“So the last shall be first, and the first, last.”
So goes the passage from the book of Matthew in the King James Bible. But scripture wasn’t on the mind of Island Def Jam/G.O.O.D. Music rapper Big Sean when he wrote “My Last,” the lead single from his debut album, “Finally Famous,” which was released June 28 as the first project to appear under G.O.O.D.’s new label deal with Island Def Jam. In fact, initially, Big Sean couldn’t have been less interested in the track.
“At first, I didn’t even want to do the song,” the Detroit rapper born Sean Anderson, 23, says of “My Last,” which was produced by legendary Chicago producer and mentor NO I.D (Jay-Z, Drake, Common, Lauryn Hill), who also handled the bulk of the production for the album. “[NO I.D.] said, ‘Do you want to be a mixtape rapper forever, or do you want to make a song that people can really live to?’ “
Sean chose the latter, securing Chris Brown for a chorus originally sung by Sean himself. Since then, “My Last” has taken on a life of its own. The track, which is No. 4 after 19 weeks on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, helped fuel excitement for “Finally Famous” and landed Sean his first appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” The premise of “My Last” — of living every moment like it is, in fact, your last-is a fitting introduction to an album that Big Sean fans have been waiting for since he signed with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label in late 2007. West, who serves as an executive producer on “Finally Famous,” met Sean in 2005 when Sean ambushed him at a Detroit radio station to deliver an impromptu performance.”
It’s frustrating more so to the people than to me, probably,” Sean says of the album’s numerous delays. “But, it’s all the same thing. All they got to do is wait a couple weeks later.”
For his part, Sean stayed busy during the delay, collaborating with Soulja Boy and Wiz Khalifa, among others. Now, he’s promoting “Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay,” the infectious second single from “Finally Famous,” which features West and Roscoe Dash. And he’s hitting the road as part of Khalifa’s Rolling Papers tour, which will run through summer.
In addition, Sean hopes to release a free mixtape before the end of the year, and he’s been working on fashion collaborations with Taz Arnold’s T.I.$.A. line and the streetwear brand Diamond Supply Co. Sean’s musical appeal is something co-manager Kevin Liles also attributes to his personal style, which has granted Sean appearances on just as many fashion blogs as music sites.
“We’re about art,” says Liles, the former Def Jam president and Warner Music Group executive VP, who started representing Sean through his KWL Management earlier this year. “Look at Sean’s style; you see art there. He wants to make sure you know what’s cool, and we have a responsibility as management and as a label to take that vision and allow people to live into it. People want to dress like Sean. People want to walk like Sean, talk like Sean.”
People most certainly want to rap like Sean. Late last year, Drake credited Sean’s song “Supa Dupa,” from the 2009 mixtape “U Know Big Sean: Finally Famous Vol. 2,” as the inspiration for his now signature rap style of broken similes (punch lines with the words “like” or “as” removed), a flow West would later term “hashtag rap.”
“People always ask me, ‘Are you mad that everybody took that style or that you didn’t get the credit due?’ ” Sean says. “But I feel like that just goes to show me how far I can go in the rap game. I ain’t even put an album out yet and I already made history.”