Big Sean Interview

Life is going well for Big Sean at the moment. “I’m happy man” he said when discussing his newest LP Dark Sky Paradise that was released on February 24th and charted straight at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Sean’s undeniable success with his first two albums Finally Famous and Hall of Fame have placed him firmly within the canon of the world’s most successful and popular rappers amongst Drake, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj. However, despite establishing himself as a household name with both albums and a string of successful street and radio singles over a nearly 10 year career, wide recognition and plaudits avoided him.

Dark Sky Paradise aims to change that. The album, which features Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Ariana Grande, PartyNextDoor, Ty Dolla $ign, Chris Brown, Jhene Aiko, E-40 and John Legend, is an exceptional studio album offering for an artist who is a picture postcard example of the successful possibilities of the American Dream. For Sean, who famously got his break by rapping for Kanye West outside a Detroit Radio Station (102.7FM), this album breaks out of the perceived bubble he has been placed in and show that, like in person, he possesses a unique blend of humour, relatibility and honesty for a rap star.

He’s truly charismatic in the traditional sense in that he inspires devotion in his fans, evidenced by his ability to consistently pack arenas over his career. “I just wanna make music that’s means a lot to myself and to my fans… We really put our hearts into this” he mentioned when discussing the album. “I recorded the whole album in my house… [and] when you get to live with your music, you get to live it out.” This more involved attitude towards the production “made all the difference in the world”, and as a result the songs are superbly crafted and all fit cohesively within the project.

Big Sean’s self-confidence is indubitable. In the opener Dark Sky (Skyscrapers), he asserts “I’m a successful n****/I got s*** going on” and at no point in the album does the listener ever doubt his motivation. The sonic landscape provided by Kanye West as executive producer and contributing producers DJ Mustard, Boi-1da and Mike Will Made-It amongst others, ensures that his exceptional flowing ability is ably supported.

The following three tracks Blessings, All Your Fault and I Don’t Fuck with You are some of the best examples of Sean’s ability to convince his monolithic collaborators of “the vibe of it”. Drake and Kanye at no point take over their respective songs and they are both essential but always superseded by Big Sean’s infectious smoothness and insouciance. “It was cool to hear how much those artists respect me… it was really cool” he freely admits.

The Dark Sky Element?… The last year and a half I’ve just been going through so much” he asserts. Sean’s much publicized private life has clearly had an effect: “I was frustrated with all these things” he says. Yet Sean, with his characteristic buoyancy, lifted himself out of it: “I was in a place where I knew I had to take it somewhere else”. The music therefore finds itself in a different place and “put it all in perspective” and has emerged all the greater for it.

Big Sean’s honesty is sometimes brutally shocking on Dark Sky Paradise with songs such as One Man Can Change the World where he reflects on his family and their importance. When talking about his grandmother, for whom the song was written, Sean speaks warmly. “She was amazing… she was a female black captain in World War II, she was a female black officer in Detroit… she was the backbone of the family”. But sadly as “[he] was headed home for the holidays, for Christmas, she passed right before [he] got there on December 20th.” The track itself is brutal in its reality and Sean acknowledges this: “I put my privacy out there, for entertainment purposes.”

“I’ve come a long from the two family flat I used to live in… no matter how crazy things get I always appreciate that.” It’s this honesty and self-deprecation exhibited with lines such as “I just bought a crib, three stories, that b**** a trilogy” that secures the album’s place in listeners’ hearts. And whilst this classic hip-hop narrative has been told countless times, with Dark Sky Paradise we don’t mind hearing such a refreshingly new and joyful re-interpretation of this version of the American Dream.

But for Sean all of this immaterial. “I have a lot to bring to the game… I feel like this album is a turning point in my career” he explains. “This album will help turn the tide, make them think twice and look at me in a different light [because] I see the progression not only as an artist but as a person.”

Words: Francis Hornsby Clark

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