Once you got past the door—the one blocked by security guards who treated the threshold like that of a nightclub, were equipped with no guest list despite media being invited, and used the method of nepotism as an admission process—you stepped into the dimly lit creative space that is Los Angeles' WERKARTZ and were draped in colorful neon lights that mirrored the hues seen on Big Sean's already-revealed I Decided album cover.
Classic cars and a faux tree, which also gave nod to the LP's artwork, were stationed at the end of the room where Sean—decked in an Ade Samuel-styled look of sunglasses, a logo'd merch cap, and ornate jacket—would eventually take the mic.
Introducing his fourth album, Sean said, "[This is] the first time we incorporated a narrative along to the music...We need something that has inspiration to it, something that has value....I hope you guys can take something from it."
And so it began.
After a brief intro track (supported by clouds shot from smoke machines), warm and uplifting electro keys opened the album's first official song, the Jeremih-assisted "Light," its first lyrics the ones Sean spit for Beats 1's Zane Lowe during an interview last month: "I spent my whole life tryin' to improvise / I'm not saying that shit for you to sympathize / I spent my whole life tryin' to find that light that's at the end of the tunnel / I should have realized it was inside." The chorus boasts the hashtag-ready mantra, "Nigga, they can't fuck with the light!"
After lead single "Bounce Back," Sean prefaced the Eminem-featured "No Favors" with a plea to the audience to not do what they all probably planned to: leak clips of the listening party to social media. And he made the request for good reason; the track features the two Detroit reppers and rappers alternating fast flows over a panicked and pingy piano.
The melodic "Jump Out the Window" preceded the welcomed playfulness of "Moves," now sounding entirely too short in the midst of the album, as did "Same Time Pt. 1," on which Sean harmonizes with his real-life girlfriend Jhene Aiko in the same way that made their TWENTY88 collaboration so popular. And the story-telling on the orchestral "Sunday Morning Jetpack" perfectly countered the gloomy "Halfway Off the Balcony."
On I Decided, Sean sounds more introspective than ever, diving into detail about losses (both literal and figurative), second chances, sources of motivation, and success (and its pitfalls). It's a concept album that follows Sean as he addresses an older self, but don't worry, before he ages out entirely, Sean reminds us that he still knows how to make a single—"Inspire Me" sure sounds like one, the beloved Migos makes an appearance on the organ-backed "Sacrifices" where Sean straight shows off, and closer "Bigger Than Me" is a saved-the-best-for-last heavy-hitter that he completely snaps on.
I Decided drops Friday, February 3.