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Big Sean, “Tenacious D” (Originally Published December/January 2013)

Eighteen short months ago, many rap fans doubted that Sean Anderson would ever be in such a position. Back then, it looked more likely that he’d be remembered as “that guy Kanye signed who never came out.” But then, after four years of waiting, three mixtapes and a moderate 87,000 units sold in its first week out, Finally Famous proved to have longer legs than most of the competition. The hits kept coming: “My Last,” featuring Chris Brown; “Marvin & Chardonnay,” with Kanye and Roscoe Dash-assisted; “Dance (A$$) (Remix)” with Nicki Minaj. Plus a string of memorable guest spots: Wale’s “Slight Work,” Brown’s “Till I Die,” Lil Wayne’s “My Homies Still,” Meek Mill’s “Burn” and Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me.”

This summer, any lingering doubts about Sean’s status as G.O.O.D.’s crown prince were quelled by his contributions to the crew compilation, Cruel Summer. Kicking off smash singles like “Mercy” and “Clique,” with verses that stand tall next to those of Kanye, 2 Chainz, Pusha T and Jay-Z.

It hasn’t been lost on Sean, who speaks in soft, humble tones, even as he glows with pride. “I’ve had an awesome year, just in general,” he says. “Just rocking all these goddamn shows, being on all these fresh ass records. It was really a monumental time for me and for the people who was rocking with me.”

This past September, he dropped his latest mixtape, Detroit, which has been downloaded some two million times since. A heady blend of unconventional flows, imaginative annunciation and ribald rhymes distinguish his songs about love, loss and chasing success—solidifying a brash, witty, artistic persona that’s been developing for years.

“Sean has chose to live his life in a certain way,” says veteran executive Kevin Liles, who took management of the young MC’s career two years ago, alongside co-manager Mike Brinkley. “He’s a Detroit player. Every day of his life, he defines it as, ‘What would a Detroit player do?’”

All those bouncy, party-happy singles would suggest that those days are filled mostly with partying and, well, playing. But Sean’s intent is on reaching greater depth with his new music. “I took all my experiences from Detroit and incorporated them into who I am today,” he says. “From partying to inspiration to sharing times about being broke to love to the dope boys, paper chasers. I would see all the players rocking furs and gators. I’ve seen people get killed. I’ve seen people spend crazy money. I’ve seen poor people. I give every aspect of the city in my music. They need somebody to tell that story.”

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