Detroit rapper caps a career year with massive homecoming concert
Big Sean wants to do it all.
The Detroit rapper is winding up a career year that saw him earn his first No. 1 album, score a slew of high profile awards and gain a new level of respect within the hip-hop community. Now he wants more.
“There’s just so much more to do, so much more to get out, so many more ideas and visions,” says Sean, on the phone last month from his adopted home of Los Angeles. “Honestly, when I think about it all it stresses me out.”
The 27-year-old is working on new music, the follow up to February’s “Dark Sky Paradise.” He’s been busy establishing his charity, the Sean Anderson Foundation, which benefits Detroit youth. He has plans to branch out into movies, to throw a summer festival in Detroit, and to, in general, grow the Big Sean brand.
Sleep is not really in the cards.
“There’s so much to do. I’m really, really, really bad at resting,” says Sean, sounding groggy but focused at just after noon on a Monday. “But it comes from a place of just being hungry and inspired. I’m never satisfied and I see the bigger picture for myself and when you feel that internally, it kills you because you just want to get it out so bad.”
Sean’s goals are plentiful, but he’s learned to take things one step at a time. And first up, there’s the matter of his concert Friday at Joe Louis Arena.
It’s Sean’s first major headlining concert in Detroit proper, and it follows his December 2012 concert at the Palace of Auburn Hills and his August 2013 concert at DTE Energy Music Theatre. Those concerts were star-studded, big deal affairs — Kanye West, J. Cole and Common were among the guests at the Palace show; Drake and Nicki Minaj joined the festivities at DTE — but this time around, Sean is looking to do the heavy lifting himself.
“This year I don’t really want to focus so much on the guests, I just want to focus on putting on the best show I can for the city,” says Sean, who was raised on Detroit’s west side. “I’m tired of, well, not necessarily leaning on other people, but I want to show the city the power that one man can bring.”
The Joe Louis concert is a benefit for the Sean Anderson Foundation, which was established in 2012 to “assist in the education, health, safety and well-being of Detroit area school-aged youth,” according to its mission statement.
“Every single dollar is going to go to our programs, to helping out kids and Detroit Public Schools,” says Sean, a 2006 graduate of Cass Technical High School. “I wanted to set that example in the city to keep encouraging people to be charitable. It’s something my mom is real proud of, and it’s something I’m glad I can do for the city.”
“The city” is something Sean refers to often, and he has talked for years about his desire to help Detroit and be a catalyst for change. He has participated in the Coats for Kids programs and Thanksgiving turkey handouts, and earlier this year he held a fundraising auction to award scholarships to low-income graduates of Detroit Public Schools. He also partnered with Adidas to construct a recording studio, dubbed the Sean Anderson Studio of Infinite Possibilities, inside Cass Tech. He says he has a big announcement regarding his Thanksgiving plans to make at Friday’s concert.
“I want to show people how involved we can be together as a community and how much the city can change just by us coming together and being aware,” he says. “There are so many different ways to be active and make a difference if you’re just aware.”
Awareness of Sean grew leaps and bounds thanks to “IDFWU,” the playfully profane kiss-off he released in fall 2014. The song came after his underperforming 2013 sophomore album “Hall of Fame” and signaled a new energy for his career going forward.
“Dark Sky Paradise” was released in February and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart, topping Kid Rock’s “First Kiss,” which arrived at No. 2. After 35 weeks of release the album — which dealt in frank terms with the devastating December 2014 death of his grandmother — is still in Billboard’s Top 50 and is the best-selling album of Sean’s career.
Sean, who spent the summer touring with North Carolina rapper J. Cole, earned strong marks for his high energy performances.
The momentum from the tour will likely lead to his own headlining outing in 2016, he says.
In August, Sean snagged a Moonman (for Best Video with a Social Message) at MTV’s Video Music Awards for his “One Man Can Change the World.” He also grabbed a trio of trophies at last month’s BET Hip-Hop Awards, and could find himself in the field when Grammy nominations are announced in December.
“I’m not looking, but I’m not blocking it either,” he says. “Honestly, I’ve been chilling, loving the single life. It’s been giving me a chance to really focus on other things, to be in a relationship with my dreams and goals, and that’s been honestly more fulfilling than anything.”
And as he takes stock of his accomplishments so far, those goals continue to mount.
“I want that top spot in the music industry, I do,” says Sean. “I’ve never had the No. 1 song in the country, and that’s something I want. I want to have the biggest album of the year. I want to have more and more accolades.
“Things have been progressing for me, so I’m super thankful, but I want to keep going, I want to spread the inspiration, and give it to my peers, my listeners. I want to take them on that ride with me.”
7:30 p.m. Friday
Joe Louis Arena,
19 Steve Yzerman Dr., Detroit
Ticketmaster.com or (313) 471-6611