Big Sean has come a long way since appearing on the 2010 XXL Freshmen cover. Building on the buzz of his two underground mixtapes—Finally Famous: The Mixtape and Finally Famous Vol. 2:UKNOWBIGSEAN—Sean grew into an established artist right before our very eyes. There were his certified hits, co-signs from Kanye West and later Eminem, and endorsement deals with big name brands. It’s all a sign of Sean’s hardwork who went from saying he’d be finally famous one day to actually becoming famous.

Sean, alongside Em and Danny Brown, isn’t ashamed to represent his hometown. Throughout his earlier mixtapes, he’s recognized for shouting out the D, as well as rapping about the money, cars and clothes with a unique fervor. An up-and-coming Sean sounded just as humble as he does today—only difference being his artistic progression continues to reach new levels. Specifically, he’s the sole reason why you are engaged in his delivery, scream his ad-libs (“Oh gawd,” “swerve”) and get hyped when his rump-shaking anthems turn up the clubs.

In the days before Sean’s sophomore effort, Hall Of Fame, releases on August 27, we broke down the top mixtape songs from his career. We’ve included favorites such as “All Night” and “Million Dollars,” but delve into some sleeper cuts that might have fell under your radar. And we didn't forget Detroit because that ish still bumps. Consider this a small teaser of his essentials.

"Big shit popping bitch and Big my first name."—Eric Diep (@E_Diep) & Dan Jackson

Previously: 20 Essential French Montana Mixtape Songs
Previously: 20 Essential A$AP Rocky Mixtape Songs

"All Night" Featuring Fonzworth Bentley
Mixtape: Finally Famous: The Mixtape (2007)

Big Sean was one of the few rappers who got a verse from Fonzworth Bentley. Fonzworth gained prominence in hip-hop for being Diddy’s assistant, but also kept his talents as a rapper to himself. He showed a lot of promise on singles like “Everybody” and “C.O.L.O.U.R.S.” with a nice flow and boastful rhymes that rolled off the tongue. On Sean’s “All Night,” the two shine with their dexterity, especially with lines about their wealth and non-stop partying.

“Get’cha Some”
Mixtape: Finally Famous: The Mixtape (2007)

Sean Don didn’t get the nickname for nothing. “Get’cha Some” has the Detroit rhymer listing all the reasons why you can’t afford his attire. “Fresh, fresh like I’m wrapped in plastic/Polo, Louie to Gucci, like that’s one fresh jacket,” he raps on the hook. Sean has the style and the cash flow to stay ahead of his peers.

"Money Being Made"
Mixtape: Finally Famous: The Mixtape (2007)

Sean is pretty passionate about money. The enthusiasm shows in “Money Being Made,” where he raps about his steady income over a banging beat. Judging from Sean listing the hustles that relate to getting paid, the song shows he’s as determined as ever to be the best at his craft.

"Good Sh'"
Mixtape: Finally Famous: The Mixtape (2007)

Here’s another thing Big Sean loves: women. On “Good Sh..,” he approaches the typical love ode with a song that explains how she’s got “that good.” Just about every rapper expresses their desire for women who has it all, and Sean follows suit with a strong track of his own.

"Starstruck" Featuring Santigold
Mixtape: Finally Famous Vol. 2: UKNOWBIGSEAN (2009)

Santogold’s “Starstruck” (originally off her self-titled debut) grew into a capable track for rappers to freestyle on. While the rap blogs crown Wiz Khalifa as the one who murdered the beat, Sean wasn’t a slouch on his version. Taking on a slightly different accent than usual, he rips it and doesn’t fumble his flow. It’s definitely worth a rewind.

"Who Knows" Featuring Mike Posner
Mixtape: Finally Famous Vol. 2: UKNOWBIGSEAN (2009)

Two Detroit natives connect on “Who Knows,” an early collaboration that may have been part of their rumored joint mixtape. With Posner breaking out his indelible charm, the track manages to deliver on the inspirational front. Big Sean can be reflective too, and he lets his laid-back attitude does all the talking.

"UKNOWBIGSEAN"
Mixtape: Finally Famous Vol. 2: UKNOWBIGSEAN (2009)

The title track for Big Sean’s second mixtape is filled with soon-to-be classic lines. “Resort to violence cause we can’t afford islands,” he quips. Here, Sean takes over the progressive production and goes in with no hook. It’s an ill, cypher-type track that instantly turned into a fan favorite.


"Million Dollars"
Mixtape: Finally Famous Vol. 2: UKNOWBIGSEAN (2009)

“Hip-hop, where the hell you find a nigga like me,” Big Sean questions on his breakout track “Million Dollars.” It’s an early display of Sean’s skills, accompanied by a video that finds him roaming the streets of the D thinking about his next big move. Songs that revolve around his drive have become staples in his catalogue. It also features a cameo by GLC, an indication that the G.O.O.D. Music family runs deeper than rap.

"Five Bucks" Featuring King Chip & Curren$y
Mixtape: Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big (2010)

What rapper hasn’t dropped on this? Big Sean gathers King Chip and Curren$y for “Five Bucks,” which is their dedication of smoking reefer. Since Bay Area rappers Luniz had an epic video for this—complete with a mansion and a swimming pool—we can only imagine what these young kings would have come up with. Roll a few up for this.


"Supa Dupa Lemonade"
Mixtape: Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big (2010)

Big Sean earned him the proper praise he deserved when he impressed everyone in his “Supa Dupa Lemonade” freestyle. Jumping on Gucci Mane’s popular “Lemonade” instrumental, Sean took the rap game to new heights with his “hashtag” flow. Though Drake and Ludacris would have their own stories of who originated it first, the fact remains that Sean set the bar for the competition here.

"Memories"
Mixtape: Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big (2010)

"Memories" flirts with the mawkish a bit, with all the treacly pianos and sad boy vibes, but Big Sean gives KeY Wane's contemplative beat a touch of real pathos towards the end. Behind all the searching questions that read like brags—"How many trends you gotta set till you considered great?" he asks at one point—Sean delves into some difficult material here, reflecting on the difficulty of seeing a friend lost to addiction. When the strings show up at the end, it feels like an earned moment of genuine melancholy.

"Crazy"
Mixtape: Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big (2010)

This cinematic little piece of College Dropout-like girl-trouble rap finds Sean talking about the perils of being stuck in a destructive relationship that you can't tear yourself away from. Over soulful strings, horns and pitter-patter drums, he manages to encapsulate the appeal of this particular romance while explaining why it's driving him... crazy—just like the title says.

"Fat Raps (Remix)" Featuring Chuck Inglish, Asher Roth, King Chip, Dom Kennedy & Boldy James
Mixtape: Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big (2010)

Big Sean is no stranger to jumping on crowded tracks and letting people have their moment—ask Kendrick Lamar. Despite the strong, pugnacious verses on the track—Boldy James sounds particularly great here—the "Fat Raps (Remix)" is really a showcase for Chunk Inglish's minimalistic death-rattle of a beat, a snarling buzz that sounds like it might totally drop off at any moment. You'll be glad it never does.

"F*ck My Opponent" Featuring Tyga
Mixtape: Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big (2010)

"Quit comparing me bitch/Fuck you with a Ron Jeremy dick," raps Big Sean on this petulant and aggressive track. Big Sean has certainly faced his fair share of comparisons over the years, but tracks like this find him grappling with his own identity over some vintage horns in a way that feels surprisingly singular. He doesn't sound angry as much as frustrated.

"24K Of Gold" Featuring J. Cole
Mixtape: Detroit (2012)

Rapping about jewelry is hardly a new topic, but Sean applies himself dutifully here, turning his pining for gold into a metaphor for just wishing the world was a better place. He's touching on issues both personal ("Start a franchise/So my dog can quit wearing a 44 up on his waist like it's his pants size") and political ("Why don't school teach more mathematics?"), while managing to rap in a way that both celebrates luxury while critiquing it.

"100" Featuring Royce Da 5'9 & Kendrick Lamar
Mixtape: Detroit (2012)

Don Cannon's dreamy, neon-tinted synth-based beat is an ideal match for Big Sean's moody lyrics about dealing with a familiar topic: haters. "Haters praying I fall, move back in with my moms/Take online classes and turn back into ya’ll," he raps at one point, before moving on to heavier themes like heaven and hell. Then towards the end Kendrick shows up and sounds equally at home in the song's plush vibe.

"RWT"
Mixtape: Detroit (2012)

Where many of the best Big Sean songs stretch out over the 3 minute mark, luxuriating in the ethereal beats he's developed a keen ear for, he's still able to snap off some aggressive bars in a 2 minute format when the situation calls for it. Take "RWT" for example. Working with a stuttering beat from Southside and KeY Wayne, Sean goes in here, telling people towards the end of the track to just "Shut the fuck up 'cause everything will be fine." Then he shuts up—apparently that's all he had to say.

"Woke Up" Featuring Say It Aint Tone, Early Mac, Mike Posner & James Fantleroy
Mixtape: Detroit (2012)

Over a typically epic beat from Chicago's Young Chop, Big Sean gives us a look at his morning routine, which mostly involves being thankful to be alive. "I woke up, woke up/Thank God I woke up," he raps. Yep, you woke up Big Sean. Now start your day.

"I'm Gonna Be" Featuring Jhené Aiko
Mixtape: Detroit (2012)

Future Drake collaborator Jhene Aiko provides some beautiful vocals on this piano-filled track about having big dreams and making them come true. While Big Sean's obsession with fame can seem a little one dimensional at times, on tracks like this he brings a poignant touch to his pursuit of success, making his struggle feel universal. It's a self-actualization anthem, a song for staring out of a window and imagining a future that feels out of reach but still attainable.


"Mula" Featuring French Montana
Mixtape: Detroit (2012)

Detroit crashed DatPiff when it first came out, signaling that Big Sean's ascent into the big leagues was pretty much complete. The tape is filled with big name collaborators and equally famous producers, and this swaggering, boisterous track produced by Young Chop and featuring French Montana is the epitome of the tape's brash confidence. "Hallelujah!" goes the chorus and it's a fitting proclamation. Finally famous? No doubt about it.