Though Big Sean may not be big physically, the amount of hunger and determination he boasts sure fits the name. A 17-year-old Sean rapped for Kanye West at a local radio station in his native city of Detroit. With plans of attending Michigan State University, his path quickly changed after being offered a deal personally by Mr. West with G.O.O.D Music. Though he was signed back in 2007, and was then added to Def Jam’s lineup, Sean has become increasingly more popular within the last year and a half. With his two mixtapes Finally Famous and U Know Big Sean , he has started to win over Rap fans with his punch lines and unique style.
After being a part of XXL’s “Freshman 10” back in March, Sean has been mastering his craft, and creating a debut album with some of the most prominent names in the game. With the release of his third mixtape Finally Famous Volume 3, his debut album Finally Famous, and new music videos all on the horizon, it seems like Big Sean will not get anything but bigger.
The Pressure Of Working With Kanye And G.O.O.D Music: At first I was always feeling pressure, you know, being on a label with Common, John Legend, and all these other great artists. It’s a roster full of great artists. You know [Kid] Cudi, GLC…the list goes on and on. I definitely would always feel pressure, but then you got to remember that you are there for a reason. I always got to remember that I am just as good as they are, in [the] sense of why I am on the label. You just always got to remember that. I feel like Kanye [West] has definitely molded me artistically and taught me a lot of things. Before he signed me, he took me under his wing just to show me how to make an album. He taught me a lot of different methods; he taught me not to write my lyrics down, just premeditate them. So I don’t write none of my raps, I just think them. The list goes on and on, on all the things he’s taught me. You definitely feel the pressure, but a little pressure’s good.
Off The Top Of The Dome: It took me a long time to really grasp [freestyling], about a year. Once you get a hang of it, it’s way easier then writing your stuff down. If you forget it, it means it wasn’t worth remembering. You come up with it, and sometimes you can lay a reference of how you want stuff to sound and just fill it in with words. That’s kind of the method I’ve been doing lately.
The History: I got a chance to freestyle for [Kanye West] as he was walking out of the radio station in Detroit. I had a good relationship with the radio station, and that’s how I was able to get to meet him for a split second. I got a chance to rap for him and he wasn’t trying to hear it at first because he was in a hurry; he was there promoting his album. I finally convinced him to let me rap for him, I was like, “Please, you are my like hero.” He was like, “Aight, you can spit a 16 [bars] while we walking out the station.” I ended up spitting for like 10 minutes straight… like soon as I started rapping, he really started listening. And then he took my CD. I was still in high school, I was a senior at the time, and that was around the time frame when I got the chance to rap for him, I was going on 18. I met with other people at G.O.O.D Music. At the time, I was in a group and they wanted to sign the group to G.O.O.D Music, and right when we were graduating, they told us, “We want to sign y’all to G.O.O.D music.” I had already knew that the distribution at G.O.O.D was kind of shaky because they were getting out of distribution with Columbia Records, so I didn’t expect to go through anytime soon. So I was on my way to Michigan State University, and I had damn near a full ride, and then I got the call from Kanye, that was the first time he called me personally, and was like “Yo, I want to sign you to G.O.O.D Music.” I told him that I was thinking about going to school, and he wasn’t trying to block me from going to school or nothing, but he said, “I just want to let you know the deal is open. You can either go to school, or you could focus on your music. Or you could try and do both, but if you probably do both, you may focus on one more than the other.” I decided to focus on the music, and that was also around the time when they decided to just sign me as a solo act and not with my group.
The Group Today: It was just me and my homie Pat Piff. So they just wanted to sign me, and that was a real crazy time. My homie Pat Piff, who I use to be in a group with, he was the person who really introduced me to Rap, made me fall in love with the art form of Rap. He introduced me to [the music of] Jay-Z, old Wu-Tang [Clan], and just a lot of the things that really got me into really wanting to spit. I always use to try and catch up to him, and be as good as him. That was the first time anybody ever preferred me over him. It was kind of a bittersweet thing, but we realized that if one of us gets on, it just makes it that much easier for the other one to get on. I ended up signing to G.O.O.D Music and then ended up signing to Def Jam later on. Now, I am about to release this album this fall, my debut album I’ve been working so hard on. I really think it’s going to shock the world. Hopefully people can look at it as a soundtrack to their life.
Friction Between Friends: We were still in high school, and our manager at the time, her name is Carla, she called us after school one day on three-way and was like, “Man I got some crazy news. You know G.O.O.D Music finally got back to us and said they want to do the deal, but the only thing is they think Sean will be a better solo artist as opposed to a group.” And you know it was a real big shock, and Pat was on the phone and he was real quiet. The next day we went to school, and he didn’t say one word I don’t think the whole day. He didn’t talk to nobody. It looked like his soul left his body. Me and him had a long talk the next day later on. It was an emotional talk because you feel like you don’t want to break nothing up, you don’t want to lose no relationships, you don’t want to do anything like that so…but like I said we both came to the agreement that if one of us gets on, it just makes it that much easier for the other one to get on. If they were to say that wanted to sign him, I would have felt the same way like man, it’s just easier for you to get me on. But me and him are still cool, we are still best friends, and still make music and stuff.
Remember What You Spit?: Hell nah. I know now it was wack, because it was years ago and I’ve gotten so much better since then. I don’t know if the rap he thought was actually super good, or if he just saw the potential in the raps. I really don’t remember them, but if I did, I would spit ‘em for you.
Collab Album With Mike Posner: Yeah, we have a ton of stuff we are working on. He was my friend before anything; before any record deals, before any popularity. We used to be in his basement making songs all the time. We made “Smoke N Drive,” “Cooler Than Me,” “Who Knows”, we made all of that in his basement. Me and him have talked like, “Should we do a mixtape together, maybe even an album”. We both are dropping our solo albums this year. So we could be making a Big Sean/Mike Posner album…soon…it’s still all in the works, and I don’t want to give away any surprises. But we are definitely are working on something like that.
Finally Famous: The concept of Finally Famous is like an everyday lifestyle. When you're famous, it’s because you are being recognized for doing something well. We put “finally” in front of it to symbolize like man, we’ve been doing this, we’ve been working for this, grinding for this, and we never want to forget about that. You could be doing anything and can be finally famous; you can be in law school, getting good grades, getting recognized for them, and if you are getting recognized for them and you grinding for that, then you finally famous. For me, I feel like I’ve been grinding that rap, and finally getting recognized for it, so I’m finally famous. So it’s not just like, “Oh the nigga started rappin’ and he got on and now he finally famous.” It has a deeper meaning, and I wanted to convey that message throughout my whole album. There are songs on my album that you can feel the hunger; I touch on different subjects like from being broke, to getting on, to falling in love, to getting into it with your girl, and just a whole bunch of different subjects. Coming from Detroit, you see and are exposed to a lot of violence and things like that so I touch on that a little bit, and everything in between. I just can’t wait for people to hear it and to hear the diversity. That’s what I mean when I say I want this to be the soundtrack for people’s lives. I am touching on relationship issues, I am touching on domestic violence, I am touching on real shit that people go through; being broke, being down to your last dollar, I try to embody those feelings in these songs. That’s the whole meaning of Finally Famous the name.
Room For Improvement: The reason I was so mad about the leaks on my album was because they're not really the songs on my album. For instance the song “Made” featuring Drake that leaked out, that wasn’t even the full version of the song, as far as the beat; it’s completely different, way better, it’s not as empty, the chorus sounds way better. The verses were different, but I don’t if I’m going to just leave them the same now, because sometimes when people hear something they are accustomed to that version of it from a lyrical standpoint. The thing that most pisses me off about leaks, is the factor of surprise. The surprise is not there. Everyone knows I got a song with Drake, everyone knows I got a song with Mr. Hudson called “Way Out.” Those versions were super old ass versions, man, from over a year ago. I’ve redone them and done a whole bunch of new stuff. It just sucks that people have to hear it so prematurely because the songs sound so much better now, and I just can’t wait for people to hear it really. I feel like if people are connected to you as an artist, and love your music, they will buy your album regardless if it leaks two weeks before. And the people who download, illegally download it, those are the people who wouldn’t buy it anyway - I feel like. Those are the people who just wanted to hear it and listen to it, and were going to bootleg it anyway. The record industry definitely needs to find a way to learn to work with the Internet, as opposed to looking at it as this downfall of records sales. There’s something that needs to be done, I don’t know what. An idea maybe is to release the digital downloads first, before actual physical copies, there’s just something that has to be done. Something the industry needs to look into for real.
Finally Famous Volume 3: I’m going to definitely do something for the fans. Just to turn it up more, turn the buzz up more. I’ve really been holding out on this mixtape. I’m going to give it to the streets; me and Don Cannon going to do it. It’s really going to be big; we are going to do tons of viral videos, tons of just stuff. I’m going to start touching the people more, and start getting out there more, get these songs on the radio. Everything is going to be good, and the mixtape is definitely coming before the album.
@Big_Sean: Twitter is definitely a blessing, that and Facebook. Especially Twitter because you can have unlimited followers, and followers keep going up everyday. I feel like it’s a way to communicate with people who want to keep in touch with you, and it’s an opportunity to reach out to….I don’t like to call people fans, I like to call them believers, because they go over and beyond for me sometimes. Just being able to do sold out shows all over the country and stuff like that without dropping a single, is unbelievable. Twitter definitely helps out a lot and I’m on there like everyday.
Rap Or…?: Man, I was in the third grade saying I wanted to be a rapper. I used to just say it because all the girls use to like Mase and Puff Daddy and shit…that was the era I came up in. I was really just doing it for that at first, but along the way I just somehow really took it super serious and just stuck with it. I always knew that’s what I wanted to be; a rapper. I didn’t know how it would happen, I just knew it would. I remember saying in like the seventh grade, “Man I’m going to be signed to Def Jam. That shit’s going to be crazy. I’m going to be signed to Jay-Z.” I always said stuff like that, and it happened similar to that. I don’t know what the hell I’d be doing. I’d be in school probably still, trying to figure out my life. Majoring in something like advertising or marketing. Definitely not having as much fun as I am now.
G.O.O.D. Artist Collaborations On Finally Famous: I don’t want to give it away though man! There’s big collabs on there; Pharrell, I don’t even know if I am using The-Dream record no more for the album. Me and No I.D. have been going in heavily these last couple weeks and came up with so many new songs for the album that bumped some many of them off. There’s a few I’m not using, but we will see what makes the final cut. Definitely a lot of collabs, but I didn’t want to overdo it. I didn’t want my album to just be like collabs on every track. I tried to get collabs that fit artistically and fit sonically to my music as opposed to just being like, “Let me get [Young] Jeezy because Jeezy’s poppin’.” One thing you’ll hear is definitely an organic flow with the features. But like you said, Pharrell is on there, Drake is on there, Kanye of course, Wale is on there, and there’s a couple other people on there, but you’ll see!
“But A Nigga So Hungry, I’m About To Eat Your Dinner:” I’ve just learned so much in this industry. You won’t believe all the lessons I’ve been through and stuff. I learned so much that I realized you got to stay hungry, you can’t wait on nobody. Labels can make all the promises in the world, but when it comes down to it, they won’t do nothing unless you’re doing something for yourself. That’s something that I’m going to take with me throughout my life, that I’ve learned from this game. That you just got to do it yourself for the most part, do what you can yourself, and the rest will follow. You definitely got to stay hungry. I’ve really taken a lot of time just perfecting this music. I was faced with the approach to just flood the market with this music all the time, but then I wanted to take the approach of just really getting my music right and then just letting everybody have it; hitting them with the mixtape, then the album right after. It just being everything I want it to be. People are going to get sick of seeing me in a little bit.
Rapping About Detroit: Up to this point, I was really trying to find myself as an artist. I only put out two mixtapes; I put out Finally Famous mixtape years ago, like two or three years ago, and then I put out U Know Big Sean a year ago, and you can see the difference in those mixtapes; artistically, progression wise. I realized I sounded like Kanye, and I was like man I can’t sound like fucking Kanye. So I started finding my own style, and had been coming into my own, and talking about subject matters that I really feel connected to. I was really just finding myself as an artist. I don’t think I talked about my upbringing in Detroit too much, and talked about the street side of shit, because I felt like that wasn’t my place. Because I’m not a thug, I shouldn’t be talking about that type of stuff, but I’m talking about it in a way that I’ve seen it. I grew up in the hood all my life, and I’ve seen a lot of crazy shit. But I’m not rapping it in a sense like I do it or like I sell crack, I sell this, but I see it. It’s more from an artistic, poetic point of view. I’m coming into my own as an artist, so it’s a blessing that my album didn’t come out before, because I honestly feel like I wasn’t ready until now.