"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.
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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."
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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.