With his new single “My Last” (featuring Chris Brown) climbing the charts and debuting on iTunes today, Big Sean is gearing up to make a big splash with his debut album, Finally Famous: The Album. Born in California but raised in Detroit, Sean got his first taste of fame when he met Kanye West at a local radio station in 2005. ‘Ye eventually took Sean under his wing and signed him to G.O.O.D. Music in 2007. A year later, Sean signed with Island Def Jam as well. That’s when the real work began. Sean started building his buzz on his own using the Internet and releasing his acclaimed Finally Famous mixtape trilogy. Although he doesn’t have a firm release date for his album just yet, he does have a legitimate single out. We caught up with Sean while he was out in L.A. finishing up his album—which he claims is 85% done—to talk about the making of “My Last,” what his mentor No I.D. has taught him, and how he took his career into his own hands.
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
On his single “My Last” f/ Chris Brown
“It's crazy because that was [one of] the first songs that No I.D. gave me when we started working on the album. He was like, 'Man, do this song.' He gave me the beat and I wasn't feeling it, at all. I was like, ‘Man, I ain't about to do this.’ He was like, 'I swear, if you do this it's gonna be big.' I didn't see his vision at first until I really tried to hear out what he was saying. I told myself I'd do it just to do it. I ended up doing it and it turned out real good. One of the things that taught me was to always see the potential in a song because after I finished the song he made the beat better. He adjusted [the beat] and I loved it. So, that was one of the things I learned working with him and people like Kanye—you gotta see the potential before you're quick to say, ‘No.’
“At first, I was singing all those parts. But it was a little more monotoned. I can sing a little, not as good as Chris Brown. Chris Brown reached out to me, really. He came to one of my shows out of nowhere and I was like, ‘Man, yo what's up?’ He was like, 'What’s up, man?' He told me he really fucked with my music and I'm like, ‘Damn.’ He gave me his number and was like, 'Man, let's work.' At first I thought like, Yeah, whatever. This is Chris Brown, he's on a whole other level. But dude really reached out. We ended up getting into the studio in Miami and we got in the studio in L.A. a few times. I did something for his album and he did something for my album. So you can expect me on his album when that comes out. He's just a real cool guy man, he's really become one of my good friends.”
On feeling abandoned and starting his own movement
“There was one point in my career when I felt like I was abandoned by everybody. [That was] just how I felt. This was around 2008. Kanye was busy all the time, but Kanye is an artist himself. It was just a miscommunication between us. I felt like my management wasn't on point at the time. I was just home in Detroit having to work on music myself. I didn't really know how to do that. I was fresh in the game, I had just gotten signed, and I didn't understand what the hold up [was]. Even at Def Jam I was like, 'Man, why isn't my stuff coming out? What's up with this? Why isn't Kanye making me my single?' There were just a whole bunch of things going through my head, but I just had the completely wrong idea. Def Jam wasn't in the wrong, Kanye wasn't in the wrong, G.O.O.D Music wasn't in the wrong. I realized that it's not that I was abandoned, it's just that I needed to still work like I wasn't signed. They were supporting me as much as they could, but they had nothing to work with, honestly. It was like, 'Man, how you gonna want us to put a single out and we're not gonna make anything off of this? This isn't gonna happen because you have no leverage.' I was strictly signed off talent, but I had to gain my own leverage and I didn't understand that at first.
Kanye didn't sign me to hold my hand and walk me through my career. He signed me because he believed in me as an artist.
“I needed to virally pick up. I had an advantage because people would post me on blogs because I had co-signs from Kanye West, Def Jam, and G.O.O.D. Music. Everything I put out, the blogs would put up. When I realized that, I used that to my advantage and helped build my following on my own. And then Kanye came back around and was like, 'You got your own movement going on. Man, that's the shit.' And I saw that he respected that so much more. I'm glad that everything went the way it did because Def Jam really respects me for doing all these sold-out shows and getting my own movement going. And I respect myself as a man, I took it in my own hands. Kanye didn't sign me to hold my hand and walk me through my career. He signed me because he believed in me as an artist and gave me a co-sign. I didn't see that at first. I saw it as him about to hold my hand and I'm about to be the biggest artist because he's the biggest artist, you know? It definitely wasn't like that and I appreciate him more than anything for that.”