I kinda can’t get over just how much Big Sean sounds like Drake. His flow and cadences sound like Drake – check out this verse from lead single “Bounce Back” (which is probably the best song on the album). The first time I heard this song on the radio I actually thought to myself “Huh, this new Drake song is pretty good”. His voice sounds like Drake. His hooks sound like Drake. (Okay, that last one was actually Drake. It took me two full minutes to realize.) His beats and production sound like Views-era Drake (which is by far the worst Drake to imitate). He sings about the same things Drake sings about – girls he wishes he could have another chance with (“Left and now you back inside my life / It’s gon’ take more than that to set it right, though”), his mom (“Mamma you too good for them men / Even dad, you too good for him”) and feeling like he is the savior his city needs to put it on the map (“When the whole town on their feet / And they all just waiting on you to speak / That’s when you realize that this is bigger than me”). Let’s let alone the fact that Danny Brown released an amazing song about Detroit less than six months ago and is a top 3 rapper in the game.
Aside from sounding like a watered down Views and lacking in a single ounce of originality, I Decided is an unoffensive listen. Only one these songs really sucks (more on that later), and the aforementioned Bounce Back, along with the opener”Light”, which features a decent Jeremih spot, are actually pretty good cuts. Sean digs into his family’s past, citing his father’s upbringing in conservative Louisiana, and also settles into some quick, double time flows that Drake doesn’t ever really touch. But things take a turn for the worse on the fourth-sequenced “No Favors”. Not only is this track wayyy too long (5.5 minutes), but it also features an Eminem verse that I guess was intending to unite two Detroit rappers but fails so hard it completely ruins any momentum the album had going. Eminem is as deft and visceral as ever, but fifteen years after his heyday, taking aim at female celebrities (“I’m pissing on Fergie!”) sounds more misogynistic than it did then and comes across as desperate and awkward. The shot at Trump sounds like Eminem is just dying to insert himself into the rappers vs. Trump war, and his voice and flow are completely out of place amidst Seans’ dark, silky, minimalist Drake (ahem, Noah Shebib) production.
From there, the album really never gets back on its feet. The songs start to sound similar and by the halfway point it seems like Sean has pretty much run out of ideas. There’s a decently fun dance track about making “Moves”, there’s the ‘sexy’ (and boring) “Same Time, Pt. 1”, the bitter (but hardly personal) post-breakup “Owe Me”, and “Voices in My Head / Stick to the Plan”, which starts with the chillest, lowest-energy verse on the record before suddenly shifting into a trap song with the most obnoxious hooks I’ve heard all year (“Stick to the plannnn! Stick to the plannnn! STICK TO THE PLANNNN!”). The song does sort of redeem itself at the very end with some incredibly quick flow that’s actually really impressive and plays into the theme of voices in Sean’s head giving him contradictory advice.
I’ll throw some points out for sequencing the last four songs as the “important subjects” tracks, with Sean going out feeling moral and righteous after singing about church, how much he loves his mother, how blessed he’s been to make it in rap, and how important his city is to him. But all of these sound like Chance with no instrumentation or energy, Kanye with no personality, or Drake, and so beyond the thematic link, they do little to impress.
I Decided isn’t really a bad album, it’s just incredibly boring and unoriginal. “Bounce Back” sounds like the song that is big on the radio for 2 weeks before being relegated to obscurity, and nothing else here is memorable or interesting. I get that comparing Big Sean to Drake is kind of a cheap shot and certainly an unoriginal thought in and of itself, but their music is beyond similar – it sounds like a ripoff. Listen to this album and tell me otherwise. What is Sean saying that any other ‘lyrical’ rapper isn’t? Where are the bangers? Where are the features (that don’t make me wanna throw up)? Even when Sean is having fun, he still gives off the impression that the very idea of enjoying the act of rapping is completely futile. I don’t really get why Big Sean is on the radar. There’s nothing to see here.