By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Sean Michael Anderson has been waiting for this moment for a while now. Although he didn't release his first official project until 2008's Finally Famous Vol. 1: The Mixtape — after he'd already signed a major-label deal with Kanye West — he knew the stars were aligned in his favor. With the release of his first commercial single, "My Last" (which sounds more like the triumphant follow-up of a popular star, not the immodest introduction that it was), the 23-year-old Santa Monica-born, Detroit-raised rapper announced his arrival.
"Man, I just ended up on everybody guest list/I'm just doing better than what everyone projected/I knew that I'd be here, so if you asked me how I feel/I'ma just tell you, it's everything that I expected," he spits on the Chris Brown-assisted track that toasts to his still-impending career.
Just one year earlier, he sat for the cover of XXL magazine and told a similar story. "I used to ride to school listening to everybody — Jay, Kanye, Wayne, all them ... but I always knew. ... I was like, 'I'm going to either be signed to Jay, Kanye or Def Jam,' and I ended up signing to Kanye and Def Jam."
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Sean can claim he saw this coming, but few others did. Nothing about his rise to fame has been as predictable as he makes it seem. In fact, it sounds like a fairy-tale rendition of how aspiring rappers envision things happening. Once upon a time in Detroit, a 17-year-old employee at local hip-hop radio station WHTD unabashedly seized an opportunity to showcase his best bars for platinum-selling rapper Kanye West, who had come in for an on-air interview. Much to everyone but Sean's surprise, West graciously granted the unknown rapper the opportunity to spit and was immediately taken aback by the young rapper's skill, stopping in his tracks to get a full listen. That was 2005. Two years later, Sean was signed to West's label G.O.O.D. Music and Def Jam Recordings the following year.
Now he resides in Los Angeles, a land far, far away from the Westside of Detroit that he reps in his music, and works under the stage name "Big Sean" — belying his slender frame. The contrast does speak to the dichotomy between Sean's expectations for himself and other people's first perceptions of him.
His "Supa Dupa Flow," a one-word, punch-line-rhyming pattern, has been copied by the likes of Drake, West and Nicki Minaj. It is best featured at the end of his song "Supa Dupa," off his second mixtape, 2009's Finally Famous: UKNOWBIGSEAN: "First whip, Garbo/Second whip, Largo/Don't worry 'bout my niggas, Thur-good ... Marshall/Bank account got me feeling Well, Fargo/Ballin', till I get a Milicic ... Darko/I just give them line after line ... barcode."
Young Money rapper Drake, although responsible for popularizing the technique, notably gave West's protégé his props. "That flow has been killed by so many rappers. ... I trace it back to Big Sean," he told AllHipHop.com in June 2010. "That's the first guy I heard utilize that flow throughout the duration of a verse. I'll give him that credit. I think Kanye got it from him. Me and Wayne found a dope way to do it."
Sean took the nod in stride and has since moved on to the next big things — his debut album, Finally Famous, featuring West, The-Dream, Rick Ross and Lupe Fiasco, was released in June and has sold more than 250,000 units. And he was featured on Kelly Rowland's "Lay It On Me." Then came the remix of his "Dance (Ass)," with a verse from Minaj (that she volunteered free of charge), and now his mostly sold-out I Am Finally Famous tour.
Now that he's really finally famous, the only thing predictable about Sean's next step is that he's already outlined it in his song "Get It": "I had a dream I was greatest of all time/Greatest of all Bigs, greatest of all Seans."