4. Big Sean
Label: G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam
From: Detroit, Michigan
Active Since: 2005
Latest Release: Detroit
Recent Single: "Guap"
Back in 2005, Sean Michael Anderson heard Kanye West was in town. The 17-year-old Detroit native wasted no time running up on Ye at a local radio station and spit him his best freestyle. Whether it was the kid's rhymes that impressed Kanye or his sheer hustle doesn't really matter now. The bottom line is Sean got down with G.O.O.D. Music.
"I would be nervous around him," Sean remembered in a Complex interview last July. "He was my idol. So, for a couple years, I didn’t know what I was doing. If you listen to a lot of my early mixtapes, you’ll see I was rapping like Kanye because I didn’t have my own identity. Now, I’ve got my own ad-libs, my own wittiness."
Big Sean has come a long way since then, turning in scene-stealing verses on star-studded posse cuts like "Mercy" and "Clique." In the process he has established his own distinctive, conversational flow—displaying an appeal that’s outlasted the “hashtag rap” style he pioneered as a mixtape artist and proving that he wasn't just talking reckless when he said: "I knew I could be the greatest. I was listening to Jay. I was listening to Wayne. I was like, 'Man, I can do that. I could do it better than them.’”
Recently, Sean’s kept his standards high with standout cuts like "Mula" off his Detroit mixtape and "Guap" off his forthcoming sophomore album Hall of Fame, swerving very comfortably into his own lane. —Rob Kenner
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