For his fourth studio album I Decided., which dropped first thing Friday (Feb. 3), Big Sean is taking his career to places it’s never been before: design.
Kicking off a weekend of multi-state pop-ups selling limited-edition pieces created by the rapper, Sean made his way to the New York pop-up (127 Grand St.) to connect with fans and watch his designs come to life. “I keep seeing the store’s employees running back here [in the supply room], so it must be going good out there,” Sean tells Billboard exclusively through a pleased grin. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
The Soho pop-up shop is one of four with temporary store fronts opening in his hometown of Detroit (1441 Woodward Ave.), Los Angeles (501 N. Fairfax) and Toronto (12 Ossington Ave.) as well. Sean’s I Decided. booms from the speakers as fans who devotedly waited outside in the cold shuffle around the tidy racks.
This soundtrack is doubly appropriate due to the fact that Sean actually designed his merch while recording the album. “All my merchandise is inspired by this project,” the rapper explains. “I used my lyrics. ‘The Underdog Just Turned Into the Wolf’ shirt, ‘No Favors’ — it’s all from the album.”
The curated designs include hoodies, dad hats, T-shirts and a bomber jacket with prices ranging from $30 to $200. Sean wears his dramatically illustrated Underdog bomber jacket and a fresh pair of Pumas, dutifully rocking the brand he now endorses.
There’s a clear theme to all the pieces — dynamic typography and street art-styled roses. “I wanted to use the flowers for imagery of life and death,” he says while motioning toward the adorned sleeves of the merch he’s wearing. “With this shirt, there’s the end of a life — the dead roses on one sleeve — and then the beginning of life with the other sleeve with blooming roses.”
True to the subject matter of his album, Sean’s merch line artfully explores the rebirth of ambition, the death of problematic habits and the ultimate power in taking charge of one’s own life as “the wolf” he knows he is inside. It’s the same mentality he takes in his own style. “[Style] is about doing something that makes you feel good, something that has meaning to you,” he tells Billboard. “This really means something to me. There’s a real message behind the album, the merch, everything.”
The pop-up shops will be open from 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.