Even after four studio albums, Big Sean has the tenacity of a rookie with a point to prove. "I'm hungrier than ever," the Detroit native says of his decade-long career. "I'm at a spot that I've been waiting to get to my whole life, and I want to keep letting them know I deserve to be here."
On his most recent effort, I Decided. (out now on G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam), the 28-year-old raps from the perspective of his reincarnated self — an old man who died full of regrets and has been given a rare chance at a do-over. It's an approach Sean embraces in real life. "The album concept is something authentic and true to me. It's how I really feel. You never want to look up blinking at all these things that passed you by. So I'm focused on taking advantage of this opportunity I've been given. I don't want to short-change myself."
Sean's climb to the top of the charts has been an exercise in persistence. 2013's misstep Hall of Fame had many critics ready to count him out, and he's experienced the misfortune of being overshadowed on his own song more than once — Kendrick Lamar's scorching verse on "Control" being the most glaring occurrence. But his near-obsessive work ethic renders Sean one of hip-hop's most consistently improved. I Decided. marks his second number one album and its lead single "Bounce Back" is his most successful solo track to date. He's moving out from under the shadows and his hard work isn't going unnoticed — Jay Z recently graced him with a glittering Roc-A-Fella chain to commemorate his ongoing rise.
And although it's not their first collaboration, Sean describes Eminem's guest appearance on "No Favors" as a full circle moment. "You can imagine being from the D and growing up watching Eminem be the biggest rapper in the world. Fast forward in life and it's my turn to rep the city and he's right there with me," says Sean. "Rap is an egotistical game and artists as high up as Eminem sometimes don't like to share their light with you. But he is the complete opposite and I appreciate him for that."
Not one to grow complacent in his wins, Sean's gaze is focused upward as he prepares to kick off his I Decided. tour with guest MadeinTYO. "I haven't headlined a tour in a while, so I'm excited about it. The feeling never gets old," he says. "We've been putting some heavy thought into the concept of the tour and we want to give people a show that makes them feel charged up."
He's also slated to voice a character on HBO's animated series Animals and hints that a follow up to TWENTY88, last year's collaboration album with partner Jhené Aiko, is on the way soon.
Sean's consistent climb and insatiable appetite for success means his best is yet to come. And unlike his character on I Decided., Sean's future won't likely be paved with regrets.
"I feel like I've got a purpose and a message," he says. "I just want to keep taking it further and do something that changes the world for the better. Something I can look back on and be proud of."
Big Sean plays Toronto on April 2; check out the video for "Bounce Back" below.