Big Sean is a proud product of the blog rap era. Nowhere is that clearer than on his 2012 mixtape, Detroit. Arriving between Sean Don’s debut studio album, 2011’s Finally Famous, and its follow-up, 2013’s Hall of Fame, the project functions as an encapsulation of the moment when he and his peers figuratively dug their heels into the earth of the industry and planted their respective flags announcing their arrival. Big Sean, in particular, crossed over from fledgling freshman to respected upperclassman in the hip-hop scene with a quickness. Boasting features from his idols alongside a who’s who of the incoming generation of MCs, Detroit is Big Sean’s opportunity to showcase his determination to make it in the rap game by any means necessary. Initially gifted to his fans for free, Detroit was officially uploaded to streaming services on the 10th anniversary of its release. In the context of Big Sean’s discography, this mixtape serves as his first demonstrable effort to put the city of Detroit on his back musically, and into the mainstream. Sean Michael Leonard Anderson was born in Santa Monica but raised in the Motor City, an environment that had a significant impact on his blossoming creative endeavors. That regional influence exudes through many of Big Sean’s projects, but especially here. Conceptually, Detroit is an homage in every sense of the word. A few of Big Sean’s hip-hop predecessors—Common, Jeezy, Snoop Dogg—share stories of their experiences in Detroit throughout the mixtape, bringing the theme full circle. The project is driven by a hunger for recognition from Big Sean and his contemporaries. From the moment Detroit begins, with “Higher,” he expresses how hard he’s fought for his place in the hip-hop landscape, and his unrelenting desire for more:. “And life ain’t what it seem no more / ’Til I was standing next to Puff and Hov off the French coast, a million dollars never seemed so broke.” A gleaming collaboration with an equally motivated J. Cole on “24K of Gold” sees Big Sean further illustrating his reflections and ambitions; elsewhere, the MC chooses to rap more solemnly, but always thoughtfully, especially alongside Kendrick Lamar and fellow Detroiter Royce Da 5’9” on the introspective “100.”

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