There are many different opinions on Big Sean from a variety of hip-hop fans, which makes it hard to gauge where he stands in the hierarchy of the top dogs in the game.

Since his 2010 remix of Gucci Mane's "Lemonade" and his Finally Famous mixtape series, which propelled him into the heralded 2010 XXL Freshman Class, Sean Don's career has been on a roller coaster ride.

For years, the Detroit native just didn't connect with fans in comparison to his peers. J. Cole gained a rabid fan base because of his strong mixtapes and a Jay Z cosign. His legion of supporters follow him to hell and back and will fork over large amounts of money to support him (see his albums sales for For Your Eyes Only, which became his fourth No. 1 album in a row). Wiz Khalifa ushered in a new generation of devoted weed heads. Meek Mill and Wale put Philadelphia and Washington D.C. respectively back on the map in hip-hop and Drake became one of the biggest artists on the planet.

It's not to say Big Sean didn't have any success like those guys. He became Kanye West's protégé and signed to G.O.O.D. Music. His penchant to make hit records was evident very early. From "My Last" to "Beware," the Def Jam signee has collected a number of multi-platinum plaques for his pen work. But for his albums, things never correlate to insane sales numbers. His 2010 debut album, Finally Famous, sold 87,000 in its first week of release while his sophomore LP, 2013's Hall of Fame, slipped a bit, selling 72,000 in first week. Critics felt that Sean's monotone delivery was boring and there was no depth to his albums. There's old message boards dedicated to why Sean wasn't good.

All that noise went to hell in 2015, when he released Dark Sky Paradise. That album was not only one of the best bodies of work to come out that year, it also saw Big Sean take his game to another level. Sean Don could always rap (just look at his catalog), but during this period, he sounded different. There weren't those obvious punchlines, but instead a flexibility to his delivery and he was introspective; Big Sean didn't just bust through the glass ceiling, he put himself among the best of the best. Dark Sky Paradise became his first platinum-selling album. Every single released on the album charted on the Billboard Hot 100, with the highest being "I Don't Fuck With You," which peaked at No. 11.

XXL interviewed Big Sean for our Spring 2016 cover and he talked about his long road to success. “It’s been a come-up for me,” he said. “It’s been gradual. It hasn’t been an instant success. Something I really bust my ass for [or] really worked hard for.”

Now for his upcoming fourth album, I Decided., which drops this Friday (Feb. 3), Big Sean finds himself in a new place: as one of the top artists in hip-hop right now. The expectations are bigger and fans — plus haters — are looking to see what he's going to do next. Will he deliver or was Dark Sky Paradise just a fluke?

Seventy two hours before I Decided. hits shelves, Big Sean held a private listening party Tuesday night (Jan. 31) at The Garage in New York City. Standing in front of a tree —the amazing decor felt like an acid trip in Central Park— Sean rapped the lyrics while his 14-track LP was in rotation. The album sounded great on a first listen, with plenty of singles and deep cuts to satisfy fans. The features, which include Jhene Aiko, a choir from Flint, Mich. called the Flint Chozen Choir, Starrah, Jeremih and The-Dream, were effective. Plus Big Sean finally got that coveted Eminem verse.

While drinking multiple cups of Dusse, XXL took some notes on what’s to come on Big Sean’s I Decided. LP. Here’s what you need to know about the album. Emmanuel C.M.

  • I Decided. Is Big Sean's Most Meaningful Album

    Big Sean holds his upcoming album, I Decided., close to his heart. Before playing the project for the group in the room, he said the album is his most important work to date.

  • Eminem Snaps on "No Favors"

    Eminem fans will love "No Favors," off I Decided. He sounds like pre-Relapse Em and goes off. The verse is very long and worth listening to on repeat. Fans on message boards even claim he's calling President Trump a "bitch" on the record.

  • I Decided. Is From the Perspective of an Older Version of Big Sean

    I Decided. is a concept album from the standpoint of an older version of Big Sean talking to the current Big Sean about the mistakes the former made in life and how to avoid them. The album cover points to the concept, featuring a current Sean Don on the left and future Big Sean on the right.

    The G.O.O.D. Music artist previously touched on the album concept about the idea of rebirth.

    “I [told my friend], ‘Sometimes I feel like I was an old man and didn’t succeed in life and asked for a second chance, and this is my second chance.'" Sean shared. "He was like, ‘Make that the album.’ People who can be inspired by it, that’s who I’m doing it for. Everybody else can fuck off or whatever."


  • There Are a Wealth of Skits

    Big Sean pointed out multiple times throughout the listening session that the skits are important. Nevertheless, playing the album in a huge garage-like event space isn't keen to a listener's experience. However, the snippets that were audible follow the album concept with Sean in conversation with his older self. Definitely pay attention when the album drops to get the full experience.

  • "Bigger Than Me" Sounds Fantastic

    One of the early standout songs on I Decided. is "Bigger Than Me" featuring Flint Chozen Choir and Starrah. It's melodic and a great outro. The fact that Sean has Flint Chozen Choir is amazing. Sean raised about $100,000 for the people of Flint, Mich., who are still being affected by the city's ongoing water crisis. Also, Starrah is a star in the making. She's hip-hop's trap angel.


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