Women in Music 2016
Watch Billboard and American Express' 'Women in Music: Inspiring a Generation' Video
Bozoma Saint John Accepts Executive of the Year Honor at Women In Music 2016: 'We're Knocking Dudes Out of the Way to Make Room for You'
Madonna Delivers Her Blunt Truth During Fiery, Teary Billboard Women In Music Speech
Kesha Accepts Trailblazer Award at Billboard Women in Music 2016: 'Don't Let Anyone Take Your Happiness'
Watch Big Sean Reveal His Vintage T-Shirt Collection -- From Selena to the 'Waiting to Exhale' Cast
When it comes to honoring music heroes, Big Sean wears his heart on the sleeves of his prized vintage-shirt collection.
At last the front door swings open and Big Sean enters the foyer of his Los Angeles hillside house, a mullet-style Mediterranean overlooking the San Fernando Valley, the 405 Freeway a luminous ribbon of red and white lights in the darkness far below.
It is nearly midnight on a Saturday. The 27-year-old Detroit-raised rapper -- as well-known for his public romances (and breakups) with Ariana Grande and Naya Rivera as for his hard lyrics -- doesn't know when he last slept. Three flights ago he was in Finland for a concert; an hour ago he was in downtown Los Angeles rehearsing for the BET Awards.
"Sorry I'm late, y'all," says Big Sean, who has sold 856,000 albums in the United States, according to Nielsen Music. He drops his backpack on the marble floor near a pile of luggage. No sense putting things away; after the awards, the artist will fly back to Europe to rejoin his sold-out tour in support of his latest album, Dark Sky Paradise. Following the strict no-shoes policy enforced in the three-level, five-bedroom, 4,500-square-foot house -- a junior-size mansion that waterfalls steeply over the side of a hill -- he removes his trademark shitkickers and places them in a soldier-straight row of classic shoes (including two pairs of white, cap-toe Adidas, a pair of Jordans and a pair of canvas low-top Cons) in the foyer.
Among the luggage is a rolling duffle that goes with Big Sean everywhere, open to reveal his collection of vintage hip-hop T-shirts. He appears delighted to be reunited with his prized cache -- 30 to 40 curated tees that he began collecting in 2012, featuring icons of African-American history, from Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre and Wu Tang Clan to Tiger Woods, Janet Jackson and the cast of the 1995 film Waiting to Exhale. Online, similar vintage tees retail for upwards of $250 apiece. So where does Big Sean score his shirts?
He cracks a sly smile, his lothario's almond-shaped eyes a bit bleary. "There's definitely certain places that I go, but you ain't need to know all that," he says. "I don't want everybody getting the tees and shit."
Latin Love: "Selena's a legend. She did it big; she was the first," says Sean about the late Tejano star. "I'm going to rock her on the tee, just like I rock Tupac, just like I rock Biggie."
'90s Flashback: Sean says the Wu Tang Clan and Waiting to Exhale tees are "very rare. You got Whitney [Houston] on here, RIP to the late great, and you got Angela Bassett looking great."
No. 1s: "I love this [Janet Jackson] shirt. I actually performed in this shirt, somewhere in Germany at a crazy festival," says Sean. "[The] Dr. Dre one is fire. It was for [his 1992 album] The Chronic."
This story originally appeared in the Aug. 1 issue of Billboard.