» Contact Us
» Advertise With Us
» Newspaper Ads
Real life inspired Detroit rapper Big Sean's new album
On paper, Big Sean has it good.
The Detroit rapper, who splits time between homes in West Bloomfield and Los Angeles, has a deal with Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label, a pair of Top 5 albums -- both of which hit No. 1 on the Top Rap Albums chart -- eight Top 10 rap singles and guest features on songs by Drake, Justin Bieber, Chris Brown and others, as well as his girlfriend Ariana Grande and a spot on last fall's all-star "Detroit vs. Everybody."
He also has a Detroit Player line of sneakers with Adidas and an active charity, the Sean Anderson Foundation.
But as his newly released third album "Dark Sky Paradise" reveals, there were clouds amidst all of that silver lining, too.
"The last year and a half, man, I've just been going through so many things, so many ups and downs," says the 26-year-old MC, who was born Sean Michael Anderson in Santa Monica, Calif., and moved to Detroit when he was three months old. He was raised on the west side by his mother and grandmother, graduated with high honors from Cass Technical High School and hooked up with West after giving the rapper a mixtape during a visit to WHTD-FM, one of Big Sean's early supporters.
With "Dark Sky Paradise," Big Sean "felt like, creatively, I was just trying to figure things out. I was in and out of relationships, not just with girls but with friends, and this album was just a time capsule for all these issues. It was definitely a therapeutic album for me.
"Some of them aren't about what I was going through, but they were therapeutic just in terms of stress release. It just felt good working on something that I had a clear vision for."
And he's confident that what he has to say will resonate with those hearing the album.
"I've learned that people can feel your pain," he says. "People receive your music most when it's relatable, when they can put it to their situations. So I just put my situations on there, put my heart out there on the record. It's definitely, I feel, the best work I've ever done -- the best work so far, at least."
Big Sean says making "Dark Sky Paradise," which was preceded by the No. 1 Rap and R&B/Hip-Hop single "I Don't F*** With You" with E-40" and will likely do battle with fellow Detroiter Kid Rock's "First Kiss" for No. 1 on this week's Billboard 200, was "different than I've ever done any work of music." He recorded it in the studio he built at his home in Los Angeles, bringing in his corps of producers (West, DJ Mustard, KeY Wayne, Boi-1da, Mike WiLL Made-It and more) and guests (West, Brown, Drake, Lil Wayne, John Legend and Grande on the Deluxe Edition bonus track "Research").
"It could've gone either way, but ended up being the best thing I could've done," Big Sean explains. "It allowed me to live this music in my living space. It was just a great vibe."
It also let him to keep things close to the vest as he progressed on the album, which he felt was essential this time out.
"The vision was to not let anybody throw me off and do what I want to do and do what made me feel good," he says. "I didn't listen to the label like I did before, about anything. I didn't listen to anybody else. I would take opinions, but I wouldn't let them sway mine."
The process allowed Big Sean more latitude in the studio, which he clearly relished. "I would mix producers," he recalls. "Like, for instance, Mustard and KeY Wayne did a couple songs on my album together. Mustard produced most of 'I Don't F You,' but KeY Wayne had a part to do with that, and Kanye and DJ Dahi. There's just a lot of songs where the producers really mixed their sound and made it sound that much better. That kind of thing is rare."
Big Sean is, in fact, still surprised by "I Don't F*** With You's" success.
"I clearly didn't intend for it to be a radio song, like that," he says. "It clearly has a tremendous amount of cursing in it. But they put it on the radio and it worked. It just took on a life of its own.
"I think the people made it that way. THEY put it on the radio, y'know? I think that's the best way for music and rap music, too, for it to be decided just by the street."
Big Sean's other great achievement during the past year isn't on the album, however. He and Eminem did talk about collaborating for "Dark Sky Paradise," but schedules only permitted them to work on "Detroit vs. Everybody" for Eminem's "Shady XV" compilation. And there's no question that was more than enough for Big Sean.
"I'm very proud me and Eminem finally got a chance to collab and really represent the city," Big Sean says. "I'm glad I got a chance to really rap on there. Sometimes it's like, 'We just need eight bars. We need 12 bars.' He let me have a good, long verse, and that was definitely a dream of mine to be on a song with Em like that and be repping the city at the same time, so it was good to knock out two birds like that with one stone."
Big Sean "can't wait to keep repping for the city" on the road to promote "Dark Sky Paradise." He'll be the special guest on fellow rapper J. Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive Tour, which kicks off April 30 in Switzerland and hits North America during July, though he won't be on the July 25 stop at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in lieu of his own headlining date in the metro area at some point.
"We're working on the next concert; surely it'll be at the Palace or DTE or Joe Louis, one of the arenas -- maybe we'll even do two," says Big Sean. "I can't wait to keep repping for the city, for Detroit. I love Detroit more than anything, man. I give back as much as I can through my foundation, and I'm always there one way or another, whether people know it or not. I'm gonna keep repping and keep putting and help expand the success of Detroit any way I can."
Take a Listen: Big Sean's new album, "Dark Sky Paradise" is out now.
Get a Look: Big Sean hasn't announced a show in the Detroit area yet, but his girlfriend, Ariana Grande, brings her Honeymoon Tour to town on March 7 at Joe Louis Arena. Just sayin'...
Send your thoughts and comments to