Hall of Fame: Big Sean chooses his battles; maintains “Control” [Interview]
Vancouver, BC – This is Big Sean‘s time. Besides being part of the most successful clique this side of franchised hip-hop with GOOD Music – and his sophomore album Hall of Fame debuting at number one of the Billboard hip-hop and R&B charts – it was his track “Control” which started a whirlwind of rapper responses via Kendrick Lamar. He’s at the center of a shifting landscape, and rappers keep coming at him, from Papoose to Danny Brown, telling him who he should be and how he should represent.
The thing is, Big Sean seems to be exactly who he wants to be: it’s not that he doesn’t care about political issues, it’s that he chooses where he wants to spend his energy. And he wants to focus his star power on Detroit, giving the people a champion and proving that amazing things can happen to people in dire circumstances. So maybe Big Sean isn’t too concerned about the state of commercial hip-hop or the morality of the lifestyle, but he’s being true to himself.
He’s still a very young man and will undoubtedly continue to learn, grow and reflect throughout his career in the limelight, but for now he’s focused on doing things bigger, better and even more inspired. HipHopCanada’s Executive Editor, Amalia Judith, sat down with the friendly, courteous young man to talk about his creative process, artist accountability, and the definition of a hoe.
“I’m not accountable for nobody but I do feel responsibility for the people who believe in me.” – Big Sean
Big Sean: Q&A
Interview conducted by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: I have to start out by congratulating you on the success of Hall of Fame’s debut at #1!
Big Sean: Aw, thank you very much. Everything’s awesome. My second album – I intend on doing at least ten albums, so we’re excited, everything is going great.
HipHopCanada: Your music has a way of getting under the skin – are you aware of its effect on your audience?
Big Sean: Na, I guess that’s awesome though. When I make it I don’t necessarily think if it’s gonna be stuck in peoples’ heads, I just vibe out and whatever I come up with, I just write. It’s all a part of a bigger plan, a greater inspiration, so I just rock with it.
HipHopCanada: What do you mean by a greater inspiration?
Big Sean: It’s all spiritual how it comes together. I don’t really even write any raps down, I just think of it in my head and just deliver. I come up with melodies…however we write or come up with it, I think it’s a very spiritual thing and I think this album is a real positive album. It definitely deals with some dark moments, but overall it has positive energy and good vibes to it. And just real situations, and that’s what I mean by greater.
HipHopCanada: That’s a classic artist’s way to view their art, and so I have to ask you – who is an artist accountable to?
Big Sean: Well I cant speak for every artist but for me, I don’t know. I can say nobody really. I’m not accountable for nobody but I do feel responsibility for the people who believe in me. My fans, supporters, my city Detroit. I feel they need a lot of inspiration, especially in these times. I’m from Detroit – obviously Detroit is the most depressed city in the United States but today it’s Detroit and tomorrow it could be any city, you know? I know how important it is that somebody from there speak up and be heard, be a representative and let people know about the issues that’s going on there, and rep for them and show them that it’s a positive side of the city. We can be looked at as positive and powerful. So that’s another responsibility that I feel like I have.
HipHopCanada: Following in current events, it seems like a lot of people are trying to tell you who you should be. Without getting into the logistics of beefs, I’m curious as to whether you see any merit in what Papoose says in his First Chain remix?
Big Sean: I didn’t hear it.
HipHopCanada: One thing he talks about is the feminization of the black man, and he puts you as a symbol of that. Do you think that’s fair?
Big Sean: I don’t know what he’s saying cause I haven’t heard it so I can’t really speak on it. I don’t stress that or sweat that in any way. I know my music is positive, and I know that I’ve been a part of the biggest rap songs in the past couple of years, from “Mercy” to “Clique” to “Control,” you know what I saying? My album and all these different things and other peoples’ stuff, I feel like I’m adding a positive energy to the game and people know I’m a good-hearted dude, I’m somebody who’s always been real and authentic, I don’t ever try and be what I’m not and I do this for my family and my self and the people I love and that’s it.
HipHopCanada: Do you try to stay out of the politics?
Big Sean: I do get into the politics, it just depends – I rap about how the police hours got shortened in Detroit, I say, “Police only work 12-hour shifts/Cause in Detroit that’s cheaper than the bailout, bitch.” I talk about how we don’t have a mayor, and how we’re the most depressed city, or how we’re 15.8 billion dollars in debt, so I feel like I’m political in that sense. There’s definitely depth to what I’m saying. Maybe not in every single song but there’s definitely a message to it. Like I said, I don’t get caught up in jargon, or what people say. I really don’t care, you know what I’m saying? I feel like when you care too much, you start focusing on the things that aren’t important. Especially for me – I need to care about what I’m doing next, new music.
HipHopCanada: What is still ahead for you?
Big Sean: Just do it bigger and better, making awesome music – music people love and keep talking about, you know, music that’s true. To keep reppin and finding something new that inspires people, that they can live to, ride to.
HipHopCanada: I have to address some of your lyrics, because they really got into my head and I actually wrote an editorial based on them. When you say “To these hoes I’m everything, everything but gentle” – why not gentle?
Big Sean: I don’t think women are hoes. I think a hoe can be a guy or girl, it could be anybody. It’s not that I was calling all women hoes, I think there’s women that are women and there’s men that are men and there’s men that are bitches and women that are bitches and women that are hoes and men that are hoes. It’s not like I was talking about you.
HipHopCanada: But what you have to understand is that it hurt my feelings anyways, as a woman. To say that someone deserves gentle treatment and another doesn’t based on whether they’re a hoe or not is still offensive to a woman like me.
Big Sean: Well, I said my new girl is on Glee and shit, I didn’t say my new hoe is on Glee.
HipHopCanada: Fair enough. Out of curiosity, what separates a woman from a hoe?
Big Sean: What makes a woman a hoe? For me there’s a couple different meanings. There’s a hoe who’s a super loose woman who sleeps around with a whole lot of men, who may not respect herself like she should. A hoe can be somebody who’s sneaky and does behind the back moves as far as being devious. That’s hoe behaviour. But I was raised by my mom and I don’t use that word a lot. It could have been directed to anyone, not just women. Sorry to make you feel bad, I hope you can understand that I’m a pure–hearted guy and I say what I say but you shouldn’t take things so so serious sometimes.
HipHopCanada: We’re so happy to have you here in Vancouver, do you have any words for your Canadian fans? You made it across the border…
Big Sean: Ya, I love Canadian people, I hate the fucking border sometimes. It really gives me a hard time. But there’s some good people too who always make sure I get through, always make it to my shows…but it’s really irritating when you’re tired and you have to sit up there for hours sometimes. But I love the people, I love the support. Canada is one of the first markets – from Vancouver to Toronto to Montreal – that I went and was able to tour and entertain. This is one of the most beautiful places in the world, especially here in Vancouver, it’s super beautiful here. I’m just happy to be over here kickin it and partying. Gonna have a good time!
Interview conducted by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada
Photography by Julia Kozlov for HipHopCanada
Photography by Julia Kozlov
— Big Sean (@BigSean) September 11, 2013