Meet Big Sean
On the heels of his anticipated new CD release, the Detroit-bred rapper reflects on his life, lyrics—and longevity
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A graduate of Cass Technical High School, becoming a successful hip-hop artist was always a part of the plan. But having a full-ride scholarship to Michigan State University www.msu.edu couldn't hurt as a plan B.
"I knew what I wanted to do. I knew that there was no school for rap," he explains. "What fuels me most is seeing everything unfold right in front of me. Being able to do songs with most of the people I respected growing up. And I don't take it for granted. I am definitely a son of the city of Detroit."
You'd be hard-pressed to peg Sean's rap style. He collaborates with a bevy of musical artists, and his album reflects a piece of them all. Creating a particular distinct sound is not a big priority for Sean—who is signed to West's GOOD Music label—he is focused on being just that.
Nas, Kid Cudi, West, Lil Wayne, Miguel and techno songstress Ellie Goulding are among featured artists who help Sean pave the way to hall-of-fame status.
"I am a real spiritual dude," Sean says about the album's title. "I live like a hippie. I believe in karma and doing right by people. And one of the things that I did a while ago was write down all of my goals.
"From buying my mom a house to having a band, all these things I accomplished, to selling a million records. I took it to a deeper level by calling my next album 'Hall of Fame.' Because when it's all said and done, 10 albums later, however long and at the end of my career, I want to be in a hall of fame. Whether it's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame— hopefully by then there's a rap hall of fame. And whatever else I do that may be different from music, I want to be remembered on a hall-of-fame level. And I feel like that's stuff that people can relate to themselves."
Frequently referred to as a rap lyrical genius, Sean is a lyricist with a quick wit comparable to fellow hip-hop artist and Detroiter Eminem—only less self-destructive and with a vocal style he describes as "Detroit player" smooth.
Sean continues to release multiple mixtapes, a tool he uses to stay grounded and keep his lyrical tongue sharp.
"Whenever you record something, you can listen to it forever," he says. "And those mixtapes represent a certain point in time. If people like my mixtapes more than my albums or my albums more than my mixtapes, that's awesome.
"It's all me. It's a different process. My last mixtape, I rapped on a Barry White sample. And you can't just sample White and get it cleared for an album."
Sean is referring to "How It Feel" from his "Detroit" mixtape released in September 2012 that samples from White's "Hung Up in Your Love." The music video—although seemingly low budget—showcases a similar signature White's flashy style and splendor, with Sean in a white fur coat romancing a beauty in a hotel room. He waxes with pomp, "B.I.G. I'm the mayor ... "
But don't mistake his "Big" forename to mean big ego. It's a nickname that stuck at 12 years old to distinguish him from his older mentor, Sean Menifee, and part of his personal goal to always do things on a grand scale.
"Everything I do, I want to make a big impact. And I take pride in that name, (Big Sean). So I feel like whatever I do, I hope to bring a big presence to it. But I always come back to home. That's what it is—home. Not a place I just visit, but it's where I come home to."