Big Sean on Drake: ‘We Have Been in the Studio Working’

Sean Don also discusses his new collaboration with Eminem, "No Favors."

By Brian Ives 

It’s an exciting time for Big Sean; in an era where hip-hop artists explode in popularity on their debut release and then fade away, he’s had a gradual career ascent, leading up to I Decided., an adventurous, contemplative look back at his life. Radio.com spoke to the MC last Friday – the day he released I Decided. – about the album, and some other upcoming projects. 

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Your team is all wearing jackets that say “The underdog just turned into the wolf”; your first single from the album, “Bounce Back,” was certified gold, Jay-Z just gave you a Roc Nation chain and Forbes says you are “poised to become music’s next big superstar.”  It seems like you’re past being the underdog

My manager, Jay Brown told me—he manages Jay-Z and everyone at Roc Nation—”Just remember, the underdog always turns into the big dog.” That inspired a lot of hunger in me. I still feel like I represent for the underdogs. I know what it feels like to know your full potential, but it’s not being executed [properly], I know what it’s like to have people not give you the recognition that you think you deserve. I know what it’s like to have the odds against you and have people have a pre-determined idea of you, and you have to break through that.

You allude to that in “Bigger Than Me,” when you rap about “I seen people in the same place ten years later, man that s— pathetic,” and you also say, “I can’t spend my life looking at the same ceiling fan.” Is that something you felt at some point in your life?

“I can’t spend my life looking at the same ceiling fan when I feel like I ain’t got no ceilings man, if I ain’t special, why I feel it then?” That’s something I really thought and felt. When I said “I seen people in the same place ten years later,” I don’t mean people who are working in a store or something. I mean people who are still on the block, still sitting on the porch. It’s like, “Damn man, you don’t want to ever do anything else? You still don’t have a job? You’re still living with your mom” — which is cool, but you’re 45 years old. But I’m not hating, I live with my mom! The house I bought in Michigan, it’s for all of us. My room is downstairs in the basement area, my mom has the big grand room.

Talk about getting Eminem to guest on “No Favors.” Being from Detroit, that must have meant a lot.

I tweeted Eminem and said, “Man, this just sounds like back-to-back home runs. Thank you for this moment.” He rapped on there with a whole new rap style, naming all those things like that for one situation, I never really heard that in rap music. Obviously, Eminem is a genius at this rap stuff.

He says, “Tell Dre I’m meeting him in L.A., white Bronco like Elway,” that’s when you’re like, “Yeah, it’s Eminem, really coming at you with these fire-a– bars and this f—in’ triple and quadruple entendres!”

You write about your family on some of the songs on the album, “Sunday Morning Jackpack” and “Inspire Me.”

“Sunday Morning Jetpack” and “Inspire Me” are about my mom. “Sunday Morning Jetpack” is kind of about my grandpa and my grandma, and I guess my mom too. I really broke the album down into four different acts. The first act is the inner realization that all you need is inside of you; you’re bouncing back from your losses, your “Ls,” and that’s the first act of the album. The second act is, like, [you’re] going after your one true love, and it’s not necessarily going the way that you thought. Then it goes to a dark part of the album where things are just not going right for you, and you’ve got voices in your head. But then, to lift you up out of that rut, you’ve got God and your family, and all the things that pull you up. And that’s what “Sunday Morning Jetpack” is.

And “Inspire Me” is just a song strictly about my mom, she deserved it. I didn’t want to make no corny-a– song about my mom. I feel like it’s so easy to make a wack-a– song about your mom. But one of my managers said, “I was in the car listening to ‘Inspire Me’ last night, and I didn’t think that was one of the songs that I’d really be vibin’ to.” It’s fire, though. She deserves it, too.

Talk about working with Migos on “Sacrifices.”

Migos man, those are just some cool dudes. When I met them they were talking about how much they looked up to me. “We’ve got respect for you, you’re like our O.G.,” I remember Quavo telling me that. I was just surprised! I guess they’re a few years younger than me, but I had to remember that I got on a long time ago, I was a part of a whole other era. But they were saying how much respect they have for me on that level. I have respect for them, too! I think that what they’re doing is just super-tight. I think they’re being themselves, and when you can be yourself and express yourself like that and just be creative and have that impact on culture – no pun intended – you gotta show love and respect to that.

I really wasn’t going to have any other rap features on the album except for Eminem, just because I felt no one else was qualified, but I feel like Migos definitely were.

Jhene Aiko makes a brief cameo on “Same Time, Part 1.” Is there more Twenty88 music in the works?

That’s the plan; we’re a group. Twenty88 is an actual group. If you go on iTunes, it doesn’t say “Big Sean” or “Jhene Aiko,” it says “Twenty88.” I think it’s cool; Twenty88 is a whole different world, it’s different from my albums and it’s different from her albums. And musically, we come together so well. We definitely have more songs, so that’s in the works.

What are your favorite albums, what were the ones that made you want to be an MC?

Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP (1999), Jay Z’s Volume 2… Hard Knock Life (1998), DMX’s Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998), and Kanye West’s The College Dropout (2004). I loved “Last Call.” I heard that and I was like, “I have to make it, there’s no other choice.”

What are your favorite guest verses that you’ve done?

I like my verse on “Detroit Vs. Everybody” with Eminem. I was happy about that one. I was under pressure, too, I didn’t have too much time to do that verse. I like my verse on “All Me” with Drake, I like my verses on “Burn” with Meek Mill and on “B-Boy” with Meek Mill. It was originally called “D-Boy,” but it changed to “B-Boy.”

Is it true that you and Drake have recorded a bunch of songs that have never come out?

We have been in the studio working on some stuff, hopefully, there’s more to come. That’s my dog right there. We collaborate a lot. There’s a lot in the vault, there’s a lot man.

You’re always writing and looking ahead. Have you started thinking about the next album?

Yes, I already know what it’s gonna be called, I’m not gonna say it, though. I know what the concept is, I know what type of songs I want to do.

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