Fighter: Big Sean
Trainer (Gym): Big Sean, Kanye West (G.O.O.D Music, Def Jam Recordings)
Cut Men: Amaire Johnson, Metro Boomin, Key Wane, Hitmaka, Key Wane, Wondagurl, Fuse, Tre Pounds, DJ Mustard, Travis Scott, DJ Khalil, DJ Dahi, Allen Ritter, Cary Singer, Detail, FrancisGotHeat, Hey DJ, Greg Rominiecki, Maximilian Jaeger, RobGotBeats, Sydney Swift, Smash David, The Track Burnaz
Weight Class: Rap Star
Notable Fire: Light, Bounce Back, Voices in my Head/Stick to the Plan, No Favors
Notable Trash: Same Time Pt 1.
Tale Of The Tape: On his fourth album, Big Sean looks to avenge his only loss and defend his place amongst his contemporaries.
Big Sean broke into the mainstream consciousness with Finally Famous in 2011 and followed it up with the acclaimed Detroit mixtape. Sean took a predictable loss with his sophomore album Hall of Fame, but bounced back with Dark Sky Paradise which contended with Drake and Future’s What a Time to Be Alive for hottest rap album of 2015, earning Sean his first #1 album.
With the early returns on I Decided still coming in the question becomes, “Where does Big Sean rank amongst rap’s elite?”
It’s widely accepted that either Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Drake or some combination of the three are wearing the crown at the moment and could one day join the rap hall of fame. But after hitting us with I Decided, Sean should be considered right along with them. During his customary press tour interview with The Breakfast Club, Charlamagne Tha God remarked that Big Sean was as good as any of the “young cats”. It sounds outlandish, but is it really?
Is it that crazy to say bar for bar, “Light” sounds like it could’ve been a track from Kendrick’s “To Pimp a Butterfly”? Or a stand alone single that J. Cole would’ve annoyingly left off an album? Sean recites on the refrain, “So when they take the fame, take the crib, take our cars/Now we gotta take the train, and hood niggas takin’ chains/Slave master take our names, 5-0 take the shot/And young souls take the blame, man but they can’t take away the light.”
While Big Sean is much more radio friendly than Kendrick or Cole (no judgement by the way), he doesn’t have nearly the commercial reach of Drake, but no one in rap does. Sean’s hits pale in comparison to Drake’s laundry list, as does Sean’s level of “simp-osity”. On I Decided Sean Don offers up more than enough content for the radio or the club, especially with “Moves”, wherein the GOOD Music protégé reminds everyone of his own signature rapid fire flow. The Metro Boomin produced lead single “Bounce Back” went gold, and the controversy around Eminem’s guest verse on “No Favors” didn’t distract from the fact that did his work on his verse:
“Now it’s blue blood in my veins so you know where I came for/Born in a world going where they told me I can’t go/In my lane, though, I’m in the same boat as Usain Bolt/Get ahead by any means so the head’s what I aim for/When my grandma died, I realized I got an angel/Show me everything’s a blessing depending on the angles.”
Unafraid of going bar for bar with The Fire Marshall, Sean stepped it up another level moments later:
“How many hot verses before you bitches start acknowledging/The pictures we been painting, my nigga/Connected to a higher power, (How I know?), cuz I don’t write this shit, I think it my nigga/Look, all I ever did was beat the odds/Cuz when you try to get even, it just don’t even out/Never stoppin like we hypnotized, watch what we visualize/On the rise, be the GOAT while we alive/When we die, we gon be the gods”
This LP is not without its holes and lags in the middle, as is often the case with many albums. “Same Time Pt. 1”, for example, just doesn’t resonate.
Sidebar: In respect to transparency, I did not like the Twenty88 album. I am not a fan of Jhene Aiko’s music but wish her and Big Sean all the success in the world for their personal and professional endeavors.
“Owe Me” is one of the weaker songs, yet maintains an interesting place as it relates to the overall concept of the album centering around the “old” Sean communicating with the current day or “young” Sean. The Detroit emcee explained it to the unfunny Jimmy Fallon, “The story of the album is: Imagine you went through life and you made all the wrong decisions your whole life…You get to the end of your life and you’re at a moment where it’s like, ‘God, I did everything wrong. I didn’t work it out with the love of my life. I messed it up with my parents. I’m not doing the job I was sent here to do on Earth.’ So the album is basically a chance of like having that wisdom of an old man while you’re young and going through life and figuring it out.”
Big Sean shows a lot of that “old man wisdom” throughout the last third of this record. He talks of what it has cost him personally to reach the heights of stardom on “Sacrifices”, and brings Migos a bit out of their lane to broach a topic with a bit more “substance” than one might expect from Quavo, Offset and Takeoff. “Halfway Off The Balcony” gets reflective regarding Sean’s career in the rap game and the success he’s earned, while trying to remain level-headed and hungry. This train of thought continues and amplifies on the hot buy one get one track, “Voices In My Head/Stick To The Plan”. On the latter portion Sean spits, “Stay focused! Don’t let these niggas see your emotions/Stick to the notion, stay in motion/Remember soon as you stand still/So will everything else you notice/Make sure all your inner actions end with actions.”
Fight Night: Winner By Unanimous Decision
The underdog spirit has served Big Sean well as he has continued to persevere through a variety of challenges since becoming a star in hip-hop. Big Sean used to seem out of place rhyming with the greats, and at times even with his own contemporaries, (Control, nuff said). It would seem though he’s decided that it’s long past time for people to understand he is one of the superstars of the game. Four albums, three wins one loss, tons of hits, authentic raps about real and light topics with a style that can be appreciated (not to mention understood) by the various groups of hip-hop fans— his work speaks for itself. Each new album has seen Big Sean grow as a man and as an artist. With continued grooming from Kanye West and now Jay Z, he’s well on his way to becoming a Rap Superstar.