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Home is where the heart is for Detroit rapper Big Sean
It's only been eight months since the release of his third album, "Dark Sky Paradise." But Detroit rapper Big Sean still has plenty to take stock of in that time.
The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in early March, and it's launched Top 10 singles in the triple-platinum "I Don't F*** With You" (feature E-40) and "Blessings" with mentor Kanye West and Drake. Big Sean also won four BET Hip Hop Awards and an MTV Music Award (Best Video with a Social Message for "One Man Can Change the World") since "Dark Sky Paradise" came out.
And beyond his own music Sean's presence has been felt with feature appearances on songs by ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Meek Mill, Calvin Harris, DJ Khaled and fellow Detroit Dej Loaf.
"It's been one of the best years of my life in every way," Big Sean, who was born Sean Anderson in southern California before moving to Detroit, says by phone from Los Angeles, where he lives when not back in the Detroit area at West Bloomfield home he bought for his family. "It's definitely been a defining moment for me, from winning awards to breaking new ground in my career to having fun.
"It's so inspiring just to be part of, honestly. I'm living a life that I told myself I wanted to live a long time ago. Just to see that manifest is a great confirmation. I feel like we're all here to be happy and do what we love to do. So, yeah, it's been a great year for me. I'm happy, man."
The only dark moment for Big Sean was the death of his grandmother in December. But, he notes, "I feel her spirit with me more than ever now" -- and she's heard on "One Man Can Change the World," and song that's become something of a manifesto for the 27-year-old MC.
"That song is a genreless song," he explains. "I'm rapping on there, but there's no drums. It's something that's heartfelt and from the soul and a lot of radio was hesitant to play ti because it didn't have tempo. But I didn't make that song for the radio; I made it for the listeners and for myself to get those emotions out there. Just like I want kids singing, "I feel blessed' or 'I won't f*** with you' or whatever they sang, I want them to know that one man CAN change the world, and I want them to sing that, too.
"So I'm proud of that song probably more than any other on the album, just 'cause it meant so much."
"One Man Can Change the World" also defines the positive outlook Big Sean brings to his music. That, he acknowledges can sometimes be an ill fit, or at least a difficult posture to take amidst the bravado of his peers.
"Yeah, that's true," he says. "There's a sense that hip-hop in general sometimes hasn't been so positive. I think people's natural emotional just isn't so positive sometimes, and that has to change -- and I think it has been changing. People I now appreciate positivity, and everywhere I go, every show I do it seems like people are into it and show love for it.
"And I love that. I think that's awesome, and I think that's gonna change things and I feel like I'm making more of a difference than if I wasn't like that."
To that end his Sean Anderson Foundation has been active in positive drives around the metro area, and particularly in Detroit. Administered by his mother, the fund -- which is the sponsor and beneficiary of next week's homecoming concert at Joe Louis Arena -- has provided supplies to public school children and helped build a recording studio at Cass Technical High School. It plans to give away turkeys for the upcoming holidays and works with corporate and community partners on a variety of programs.
It also, he says. helps promote a positive image of his home town.
"Y'know, I AM Detroit," he explains. "I've got to make sure that with all the accolades and all the blessings that have been doing on in my life that I give back. I definitely feel like I'm an ambassador for Detroit -- one of the many. "I go do shows in Japan and there's bee people wearing Red Wings hats and Detroit Tigers hats, Pistons jerseys. It's crazy. But it shows they know, and the message is getting out there."
Big Sean's next goal is to keep those messages going -- and hopefully make them stronger than ever. He's already started working on material for his fourth album, collaborating with fellow Detroiters such as KeY [cq] Wayne and Jay John Henry. He says the music is sounding "a little darker" than its predecessors, but that's also an early assessment.
And whatever direction it goes in, there's no question "Dark Sky Paradise's" success has only raised the bar for Big Sean rather than giving him more laurels to rest on.
"I'm feeling great about it," he says. "'Dark Sky Paradise' was a little darker for me in some ways than the music I made before, and I feel like this is a little bit of a continuation with that, but there's something new about it. It's nothing like I've ever done before, and I don't know if I'm getting a little more experience with it or whatever, but I'm excited for people to hear it.
"I just want to make music that's true to myself. I've been so many different places this year, seeing so many different things and translating that into music and song is one of the most inspiring and fulfilling processes for me. I've always kept my own style. I never tried to conform. I was never scared to be myself and that's one thing that will probably never change."
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6
Joe Louis Arena, 19 Steve Yzerman Drive, Detroit.
Tickets are $19.50 to $49.50; a portion of the proceeds benefit the Sean Anderson Foundation.
Call 313-471-6606 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
Big Sean promises to "put on a hell of a show" when he plays on Nov. 6 at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena -- his first big headlining date in the city of Detroit itself.
The concert certainly has a lot to live up to. Back in December of 2013 the West Bloomfield-based rapper brought mentor Kanye West, J. Cole and Pusha T onstage wtih him at the Palace, while Drake and Nicki Minaj showed up for the following summer's performance at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. So what's he got planned this time?
"I tend to bring a couple of guests out when I do shows like this, but I never want that to be the focus," says Big Sean, who made a guest appearance at ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande's March 7 show at Joe Louis. "I want them to know that the show is deeper than just bringing out a couple guests. I always want to make sure the show is the best it can be.
"Hopefully a couple special guests come through, but if not we're still gonna hold it down for the city and be as entertaining as possible na dmake sure people just have a good time, a good night in the city." -- Gary Graff
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