If you haven't already started talking about Big Sean separately from Kanye West, this is about the time to start. And not to say that West hasn't been an inspiration, mentor and formative figure in Sean's rise to stardom. It's just that, well, sometimes Robin has to step out of Batman's shadow.
"It's been a real big year for me," says Sean Anderson (obviously, aka, Big Sean), "putting together The Detroit [mixtape], putting out the new album. It's a real exciting time."
A "real big year" is a slight understatement. Riding the success of Finally Famous, his debut studio album that released in 2011, he was able to really work to get his name out there even harder. Three singles from the release went on to hit the big time – "My Last", "Marvin & Chardonnay" and "Dance (A$$)". Aside from those successes, and not to sit back idly and let his stardom fade, Sean hit the ground running again – working on more mixtapes and making moves towards his next album, still slated to be released before the end of the year, entitled Hall of Fame.
For those not aware of the current power and influence of the mixtape phenomenon, it's one of the most brilliant and fan-friendly way of bridging the time between proper studio releases for an artists. Although primarily used in the hip-hop and rap genres, this is a tool that keeps rabid fans at bay while the artist is able to work on music and stay relevant at the same time. And Sean is one of those musicians and artists who is adept at using the mixtape to keep his fans happy, keep his skills sharp and connect the dots of creativity that exist between one release and the next.
His influences, besides being Detroit-centric, are also very telling of his talent and aspirations. "I've been listening a lot to my peers," says Sean. "I love Kendrick's new album – Kendrick Lamar. But I'm also listening to a lot of old stuff. I hear a lot of Marvin Gaye, Tammy Terrell, old Michael Jackson."
Speaking of his contemporaries, however, September of this year found Kanye West releasing – under his GOOD Music label – a compilation entitled Cruel Summer. A who's-who of legendary artists (Kanye himself, R. Kelly, Jay-Z, 2 Chainz, Common, several members of Wu-Tang, John Legend, Kid Cudi and more), the album also featured Big Sean. His track, "Mercy", was one of the standouts on the release, and found him alongside West again – plus Pusha T and 2 Chainz. Holding his own with industry vets and impressive talent on the track, this was yet again proof that Sean has indeed stepped beyond the "coming into his own" status. "It was tight – something that was a monumental point for everyone that worked on it for their career," says Sean. "I got to work with Jay-Z on it – definitely knocked that off my bucket list!"
From a global standpoint, Big Sean is a star. From the perspective of those of us living in his hometown of the Motor City and appreciating his immense talent and ever-present commitment to Detroit, we applaud a little harder.
"Detroit is a place that's a real hard place to make it from," says Sean. "One of the things the city gave me is the hunger. Just the state of mind it's put me in. You look at guys like Eminem and Royce – a lot of people don't get a chance to make if from there. Our city is always distinctive – Detroit always knows how to capture a unique sound."
As if the pride of a Detroiter wasn't a noticeable thing for most folks, it is truly something that Sean exudes. Even to the point of incorporating the city into his style of dress, you're not likely to find many modern artists as committed to repping their city as he is. "I have pride in my city," he says, "pride in being from that legendary place. I don't want to short-change anything there."
The other thing worth noting is that, although Big Sean is a fantastic and dynamic performer in his own right, he's made some pretty talented and popular friends along the way. And considering his upcoming show, on 12/1 at the Palace of Auburn Hills, is considered a "Big Sean and friends" show, you're likely to catch a few impressive acts in addition to the man from Detroit himself. Plan accordingly. | RDW
Big Sean • 12/1, 7:30 p.m. • Palace of Auburn Hills • 6 Championship Dr., Auburn Hills • 248.377.0100 • palacenet.com • $24.50-$39.50