David Simonis / Lantern photographer
Not a lot of people make it out of the west side of Detroit.
But despite some pretty steep odds, Sean Michael Anderson did exactly that.
Anderson, better known by his stage name, “Big Sean,” always wanted to be famous. He wanted to be the best rapper to ever live. And he finally got a chance to chase that dream when Kanye West signed him to his G.O.O.D Music Label in 2007.
In a matter of four years, Anderson has gone from a being a relatively unknown rapper with a string of successful mixtapes to a hip-hop superstar who just released his first studio album, “Finally Famous,” in June.
“This game will change you for the better or for the worse, and I feel like it’s changing me for the better,” Anderson said in an interview with The Lantern after his show Wednesday at Newport Music Hall. “I’m not the same guy I was two years ago.”
Commercial hits like “My Last,” “I Do It” and “Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay” have propelled the 23-year-old and his debut effort on what he calls the “I Am Finally Famous Tour.” Fortunately for Big Sean fans in central Ohio, Columbus happened to be on the list of about 30 cities chosen for the Detroit rapper to declare his newfound glory.
“I love Columbus,” he said. “You got to show love, you got crazy, the energy was crazy. People were crazy. I feel like I made a lot of new fans, you know, the show had been sold out for a while.”
Fans showed their appreciation by lining up for blocks outside of the Newport hours before the doors were scheduled to open.
Anderson returned the favor by putting on a show with a set list that included a mix of songs from “Finally Famous” and the mixtapes that had started it all.
And, while he was no John Legend, Anderson did an admirable job at singing the hook to his reflective “Memories, Pt. II,” which features Legend on the track.
But even with the playfully cocky lyrics, the gold chains and gold Rolex, Anderson tries not to let his rise to stardom change what led him to this place he always dreamed of from the start.
“I work hard,” he said. “I’m very humble … I feel like whatever you get, you can lose twice as fast. I’ve seen way too many people fall off and I never want to see that happen.”
Perhaps what’s most striking about Anderson, though, is his drive to not just be better than the next guy, but to be the best of them all.
“I feel like I’m going to be one of the greatest rappers of all-time,” he said. “And, you know, I know I say that not with a cocky attitude but an attitude that I’m going to work for that (stuff).”
And it’s not just him with this vision of wearing the crown.
His mentor, the same man who he rapped for in a fateful, chance meeting at a radio station in Detroit in 2005, Kanye West, agrees.
“I remember sitting at the dinner with Kanye, and Kanye was like, ‘Man, Big Sean going to be the best rapper and I’m saying this next to Jay-Z,’ and Jay was looking like, ‘Whatever,’ you know,” Anderson said with a giant smile on his face.
It’s not a surprise, then, that Anderson is already in the early stages of his second album, which he wants to be more introspective compared to “Finally Famous,” which he said focused more on building strong relationships with the radio.
“I really want to tell more stories,” he said. “I want to, you know, be a role model.”
At only 23 years old, though, many feel he has a long way to go until he reaches the same heights that Jay-Z and West have.
“I don’t want to let him (Kanye) down, I don’t want to let my family down, I don’t want to let myself down,” Anderson said.
But if anything is clear, it’s that the only person who knows if Anderson will go from finally famous to finally legendary is himself.