Words: Vanessa Satten
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

I must admit it took me a bit longer than everyone else to accept Big Sean as a rap star. I don’t know why. I think maybe it’s because the guy is so damn nice. I mean like really nice. Goes against the grain nice. Unlike any other rapper nice. I’m so used to rappers being a certain way and Sean is so the opposite, it throws my brain off. His ego is actually in check. He understands his position in the game and yet is still hungry. He’s polite to everyone around and easygoing.

Not that other rappers aren’t good people and don’t understand these types of things, but Sean is just a little bit different in how he processes and reacts. He’s just like one of those guys a girl’s mama would be proud she brought home. This all goes for Kendrick Lamar (our last cover subject) as well, but there is an edge to Dot that Sean doesn’t have. And that’s okay. Maybe that’s what I was hung up on, that Sean doesn’t really have a tough side and that made me not recognize him as a star but I think I’ve realized after all these years, that you don’t always need it.

So I slept on Sean. Sure he’s been on the cover of XXL before but he split it with Chris Brown. Now it’s time for Sean to have his own issue and carry it himself, but based on the success of his last album, Dark Sky Paradise, the Detroit rapper is gonna do just fine. And we always love putting former XXL Freshmen on the cover.

These images are dope. Shot by JUCO at a gorgeous house on top of a mountain in Malibu, Calif., the photos do a great job in capturing Sean’s aesthetic using natural light, bold colors and creative props. Everything just came together so well for this cover, the whole experience was different than usual but I heard that’s what you get with Big Sean. Hopefully, his next album will be even better than the last, solidifying his importance in hip-hop. He is no longer just Kanye West’s artist, his stock rises more every day. Besides Big Sean, we have a few other dope stories this issue. We visited Coach K’s Quality Control to get a rundown on the whole team, Macklemore shares his funky words of wisdom, Flatbush Zombies get nerdy and talk superheroes and comic books, Plies reflects on his weird Instagram fame and we take a look at the growing battle rap scene. We also check in with new jacks Kodak Black, Lil Uzi Vert and Anderson .Paak in Show & Prove, plus much more.

This tends to be the least popular issue because it’s the beginning of the year, when there’s been just a few new albums released so it’s kind of slow. And also everyone’s waiting on the Freshmen issue, which comes next. We’ve been busy with that while flipping this mag, listening to artist after artist. Some who should get a spot in the class, others who are a long way from it and some who don’t deserve it at all, but we are picking our way through everything to give you the best list possible.

So just relax, take a look at the mag in front of you because if you really love hip-hop, you will find plenty to read. And please welcome our new Deputy Editor, the famed Georgette Cline, our new Managing Editor Bianca Torres and News Editor Max Weinstein to the team.

“Get ya lighters, roll that sticky/Let’s get higher”

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Check out more from XXL’s Spring 2016 issue including Big Sean's cover story.

See Exclusive Photos From Big Sean's XXL Cover Shoot