Photos: Big Sean’s Digital VIBE Cover Shoot
Big Sean’s rags-to-riches story of rapping for Kanye at a radio station to hip-hop superstar is a familiar one. He scored radio hits with the best of them, toured the world, landed the smokin’ hot celeb girlfriend and is now reveling in the release of his sophomore album, Hall of Fame. Detroit’s own is high off his own supply.
It’s a week before July 4th, and New York City is a sweltering armpit of funk. It’s so humid that even catching a cab will cause your body to perspire beyond human comfort. But under the blasts of central air at Swizz Beatz’ home base, Jungle Studios, Big Sean is as cool as a feather in Studio A. As journalists, bloggers and label execs congregate in the lounge, Ciroc and champagne is being served at the makeshift bar. Sean should be nervous as he prepares to debut his long-gestating project, but for the first time in his career, the 25-year-old rapper exudes a confidence that even his egomaniacal mentor would be proud of.
VIBE will encounter Sean’s new-found aura several more times before shooting his digital cover. At both his official New York and Los Angeles album listening parties, Sean speaks openly about deserving the same recognition as rap’s current leaders—even name dropping Jay Z and Drake in the same sentence. Maybe Kanye’s cockiness rubbed off on the kid. Or maybe the skinny guy from the Motor City is really ready to carve out his spot in hip-hop’s Hall of Fame.
A few weeks before HOF is set to be released, Sean is getting a quick haircut at a non-descript studio in Silverlake, California. All around him, members of his team are scattered about, preparing his wardrobe changes for the day. Not far away, his publicist is already cutting our time short before the shoot even begins. It’s her job. Later that evening, Moet-Hennessy is set to host a private party for Sean, so time is of the essence. Two hours after our agreed upon end-time I find myself posted up outside the studio’s front doors. The facility has been closed for some time now. Sean is more than late for his next appointment but the rapper is attentive and in no rush to leave. By now, his crew is circled around my recorder and his guard is completely down. I’ve met this man’s mother and father, spoke to him at every major award show over the past two years, but for the first time I got to see who Sean Michael Anderson really is. No jewelry, no rapper posturing—just a kid from Detroit in an oversized Master P T-shirt.—Mikey Fresh
Video: Gomillion & Leupold and VIBE TV
Photo: Karl Ferguson