Eminem casts Shadow over Big Sean’s Brilliance

big-sean-i-decided-album-cover-art

Last week, Big Sean released his hotly anticipated album I Decided. I’d been looking forward to it for months, building it up so much in my mind that when it finally dropped, it might as well have been made of solid gold.

 

However, despite seemingly setting myself up for a fall, upon listening to it the whole way through, it turned out to be even better than I expected. I’d even go so far as to say it is emotionally, thematically and lyrically, the most complete album I’ve ever heard – and that’s coming from a Kanye West and Drake obsessive! The way the album is presented really moved me, with frequent interludes from an elderly man, supposedly an older version of Big Sean, reflecting on all the opportunities he didn’t take in life, warning his younger self not to make the same mistakes he did.

 

Initially, when I heard this was going to be the main concept for the album, I must admit I had fears of it coming across as cheesy and overly profound. But in practice, it worked perfectly. The story that runs parallel to the old man’s musings, told via conversations between Big Sean and his friends, shows the rapper repeatedly putting off calls from his mother.

 

After negotiating through the raw emotions of ‘Voices in my head/Stick to the Plan’ and ‘Sunday Morning Jetpack’, we hear the phone ring again. This time, he picks up. Although it sounds trite saying it now, in the context of the album, after what you have heard up to this point, the moment is heartrending, and is a mark of how well constructed the piece is. While I am always sceptical of artists talking about their albums as a chronological body, and not merely a collection of isolated tracks, with I Decided. it genuinely feels like you are being taken on a journey, as though each song is the turning of a page in a spellbinding novel.

 

The maturity and perceptiveness Sean displays is, I would argue, streaks ahead of any other rapper currently on the scene. He claims to have meditated before each recording session, and the album definitely has a strong spiritual overtone, with a deeply philosophical and thought-provoking premise about reincarnation at its heart.

 

I Decided. is almost perfect.

Almost.

 

There’s just one thing which stains the whole experience for me, and that’s Eminem’s guest verse. On a piece that’s so heavily structured around themes of redemption, progression and self-improvement, the 44-year-old father’s angry, vindictive rap, seemingly condoning sexual violence and misogyny, tarnishes the whole album. Perhaps Sean felt as though a feature from the Detroit megastar would add sparkle, but instead it casts a miserable shadow on an otherwise iridescent masterpiece.

 

Lets hope it doesn’t rub too much of I Decided.’s gloss off – Big Sean deserves to shine.

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