DETROIT -- When Big Sean was a youth, he would pass Motown’s Hitsville USA on Detroit’s West Grand Boulevard without much reverence.
“I used to ride past Hitsville all the time and I’d kind of discount it a little bit,” the rapper said Thursday night, June 21, during the Motown Jam, a fundraiser for the Motown Historical Museum. “I’d kind of write it off.”
Under the auspices of their Sean Anderson Foundation, Big Sean and his mother, Myra Anderson, hosted the $1,000-a-head event to support and help fund the museum’s planned multi-million dollar expansion. The most private and exclusive of the rapper’s D.O.N.Weekend events, the Motown Jam drew an estimated more than 100 donors -- along with Motown alumni Joe Billingslea of the Contours and producer/arranger Paul Reiser -- for dinner, a meet-and-greet and photo opp with the Andersons, an autographed Big Sean CD and a chance to sing with a live band in Hitsville’s Studio A.
“I feel a responsibility to keep it alive,” Big Sean, who’s part of the museum’s National Legacy Council, said in Studio A before the start of the Jam. “It’s that important. I feel like just like our stories from our grandparents have to be kept alive, so do the stories of Motown through our city and throughout the world.
“I mean, I go around the world and people talk to Motown about me. When I went to London I saw ‘Motown The Musical.’ It’s a global phenomenon, and it inspires me. It’s some of my favorite music of all time.”
Big Sean -- who canceled a planned spring tour in order to focus on new music and “get my mind right” -- also spoke about meeting Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. “He’s a real Detroit play himself,” he cracked, adding that, “He gave me inspiration, just shaking his hand. I don’t know what it was -- the spirt and energy he has...made an impact that is gonna last way longer than his life, and that’s something I stride to do, too.”
The rapper, who’s released six albums for Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label -- three of which have gone platinum and two of which have debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 -- poked fun at his mother for telling a favorite story about exchanging glances with Marvin Gaye during the 70s. But he also recalled living not far from Gaye’s house on Detroit’s outer drive and promised that, “When I ride down that street, if I’m with my kids -- I don’t have kids yet, but when I do and I’m riding down the street, I’ll tell ‘em, ‘Marvin Gaye used to live there.’”
The Anderson were presented with plaques of appreciation during the event, and Myra Anderson told the gathering that, “This museum with the expansion will give it the respect, the honor, the showcase that it should (have), and it’ll be such an educational opportunity for young people. It’s an important thing for our culture.”
The D.O.N. (Detroit’s On Now) Weekend continues through Monday, June 25, with public events that include a Fashion Mogul Challenge and a Block Party on Saturday, June 23, at Ford’s Resource and Engagement Center in Detroit. Details can be found at donweekend.org.
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