Big Sean is one man out to change the world and the future of the music industry.
The Grammy Award-nominated rapper recently hosted several metro Atlanta-area high school students for Mogul Prep, a series of workshops that expose youth to various opportunities that exist in the music business. Mogul Prep is one of the programs Big Sean offers through his self-coined nonprofit organization, the Sean Anderson Foundation.
During Big Sean’s sold-out stop in Atlanta this past April, the youth heard from various crew members responsible for assembling and executing the G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam recording artist’s concert at The Tabernacle. Prior to that stop, Mogul Prep was hosted in the multiple BET Award winner’s hometown of Detroit and Silver Springs, MD.
“These jobs are real careers, and it’s a way into the music industry,” a semi-husky-voiced Big Sean says with full eye contact towards the kids. “It’s something that I wasn’t taught in high school. You can’t go as far in life if you don’t have a team around you. Hopefully, this program motivates you to just get it.”
The four-hour event consisted of rotating sessions spanning the entire venue. Students asked questions and received crash courses in tour merchandising, creative direction, lighting, sound, stage production, tour management and security.
Each session emphasized the importance of taking initiative, conducting research, acquiring (and applying) transferable skill sets, strategic planning, teamwork and maintaining interpersonal savvy. Flanked by his two security guards and his mother, the foundation’s co-founder and president, Myra Anderson, a benevolent Big Sean encouraged the young people to strive for longevity in their chosen fields.
“The whole point is to see all of the different jobs you can have in the industry besides being the performer,” the artist behind the albums Finally Famous (2011), Hall of Fame (2013), and the chart-toppers Dark Sky Paradise (2015) and I Decided (2017) proclaims. “The lifespan of these jobs are longer than an artist’s career. You can do this for 30, 40, 50 years.”
Before Big Sean was even signed by Kanye West, the relentlessly hard-working emcee synonymous with his sometimes laid-back, melodic flow and other times spit-fire delivery and clever wordplay mastered self-promotion. He sold a new CD every semester in the halls of his alma mater, Cass Technical High School. He proactively performed on open mic nights and battle-rapped his way into a substantial following throughout Detroit.
“I was trying to expand to other high schools. I was on my grind, doing everything I could to get out there and make the right connections,” Big Sean shares with opulent, diamond-encrusted gold jewelry on his wrists.
The 29-year-old former bank telemarketer landed a chance meeting with West at the same radio station where he frequently performed a newly written verse on-air every Friday night. Big Sean says those live broadcasts taught him to embrace rapping under pressure. The self-proclaimed “super nervous performer” gave an impromptu performance per West’s request.
An exceptional student awarded a full scholarship to attend Michigan State University, the performer behind gold and platinum-certified singles like “Bounce Back,” “Guap,” “My Last,” “Marvin & Chardonnay,” “Blessings,” “Dance” and “IDFWU” also gave West a copy of his CD with a press kit included. It would take two years before Big Sean would sign a recording contract. “Everything I did led up to that moment,” Big Sean says, further acknowledging the controversial, multiple Grammy winner as his “idol and favorite rapper.”
“The spirit of luck is on my side. When you’re a righteous person, people want to look out for you and help you out.”
Selling over 15 million records, being christened with a Roc-a-Fella chain from JAY-Z, and becoming the first rapper to perform at the White House has motivated Big Sean to now concentrate heavily on paying his success forward. The Sean Anderson Foundation, founded in 2012, seeks to improve the quality of life for youth.
So far, Big Sean has spearheaded various efforts including installing a recording studio at his alma mater, donating $25,000 to Wayne State University to combat student homelessness, leading crowdfunding efforts for kids affected by the Flint, Michigan water crisis, curating a backpack exchange program with kids in Soweto, South Africa, and treating people to free pizzas.
“New goals and dreams come along the further along you get, and I have a bigger purpose for my music,” Big Sean declares. “I made a lot of sacrifices because music was where my heart was. Life is all about progression.”
Big Sean says he reserves all of his energy for his live shows but hopes his “rap fairy tale” can inspire his fans as much as the youth he seeks to help. He has no reservations about signing autographs, taking pictures and having conversations with his followers. The Puma spokesperson is especially flattered anytime aspiring artists want to rap for him, just as he once did for West.
“That’s an honor,” he says. “That’s why we do it. For somebody to respect you that much or connect to your music, I respect that. You can’t please everybody at once, so you got to do the music you feel in your heart.”
Big Sean then concludes, “Whatever you feel passionate about, if you don’t know your passion yet, just keep searching. Keep trying new things. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
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