Women in Music 2016

Beyonce & Jay Z Told Big Sean He Needed to Drop 'IDFWU' Before It Was a Hit

Austin Hargrave
Big Sean photographed on Oct. 7, 2015 at Universal Music Group in Santa Monica. 

The first word in Big Sean’s rap moniker would appropriately describe his 2015.

Earning his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart with his third studio effort Dark Sky Paradise, the Detroit rapper switched up his recording process and built a studio in his home, a strong suggestion from No I.D., the executive vp A&R of Sean’s label, Def Jam.

“He recorded [his first couple of albums] in my studio,” said No I.D. “And with this [record], I said, ‘Hey, man, you should just build a studio for yourself and go in there and work.”

And his home studio was a lucky charm for his album's future on the charts. “First, it was just No. 1 on iTunes, like the night it came out and I hadn’t slept in three days,” Sean recalls of receiving the big news, “but I never felt more awake.”

Big Sean on His No. 1 Album 'Dark Sky Paradise:' 'My Privacy Is Out There -- All My Ups, Downs'

The real success story from Dark Sky Paradise came with Sean’s monster breakup hit “I Don’t Fuck With You,” a melodic middle finger to exes heard around the world. 

“My first reaction was a hit,” said No I.D.

Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels could sense the power of “IDFWU”, too. “The world today is sort of always in competition with cutting through and trying to hear things in a very disruptive and noisy place, and [Sean’s record] cut right through, where people would stop and go, ‘Oh what is that?’," he said.

Even music power couple, Beyonce and Jay Z, agreed, according to Sean. “I remember I played it for Hov, too, and Beyonce, and they was like, you need to drop this one,” he recalled. “It’s crazy.”

See Nicki Minaj, Selena Gomez and More of the Year's No. 1 Artists: The Billboard Shoot

Despite the praise from his professional inner circle, Sean says he wasn't concerned about whether it would be a hit or not. “I wasn’t looking at it from the perspective of a single ‘cause I’m not really into that,” he continued. “I just care about the music getting to the people.”

Watch Big Sean, No I.D. and Steve Bartels detail the success of Dark Sky Paradise and "I Don't Fuck With You" in this Billboard behind-the-scenes video.   

 

 

--Reporting by Gail Mitchell