Why Hip Hop Needs Big Sean
With singles like "Bounce Back," "No More Interviews," and "No Favors," Big Sean proves why Hip Hop needs him with latest album
No matter where you fall on the Hip Hop totem pole—whether you’re Nouveau Hip Hop and like Migos, Lil Uzi Vert and think Lil Yatchy is the best thing for Hip Hop since Soulja Boy or an Aged Historians that still talks about the good ol’ days when Big Daddy Kane would rap, drop knowledge, and steal your girl with one pelvic thrust—you've heard a Big Sean verse and may have even heard his name come up when talking about some of the best artists out at the time. Whether serving as a feature on your favorite artist's song to sophisticated, witty verses on his label's compilation album, Big Sean’s gift can’t be denied: he continues to prove he can deliver, and deliver, time after time while maintaining consistency within a climate of ever-changing sounds and indecisive cheerleaders on the sideline.
Me, as someone who’s HUGE on lyricism, word play, metaphors, punch lines, etc., I’m always looking for a certain level of emceeing. My definition, an emcee can illustrate a story with the might of his pen and strengthen of his words. An emcee can make you feel an array emotions: they can be there for you when you're down and out or when it's time to celebrate accomplishments and relish in the beauty of life. An emcee is an expert, one who has studied the game and has leveled up from student to master by putting in time, effort, and tireless times of getting it wrong before getting it right. Along the list of emcees I think of with this definition are Jay Z, Eminem, Fabolous, Lloyd Banks, Kendrick Lamar, J.Cole, Logic—did I say Fabolous and Lloyd Banks already—and many others that prove they’re some of the best that have ever done it. Big Sean has been a on my limited, exclusive list and continues to prove he deserves to be placed among these names with each rhyme he writes and every bar he spits.
Surface-level media outlets are focused on everything but the music, which is why Sean Don isn't fully acknowledged for his contributions to the artform and why he talent gets overshadow by some of the thirsty, attention seeking "artists" consider to be his rap cohorts. Instead of praising his work, barely there journalism is focused on the current state of his love life and the current state of his love interest’s love life, and the currently state of his love interest’s former love life’s new love life: the descending spiral down the rabbit hole of personal information that is quite honestly none of anyone’s damn business ya lil bitch (in my best Big Sean voice). Sean has let us know, with his latest album I Decided and moving forward, it’s strictly about this music and craving his name on the wall of Hip Hop legends.
I Decided. The title itself makes you think. You can sit and question what Sean decided, or you can look at the title as a concept of taking charge, injecting action, and being aware of the life around you. I. The word itself is possessive and claims ownership of something. Decided. To make a conscious decision and to be aware of the present and the now. The words themselves are strong on their own, but together we get a mighty force that sums up the D-town musician's current state of mind and how he has changed since his third studio album, Dark Sky Paradise. During an interview with Tim Westwood, Sean subtly explains the concept of the album while not trying to give away too much prior to the release: an older Sean looking back at his life and talking to himself about the choices he's made in life. Hip Hop is notorious for being a "young man's" game and often frowns about vulnerability and transparency especially if it's not behind a hot beat, so for Sean to tackle such taboo subject matter with his level of talent and not disinterest listeners is beyond impressive. While the concept may not be traditional in the Hip Hop sense of injecting time travel, admiring aging exists, and focusing on the past, we’re all guilty of reaching a certain point in our lives where we look back and wish we could give advice to a younger self to make us stronger and wiser. I Decided isn't just Sean's album, it's all of our album as it's our story just told using alternative experiences and a high degree of lyricism.
Sean isn’t a stranger to talking about what he considers his shortcomings or setbacks experienced in life, though we look at him as one of the strongest members on his label and a force when it comes to the new class of Hip Hop elites working their way up to legendary status. So why does he not get his just do and recognition? Is it because the protégé to Hip Hop icon Kanye West. Could it be because one of his peers and someone I consider to be part of the same class of Hip Hop as he is creates music, is partnered up with Apple, has a working relationship with Nike, can cater to both women and men, and doesn’t take himself too seriously which is why he’s become Meme famous up there in the Meme Hall of Fame alongside Crying Michael Jordan face, Kermit the Frog, and Crying Lil Mama? Or it could be because he doesn’t use social media and media platforms as cheap gimmicks to maintain social status and visibility? Whatever it is, it’s clear it has nothing to do with his talent and skillset as an MC because he’s got that part down pack and has for awhile.
Rating the complete body of work of I Decided and his previous albums isn’t the argument at this time, but looking at his craft, his passion, and his talent, Sean has always come prepared and ready to mesmerize audiences and even his peers. Let’s not forget about his verse on Drake’s “All Me” with 2 Chainz and how a second verse by Drake magically appears on some versions of the song. Or the time when Sean jumped on Meek Mill’s “Let it Burn” with the two going back and forth on the track like Jadakiss and Styles P in the 2000s with Sean’s verses being standout. And most recently on DJ Khaled’s album Major Key, Sean joins the likes of Betty Wright and Kendrick Lamar for “Holy Key,” which has caused a notorious Hip Hop debate of who bodied who K.Dot verses Sean Don. Even Meek Mill's "B-Boy" with Sean and A$AP Ferg received the Audimair of Sean verse though the song didn't reach its full potential among the masses.
Stepping back into the present, since that's a common theme of I Decided, Sean is still delivering the flows, charism, and skill we've seen him display. Looking at "No Favors," which is one of my favorites from the album, we see two lyrical samurais spar on the track produced by Wundagurl and FrancisGotHeat. If you can get a verse from Eminem, then you’ve got to be a a force to be reckoned with in Hip Hop. To have Marshall Mathers hop on your song and give you a classic-Eminem style verse full of intricate words, violence, and subject matters to make any feel uncomfortable, you’ve hit the jackpot. While commercial Eminem is huge and people love him, classic Eminem is what makes the Hip Hop community include him in conversations about who’s the top five dead or alive.
Even "Moves," which is produced by 808 Mafia gives us Sean, a lyrical mastermind who's been preparing for this moment for years but still shows he has the stamina to keep going, with a flow and beat catchy enough to blend in with the sound of today but still stand a part from the pack with true lyricism. Perfect example of medicine in the candy, something Sean is beginning to become more comfortable with songs like Bounce Back, Blessings, and any song part of his discography.
I Decided doesn't rate as my favorite Big Sean project, and I won't say I'm in love with all the songs. But I can say Big Sean is just getting started and isn't going anywhere anytime soon: get used to his name being brought up in more conversations and be prepared to be amazed.