Big Sean: Free Detroit concert ‘the least I could do’

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Detroit — You know Big Sean is from Detroit even when he isn’t in Detroit. That has a lot to do with why 2,900 people were willing to freeze — twice — to see him Sunday night at the Fillmore.

The show was free. That helped. And they like his music. But still.

“Some people hide it,” said Roderick Jackson, 23, a proud Detroiter. “He’s proud of it.”

So Jackson zipped a black parka over his black Big Sean hoodie, stood in line for two hours Sunday afternoon for a wristband and then stood in line for 21/2 hours along Elizabeth Street before he could muscle through the doors and help Big Sean celebrate the release of his new album with producer Metro Boomin, “Double or Nothing.”

Big Sean — Sean Anderson, back when he was racking up big GPA numbers at Cass Tech instead of big downloads on Spotify — announced the show Friday. If you’d bought the new album for $10, you were eligible to get in.

He took the stage shortly after 9:48 p.m. In front of a backdrop with a lighted “313,” he rolled into “Big Bidness,” the first of four straight songs from the three-day-old album. A crowd that was already mostly standing roared.

“None of this (bleep) would be possible,” he said shortly afterward — hey, it was a hip-hop show for grownups — “without this (bleeping) city behind me.”

The free performance, he said, was “the least I could do.”

Jayden Hanna and Jackson Gurman, a pair of 17-year-olds from Bloomfield Hills, had snagged their wristbands, then made sure they were first in line for the concert — at 3 p.m., four hours before the doors opened.

“Two chairs, blankets, hand warmers,” Jayden said.

“Phone chargers,” Gurman said. Their ultimate destination: “Front and center,” Jayden said, “right next to the barrier.”

Behind them stood the 3:02 p.m. arrivals, 25-year-old Emily Anton of Rochester Hills and her sister Angel, 17. The Antons, along with their Big-Sean-fan mom, not only buy his music, they helped his foundation hand out 5,000 Thanksgiving turkeys in River Rouge.

People stand in line along Elizabeth Street People to get a wristband which equals a ticket and will get them into the Big Sean concert at The Fillmore in Detroit on Dec. 10, 2017. Free tickets were given to fans with proof of purchase of "Double or Nothing" on their phone. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

Zeno Jones, Big Sean’s day-to-day manager, said they struggled to find a sponsor for the show, which featured a guest appearance by rapper Kash Doll, who is on his 10-track album.

Puma stepped up, Jones said, after “other companies were shutting us down. They wanted us to do New York or LA.”

Big Sean lives in Los Angeles now, in an $8.7 million house he bought from Slash, the Guns N’ Roses guitarist. But no one at the Fillmore seemed to doubt where his heart was.

“Sean has a certain vibe. A certain aura,” said Stewe Clarke, 24, of Detroit, the 9 p.m. to midnight host on WGPR-FM (107.5). “He brings hope to the city — hope that you can make it from the city to a worldwide platform.”

The name of the city Big Sean wears on his sleeve was also written on the back of blue $40 T-shirts, and they were selling briskly, said Bill Blackwell of Blackbird Productions. The black hoodie, $60, sold out at a pop-up stand earlier in the day and had to be restocked.

“Of course,” Blackwell said, “the weather helped.”

But not nearly as much as the ZIP code. It was Big Sean’s homecoming, and everyone was invited to the dance.