from the very first track. “The Light,” is a strong intro that paves the way for what’s to come next.
Perhaps the most impressive track, “Voices In My Head,” features a dark Metro Boomin produced piano beat where Sean starts off by self-reflecting over making the same mistakes over and over again. It can’t get more relatable than that; we all deal with these type of issues, constantly battling the inner angel and demon present deep down in the abyss of our mind. Metro Boomin switches the beat midway, and it must be said that Sean impresses at the very end of the track; spitting in an extremely unorthodox manner. He nearly sounds demonic, in good alignment with what he’s speaking on, starting the final verse saying: “Voices in my head attacking what I’m thinking, bullet to the head might be the way to free it.” It’s always refreshing to see artists push themselves rather than keeping it safe.
This is not to say that this album was perfect. There was a time where an Eminem feature meant you were gonna be killed on a track. Remember Jay-Z?
Paying tribute to Detroit, Sean chooses Eminem to feature on his track “Favors,” In my entire life, I never thought I would prefer Big Sean on a track over Eminem, but unfortunately, that day has come. Eminem has always had these extended train of thought bars, but he seemingly just puts random words together on this one. It’s absolute nonsense. They are are borderline ‘Rhymezone.com” bars. And to top it all off, his verse was mixed horribly, making it sound like he was recording it on his Mac.
I would also like to mention that radio-friendly and filler tracks are not the same thing. A great thing about this album is that there aren’t really any filler tracks. Some might say that “Sunday Morning Jetpack” is the one, but I disagree. Sean speaks about elevating himself, and he gets personal again, reminiscing about his grandmother’s home cooked meals and his prom. He mentions the struggles that he went through, and how they made him the man that he is today. “Inspire me” is a touching track dedicated to his mother who he continues to have a great relationship with. He joins a group of popular rappers who have written a song for their mother, such as Tupac (”Dear Mama,”) Kanye (”Hey Mama,”) and Drake (”Look What You’ve Done.”) The thought behind this song is to apologize to his mother if she never realized that she is his biggest inspiration.
As previously mentioned, Big Sean comes across as much more relatable than we have seen him in the past. He has decided to stay away from the overdone/overused clichés, the cars, the money, the bitches, and the drugs. This ensures that this album will age well, standing out amongst all the other albums released by his peers as of late. This album is filled with emotion and possesses a fair amount of relatable tracks, highlighting the fact that that Sean is turning a page in life and realizing what really matters most to him. He certainly doesn’t shy away from deeply personal issues, as can be seen in the very blunt and straightforward “Owe Me,” where he put his ex on blast for being disloyal to him.
Being honest, this album will come across as a breath of fresh air to hip hop heads who always believed that this artist was capable of more. Sean seems to be inspired. And we hope it stays that way.