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Big Sean

6/13/2014

By Kathy Iandoli
Special to MSN Music

Big Sean's story in hip-hop is an atypical one that began one fateful day in Detroit, where the artist born Sean Michael Anderson was making music and pounding the pavement for opportunities. That day found Kanye West visiting a local radio station, and Sean stood outside and waited for West.

It was a bold move that yielded impressive results: Fast forward just a few years, and Big Sean is one of the brightest stars for West's G.O.O.D. Music imprint, and already delivered on second album "Hall of Fame," which arrived in late August.

In the following interview, he speaks with MSN Music about the devastation in Detroit and how he chose to make that a focal point in his work. He also discusses his mentor Kanye West and working with Miley Cyrus.

MSN Music: Hey, Sean, how's it going?

Big Sean: It's going good. Just a little tired, man.

So "Hall of Fame" has finally arrived. Mentally, where were you when approaching this project?

You know, I'm a dreamer, man, so one of the things I wanted to include was the aspect of dreaming and being a dreamer and somebody that can go from dreaming to executing it. So hopefully people can find inspiration in my situations, in my different stories and apply it to their own way. That's just one aspect of it.

Another aspect of "Hall of Fame" is that I realized that I'm one of the only young people from Detroit that has a platform, especially one of the only young black men, so I made sure that I included details about the city, from the police hours getting shortened at the police station, to the city being $15.8 billion in debt, to vacant neighborhoods.

Bing: Find Big Sean tour dates, music and more

You know, it's really heartbreaking when you got to see vacant blocks! Not just houses, but full blocks! It'll be crackheads in them or drug addicts, and they'll rape girls while they're walking to school, all sorts of just crazy s--- I feel like it was important that I address. So that's another aspect.

Then of course I just wanted to be me and have fun because I'm silly as hell as well. I feel like all these aspects came into play on the album. I called the album "Hall of Fame" because I'm into being spiritual and all that, and I've written down a lot of my goals and seen them come true and seen them come into fruition: from buying my mama a house to myself a house and a car and all these different things. I took that concept a step further and called my album "Hall of Fame" because when it's all said and done, at the end of my career, I want to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or in the Rap Hall of Fame if they have one by then. Whatever I do, even if it's away from music, I just want to be on the level of being in the hall of fame, so that's why I called the album that.

Did you have any idea that you would be an artist that could sit on both sides of the fence, being, at times when you want to, super hip-hop and, at times when you want to, kind of be on the line of pop and appealing to the mainstream crowd?

You know, whatever I do, I just try to make sure it's 100 percent me. I feel like I can live in any environment. For instance, I could be on a song with Gucci Mane, I could be on a song with Justin Bieber and anybody in between and it won't be a compromise of who I am. I worked too hard to be limited to who to do music with or people consider this this or this that. Hell no, man. If somebody ever wants to pay me to rap on a song and if I like the song, I'ma do it, no matter who it is! Whether it's the biggest star in the world or whether it isn't, because I've worked so hard and it's not even about getting paid. It's just about if it's good or whatever. I don't care about, oh, this guy's a pop guy or this guy's a super hood dude or whatever. Whatever the case may be, I always just do me on there, and I think people respect that. I hope people respect that.

So this is the second time you've sampled Ellie Goulding. This time it was on "You Don't Know," but you also sampled her on "Finally Famous." Are you a fan?

Yeah, a lot of people don't know that! Yeah, I'm definitely a Ellie Goulding fan if you can't tell. I think she's great, man. I think her voice is incredible. It was cool seeing her at the MTV VMAs. I got to see her and we talked about the song on my album and she was like, "Man, it sounds great!" So, it's nice to get that support back from her, and it's cool because the album has a lot to offer for a lot of different people, but it's more musical than anything I've ever done. I kind of concentrated on the songs as songs, and not just like rapping good on them. I feel like I've proved that I can rap fast or rap slow and do different rhyme schemes and blah, blah, blah. But the one thing I didn't prove was that I could make a song that you could lose yourself to or that can help you cope with things or help you get through tough times or that has a certain level of soul that can't be duplicated. Those are things that I didn't get to execute that I feel like I got to execute with this album with songs like "Fire" or "World Ablaze" or "Ashley." It's something I'm very proud of as an artist.

That's actually really cool. When you were coming up with the concept of the "Fire" video, in picking Miley Cyrus did you notice a "fire" about her?

Yeah, and I knew her too. Me and her were friends before that, so I just hit her up. Then I went to the studio and I played her my album and she was definitely down with it and wanted to be a part of the album any way she could, and we thought that was the best way she could be a part of it.

What's the craziest fan moment you've had so far?

The best fan moments I've had have been going to play the album for some of my core fans, going to their house and kicking it with their family and playing my music for them -- just seeing their reaction to it and just being next to them and just kicking it with them. You know, you walk in their room and you see posters of yourself and they idolize you, but you're just right there with them. That's like the coolest s--- I've ever done. I feel damn proud, man, and just like, "Yeah! Thanks!" That's why I do it! That's why all them late nights make sense, man, just for those people who really do like my music and can hear the message in it and feel good about it.

Do you feel like you've stayed so humble because you understand your beginnings, from going to the radio station to see Kanye West and having that perseverance?

I don't know, man. I don't look at it as being humble. I just look at it as that's just who I am. It's not like a façade or people say like, "Yo, you need to be humble." It's just who I am, man. If it was the wrong thing to do to be humble, then I would be wrong, because that's just who I am. Just like how people could say, "It's wrong of Kanye to be opinionated all the time," or, "We think he's a a--hole," whatever people say about Kanye, but Kanye is the truest person I know. He's somebody who never has changed and has been the same since I've known him. It's not like he's faking it or anything; that's who he really is. He really is an opinionated artist who has a big heart and cares, and people can misconstrue that. What I'm saying is, I'm the same way. I'm just that person, and I remember what it was like to want it so bad and to be up in my mom's house trying to figure it out and all that. I do believe in myself, I feel like I'm an awesome artist, I feel like I could rap really good and I always have standout verses on any song I'm on. Period. I have confidence in myself as an artist, but like I said, I'm just happy to be here, too.

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