Big Sean‘s guide to getting a record deal: find Kanye West. Persuade him to listen to you rap. Do so for ten minutes. Sounds easy right? We talk to the rapper with big dreams as he prepares to release his second album, Hall Of Fame.
To be trusted with a verse on a Kanye/Jay-Z track is no mean feat: Beyoncé, Frank Ocean and Otis Redding (oh, and Mr Hudson) all stepped up to the plate on Watch The Throne, then soon after, Detroit’s Big Sean was the fresh first voice on ‘Clique’, their monster hip hop monument to being part of a shit-hot crew.
Big Sean doesn’t just make a token appearance on ‘Clique’ – his rap is the strongest of the lot; the line about being up for nine days and needing a spa day is delivered in some mysterious way that has it hanging permanently in the inner ear, always ready to strike. (For the record, Sean rarely takes spa days, but admits, “I like to keep a nice sweet little female around though, to help calm my nerves.”) And with Kanye also giving his G.O.O.D. Music protégé the opener on ‘Mercy’, he obviously trusts the 25-year-old rapper to make that vital initial impact. Perhaps Yeezy’s still impressed by the balls it took for Big Sean to get his attention in the first place.
“I was doing a show every Friday at a radio station for about a year,” Sean explains. “One day, Kanye was at the station. I was at the bank, cashing my cheque – telemarketing, you know how that goes, making like 150 bucks a week. Anyway, one of my friends called me and was like, ‘Yo man, you listening to the radio? ‘Ye is down at the station. If you go down there and rap for him, he’ll sign you breh.’
“I just remember thinking, ‘That sounds stupid as hell.’ I hung up on him, then I called him back and was like, ‘Nah, that’s an awesome idea.'” So Sean hot-trotted down there and asked Kanye if he could rap for him. “He was like, ‘Man, I ain’t got time.’ I’m like, ‘Man, you my hero, yo! I ride to school listening to you.’ I gave him the super guilt trip, just really making him feel bad! And he was like, ‘Alright, well you can rap as we’re walking out the station.’ He told me I had 16 bars, but I ended up rapping for ten minutes straight. He took my CD, but it took a couple of years for him to actually sign me.” Big Sean soon started making a name for himself on tracks.
with Justin Bieber, Kelly Rowland, Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown, but he’s ready to make more of a solo impression with his second album, Hall of Fame, out this summer. “With my first album, I just wanted to be known and to have a song on the radio, but on Hall of Fame, I want to inspire, I want to make songs that people will remember forever.” Big Sean is all about the big ambitions.
Of course all rappers excel in extreme braggadocio – entire tracks are made from bloated boasts – but there’s a cool confidence here that makes you believe the hype. His European tour has added to that confidence too. As well as toking on Amsterdam weed, getting greazy with London’s Nando’s and visiting cities he’d never heard of, Sean says the crazed crowds have inspired him “to do it bigger and better – it’s good I got to see that before I put the last touches to my album.” Travelling the world and seeing people’s love for his music has been a boost.
A lil’ Big Sean realised he could rap his way out of his birthplace when fellow Detroiter Eminem showed him that one of the world’s biggest artists could come from his hometown. “That was inspiring,” he says, before going on to talk about his own take on the Michigan city. “I grew up in a pretty middle class neighbourhood, but it was pretty hood. There were a lot of bad things going on, but my grandma and my mom saved up for me to go to private school, so I’d have best friends that were white, black, Jewish there, then I’d come home and have super ghetto-ass friends. It was a good balance.”
Speaking of his mom, it’s been rumoured that Big Sean hasn’t had any tattoos because she doesn’t approve. Not true. “I’m just really indecisive. If I get a tattoo, a year later I’ll be like ‘What the fuck was I thinking?’ She doesn’t like tattoos, but she doesn’t like a lot of things that I do!” By this, we gather he’s referring to his lyrics about ass quakes and lines like “I got that mad dick you know it always nut up / And it got attitude no wonder why it’s stuck up.” But like all good artists, he doesn’t worry what the family think. He’d rather speak his mind. Plus, he just bought his mum a brand new house, “so she’s happy.”
Hall of Fame is out 27th August. uknowbigsean.com
Words: Stuart Brumfitt (Follow Stuart on Twitter @stuartbrumfitt)
Styling: Jayson Hindley