Signed to G.O.O.D Music in 2007 Big Sean gained prominence on the Internet along with fellow darlings like Kendrick Lamar and J Cole. He looked to tell his story growing up on the Westside and though the shadow of Eminem reigned over all rappers from Detroit he broke out as someone special.
In 2009 on the soundtrack for LeBron James’ More Than A Game Drake had his coming out party. Though many were in debate over who had the best verse and giving props to Drake for going toe to toe with hip hop heavyweights like Eminem and label mate Lil Wayne those in the know raised another question, did they just use Big Sean’s flow?
Drake, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj all utilized the Supa Dupa flow which is affectionally referring to Big Sean’s track off Finally Famous 2. When Drake later shouted out who he got the flow from in interviews Big Sean was giving shine as a talented young artist who was influential.
— Sean Don (@BigSean) June 25, 2010
Unlike Wale’s frustrations with Interscope Big Sean had a label who believed in him, blessing him with a Chris Brown feature for his first single. His next single was Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay featuring the hottest rapper in the game and the one who signed him Kanye West. And after he got a mega hit with his Dance Remix featuring the Queen of Rap Nicki Minaj some distractors claimed he was only successful because of his friendships.
All 3 singles were certified Gold & multi Platinum.
For his next album he wanted to step out of the box, to show his evolution as an artist
Sean, with Kanye West’s mentor No ID & James Fauntleroy, set out to tell a narrative story complete with skits with the album Hall of Fame
Similarly to J Cole’s sophomore release, Born Sinner, critics and fans didn’t connect to these projects as they did with their previous works in particular their mixtapes.
With J Cole his FNL & Warm Up tapes are universally lauded and the same can be said for Big Sean’s Finally Famous series.
Most of the buzz for the album suffered many unfortunate missteps
Because of a sample clearing issue a song couldn’t be included on the album. This song featured Roc Nation signee, Jay Electronica and Compton’s own Kendrick Lamar
As a treat for the fans Sean tweeted the Soundcloud link and the rap game changed.
After an impressive showing by the Detroit rapper the listener is greeted to a guttural, stacked vocal with Lamar practically chanted before he unleashes a tirade of bars directed at any and every rapper seen as competition including some at the artist who’s song he’s on.
Though Jay Electronica finished the song well the universal consensus concluded K Dot destroyed the hip hop landscape in one verse
The discussion went from, “Will Big Sean’s album get the same praise as his recently mixtape Detroit?”
To the question of who will respond to Kendrick’s call to arms.
KENDRICK!!!!! Ohhhh Shiiitttttt @RevoltTV
— Sean Diddy Combs (@diddy) August 13, 2013
Kendrick’s verse was the rap version of accidentally sending a text to the person you’re talking shit about
— ernest baker (@ernestbaker) August 13, 2013
“The face on every rapper, fan, ball player, CEO , congressman AND Obama after hearing Kendrick Lamar’s verse pic.twitter.com/fiAup87MkI“
— Derek Kulp (@Derek_Kulp) August 13, 2013
When Hall of Fame came out, though indeed good, it wasn’t what fans were hoping for especially after the hard hitting beats and impressive lyricism of Detroit.
On top of that the album suffered from a leak forcing the album to be streamed before its release date.
The Detroit Player’s feature run in 2012 & 2013 was second to none.
He went toe to toe with The Throne (Jay Z & Kanye) on Clique.
He did a massacre of his own on Meek Mill’s song Burn.
And easily had some of the best verses on Cruel Summer with Don’t Like & Mercy. He showed his versatility on Justin Bieber’s multi Platinum hit, As Long As You Love and this run culminated with Drake’s All Me.
From his hype introduction “Ho shut the f*@% up” to his infectious bars like “I swear to God I got 99 problems but a b!tch ain’t one. I got 99 problems, getting rich ain’t one” finishing with his memorable ad lib “Lil B!tch”.
This feature was so great that Drake added rapping his verse to his set on tour similar to how Jay Z rapped Pimp C’s verse on Big Pimpin or Kanye’s verse on Niggas In Paris.
There are memes online similar to those lambasting the Warriors for losing a 3-1 lead against the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers that remind fans that J Cole went Platinum, and later double Platinum, without a feature.
More impressively than this is the fact that with Dark Sky Paradise Big Sean was certified Platinum without a solo tour.
Big Sean went platinum without a solo tour https://t.co/Qh06SRrANd
— Kazeem Famuyide (@RealLifeKaz) November 3, 2016
Big Sean going platinum with no solo tour > J. Cole going platinum with no features
— Kegel Queen (@Fatt_Stacks) November 3, 2016
Big Sean’s “I went Platinum with no solo tour” is the new “Double Platinum with no features.” Mark it down.
— DJBooth (@DJBooth) October 31, 2016
Instead of a leading tour Big Sean joined Rihanna on the second half of her ANTI tour and before that went on the road with 2014 Forest Hills Drive Tour.
Mike Carson designed a great show complete with impressive set pieces as Sean delivered a headliner’s performance each night.
The evidence of his lack of stature in the game and why the underdog persona fits him, and also Wale for that matter, J Cole had HBO follow him for the homecoming show in Fayetteville.
For this show he brought out special guess like his ‘light skin brother’ Drake and also the God MC himself, Jay Z.
During the airing of the special each artist was shown performing their hits but curiously enough not only was Sean’s set not shown arguably the biggest moment for Sean’s career wasn’t given time either.
During that aforementioned 2012 run Big Sean recorded a freestyle that became CLIQUE and during that show they performed it for the first time together.
Jay Z himself would perform it on tour. He’d play Fauntleroy’s intro, Sean’s chorus and then his verse
Fast forward this year and Sean has grown tremendously, new beard, switched from adidas to Puma & has Jhene Aiko at his side.
As the collective Twenty88 Aiko and Sean released a love letter to classic R&B complete with a K-Ci & JoJo feature.
And he followed that success with another, I Decided.
His 4th LP is similar to his 2nd as there’s a narrative in this album as well.
In the New Legends era of K Dot’s genre defining GKMC, Beyoncé’s visual albums and J Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only, I Decided was warmly received with standout tracks like On My Balcony and bangers like Bounce Back & Moves.
As he’s on his first headlining tour of his career and selling out shows, like all three of his California dates.
Any rap fan can no longer dismiss him to the lower tier when discussing leaders of the new school.
It feels like a “Biggie, Jay Z & Nas” moment.
Sean Don has a catalogue and hits to back him up as the underdog indeed becomes the wolf.