VIBE: I remember the first time you played Hall Of Fame for people outside your inner circle. There were about 15 of us at Swizz’ studio in New York, and you seemed to have a new frame of mind as you introduced the project.
Big Sean: Man, I just wanted to take people on that journey because I haven’t had an album like this. I feel like Finally Famous did it a little bit but not like how I wanted it to be. The Detroit mixtape did, too, but in a different way. On this one I just wanted to tell them the exact story, have great songs and inspiration for others on the same album. I’m just getting comfortable as an artist.
One thing that you said a lot during that session was how much of a spiritual person you are, but that doesn’t always translate through your music.
People don’t realize I’m a very spiritual person. Even on the intro, my mom is responsible for a lot of that. She was always getting me into the law of attraction, church—giving me books to read. She gave me books like Asking is Giving, The Alchemist, The Secret and those books really changed my life. As soon as I read them, my whole life started changing.
I know you wear a Jesus piece but how religious are you?
I definitely consider myself a Christian. There’s things that I believe in, there’s things I have a self-belief on. I know I got a great relationship with God and the universe. I just believe in being a righteous person and karma. Doing unto others as you would have done unto you. I really want to help teach that. I met kids that’s like ‘Man, I look up to you, you’re my hero.’ Then, I’m thinking ‘I can’t be your hero just rapping about ass, ass, ass.’ Really, I’m a spiritual dude, who knows a lot. So, I wanted to help educate, too. I still got ignorant shit on the album, though. [Laughs]
I can understand wanting to have balance in your music.
I live like a hippy man.
Take us back real quick—all the way back to high school. You’re in your first rap group, Fresh Fam. Did Lil Sean ever think he would make it be Big Sean?
It seems so far away when I used to be like, ‘I want to buy my mom a house.’ Then it was like, ‘What do I want to do besides be famous and rep the city?' I want to change the world. I want to be a part of culture. I want to help teach. I saw it all but it was just a dream back then.
Well, you’re definitely progressing. At your official New York listening party you told everyone: ‘I’ll get on a song with Drake and out-rap Drake, I’ll get on a song with Jay out-rap Jay…’
I’m a real-ass dude, but I’m a humble dude, too. I’m not saying I’m a better rapper than Jay Z, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is you can hop on a song and out rap somebody. It’s just about that song. Like if you don’t think you’re the best, then I don’t know what you’re doing out here
As someone from Detroit who still spends time there, what you can tell us about what it’s really like in the streets?
I’m still there but my homies are there every damn day. You may hear about the poverty and bankruptcy on CNN but half the people I know don’t watch CNN. I got to be the one to relay these messages and let people know that Detroit is 15.8 million in debt. I’ve never seen vacant neighborhoods, and I’ve never seen full vacant blocks. I’m talking about a whole block of houses—then the next block and then the next block, all vacant. It’s some crazy shit and they’re full of crack heads, full of people raping girls walking to school. People I know, personal friends, girls, little sisters getting raped going to school. It fucks their whole head up, and they become different people. There ain’t nobody telling that story from Detroit. Eminem not gon’ tell that story because that’s not Eminem’s story. I feel like it’s my responsibility to be that person and tell that. I have to rep for those people on a major scale.
Did you ever think about trying to head some kind of a coalition or fundraiser to get some investors for the D. You can get Jay Z, Russell Simmons and some folks together to try and really get Detroit back on its feet.
I try man, and I’ve started my own foundation, the Sean Anderson Foundation. Last year, we started out by giving families Thanksgiving dinners and then paying for families to have a real Christmas. We have a lot of big things planned. One step at a time.
I know you mentioned you have another Detroit Homecoming concert coming up.
Hall of Fame 2. I’m going to put on for the city and get the biggest rappers I can to come out. Give people a reason to get dressed up and have a good time.
The whole spirit of this album definitely shows your growth and maturity as an artist. Especially with songs like “World Ablaze.”
I had to touch on some real life issues. I know what it means when people feel like the world is ending. On the second verse, it was about my girlfriend’s mom who was like a mom to me. She got cancer passed away so quickly. I wanted to get those emotions out for the people going through those same situations. I didn’t want to make an album where I was trying to prove anything but that I’m a person who can make great songs that people can relate to.
“Ashley” is another one of those that’s definitely going to have some of your fans in tears.
I wrote it when me and Ashley were together. She’s been through so much. When you with the girl that you knew since you were 16, it hardly ever works out and we tried to make it work, believe me. Without her, I wouldn’t be shit. She helped me so much.
Was she your first true love?
She was definitely my first true love. She was always at the shows. She would let me sleep on her couch when I came to visit before we were together. She was definitely that ride-or-die chick. I had to pay my homage and my respect to her. She deserves it, and she’s awesome.
When’s the last time you talked to her?
I recently hit her up because there was a lot of confusion going on. My girl Naya put out a song, and a lot of people were like ‘Aw she said all these names at the end, she said Ashley.’ When I really heard the song, I didn’t even think about it like that. She’s saying Amber, Brittany, Tiffany—those were just random names, there’s 4 million girls with the name Ashley. People took that attention from the song opposed to it being a song that they can relate to and have fun with.