Big Sean on Detroit, dating Naya Rivera and dealing with Kendrick Lamar


Story by Stereo Williams

Photography by Phoenix White of Emkron Studios for Steed Media Service

Big Sean is the face of G.O.O.D. Music.

With Kid Cudi gone and veteran label stars like Common, Q-Tip and Pusha T still months away from releasing official debuts from the label, the cocky rapper from Detroit is the artist most entrusted with carrying the mantle for Kanye West’s label. When Sean released his official studio debut, Finally Famous, two years ago, G.O.O.D. was in a very different place. Sean was slightly behind Cudi in G.O.O.D.’s pecking order, and his mentor West had just released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, one of the most acclaimed albums of his storied career. Now, with the release of Hall of Fame, Sean’s status has risen. And as the audacious album title suggests, so has his approach.

“I just think people have seen me grow, at least from a [lyrical ]standpoint, from the first album to now,” Sean explains.

But he also acknowledges that he’s changed his perspective since 2011. Lounging at the Def Jam offices in Santa Monica, Calif., the kid from the Motor City feels that his music has changed mostly because his spirit has changed.

“One of my homies [said] ‘You’re a spiritual dude, you be [sic]into meditating and manifesting what you want,’” he shares. “You go through different situations from the perspective of trying to get on and be known and just trying to make money. Then you start [to realize goals] and things change. It’s something to get used to and sometimes you’ve got to learn the hard way. I feel like through it all, I remained the same person. I haven’t changed — I’m still a good-hearted person. I feel like I’ve definitely become a man. I’ve had some fallouts with good friends and rekindled those relationships by just understanding more [and] being more of a selfless person; as opposed to always [having] tunnel vision and being one way. I’m not perfect, I’m still learning. Adjusting to it is a part of life. Adjusting is life in general — figuring it out.

“I went from being in my mom’s house in the ’hood off of 6 Mile in Detroit, to buying my mom a new house and buying myself a house and making my goals unfold in front of me. I wanted to make sure that I let people know that the information that my mom gave me [I could] pass on to my fans or people that like my music; hopefully that can help them in their worlds and whatever they got going on and help them succeed.”

His desire to empower and inspire those kids in his hometown that are where he was a short while ago is a major part of Sean’s motivation. Because Detroit is facing tough times, the 25-year-old believes it’s his duty to be a mouthpiece for his city.

“I’m the only young black male, really, from Detroit that has a platform to be heard,” Sean says. “It’s not the highest platform, but it’s definitely a platform. I made sure that I included facts that people may not know about Detroit [on my album]; how we’re 15 billion in debt. In [the song] ‘First Chain’ with me and Nas, I was talking about how [they] lessened the hours of police around the city, which is crazy. It’s just mayhem. Me being from there, I felt like I had a responsibility to be a vessel — talking about vacant blocks — not just houses, vacant blocks. I’d never seen vacant blocks. Drug addicts living in houses, raping little girls [that are] going to school. I hear about it, it happens to my friends’ little sisters. There are devastating things I included.”

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