Big Sean Leonard was originally born in Santa Monica, California, but grew up in Detroit, Michigan where he was raised by his mother and grandmother. Already with a keen interest in rap music, Big Sean practiced his rhyming skills until he became confident enough to show them off at weekly rap battles on a Detroit radio station. In 2005, Big Sean boldly met up with Kanye West, whom he learned was doing an interview at one of the city’s radio stations. After convincing the reluctant rap star to hear a demo of his freestyle talent, this became the big break Big Sean needed to officially start his own recording career and join the big league of professional-level entertainment.
Since Kanye West officially brought Big Sean under his wing, the rap artist has recorded and released five studio albums, four mixtapes, eight promotional singles, and forty-eight official singles. So far, four of Sean’s studio albums have received certifications from the Recording Industry Association of America, namely with 2015’s Dark Sky Paradise becoming the most successful by becoming double-platinum. Finally Famous, his 2011 debut album, and I Decided, his fourth studio album that was released in 2017, also became certified platinum by the RIAA. 2013’s Hall of Fame, his second studio album, became certified gold. Big Sean’s most recent album, Detroit 2, was released in 2020 may not be officially certified yet, but is well on its way to earning recognition by the RIAA as well.
Best Big Sean Songs
# 9 – Beware (featuring Lil Wayne and Jhene Aiko)
From Big Sean’s second studio album, Hall of Fame, “Beware” was its third single release, which came out in 2013. He, as well as Lil Wayne and Jhene Aiko, played off each other’s vocal talent as they discuss the topic of infidelity’s devastating impact on relationships. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, Beware peaked at number ten. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it charted at number thirty-eight. Among the music critics, as well as the fans, the song was seen as the genius of three different artists who mesh their own individual talents to make it become addictively tense with its rhythmic content.
# 8 – All of Me (featuring Drake and 2 Chainz)
Drake’s second studio album, Nothing Was the Same was released in 2013. The double RIAA platinum single, “All of Me” featured 2 Chainz and Big Sean contributing their rap talent to Drake’s that made this song an urban contemporary favorite. Slightly comedic, the self-proclamation of success was the theme behind All of Me, saw it reach number six on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and at number twenty on the US Billboard Hot 100.
# 7 – Clique (featuring Kanye West and Jay-Z)
In 2012, “Clique” charted as high as number two on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and at number twelve on the US Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, it peaked as high as number four on its Hip Hop and R&B Singles Chart and at number twenty-two on the UK Singles Chart. The combined performance of Big Sean, Kanye West, and Jay-Z performed Clique with a slightly darker twist to its hip-hop beat. It was the final single from the compilation album, Cruel Summer, which Kanye West, used to combine the talents of a number of rap artists as a means to bring out the best from each of them. The song earned a triple-platinum certification from the RIAA.
# 6 – Blessings (featuring Drake and Kanye West)
In 2015, from Dark Sky Paradise, is the pulsating hit, “Blessings.” The powerful and soulful combination of talent between Big Sean, Drake, and Kanye West brought forth a soulful powerful performance by all three artists. There is also the original version of this song that’s strictly performed by Big Sean, but it was the triple-punch styles from all three that earned the most recognition. On the charts, Blessings peaked at number ten on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and at number twenty-eight on the US Billboard Hot 100. The USA’s RIAA certified Blessings as triple-platinum while with Music Canada it’s single platinum and as silver with the UK’s BPI.
# 5 – Dance (featuring Chris Brown)
Big Sean’s debut album brought forth the first of his singles, “Dance,” to become a top ten hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number ten. It also peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and since became certified platinum four times by the USA’s RIAA. Chris Brown’s performance combined with his own showcased how much talent the then-newcomer to the elite class of rap artists could do. The flow of Big Sean’s vocals, combined with Brown’s, easily made “Dance,” a favorite among hip-hop fans.
# 4 – Mercy (featuring Kanye West, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz)
From the Kanye West compilation album, Cruel Summer, which was released in 2012, “Mercy” was its heavy rap lead single. The fusion of Southern rap meeting the dance floor performance between himself, Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz brought forth this immensely successful song to the very top of the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, as well as earning a number of nominations and wins from a variety of awards ceremonies. In 2012, it won Reese’s Perfect Combo Award with the Bet Hip Hop Awards. Also in 2012, it won Collaboration of the Year by the HipHopDX, and Best Hip-Hop Song of the Year by the Soul Train Music Awards. In 2013, the BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Awards recognized Mercy in its Award-Winning Songs category, and the XXL Awards chose Mercy as the winner for Record of the Year and Best Posse Cut.
# 3 – Feels (featuring Calvin Harris, Pharrell Williams, and Katy Perry)
From Calvin Harris’s fifth studio album, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, 2017 single, “Feels,” was a collaborated performance that featured the combined vocal talent of Big Sean, Katy Perry, and Pharrell Williams. It became a top ten hit among many nations, including the top spot on the UK Singles Chart and on the US Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart. On the US Billboard, it peaked at number twenty. New Zealand’s RMNZ certified the single as platinum due to the number of copies sold in that nation, while in the UK it became double-platinum. USA’s RIAA and Australia’s ARIA, the single became triple-platinum certified. Rich with electro disco-funk, as well as the hip-hop genius Big Sean and Pharrell Williams made an ideal complement to Perry’s soul-reaching lyrics she’s trademarked for.
# 2 – Bounce Back
From Big Sean’s album, I Decided, “Bounce Back” peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in 2016, as well as number six on the US Billboard Hot 100. It received a 2017 Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Performance but lost to Kendrick Lamar’s Humble. The inspirational, no-holds-barred Bounce Back was one of Big Sean’s best-selling singles as it became certified platinum five times over by USA’s RIAA, as well as double-platinum with Music Canada. Australia’s ARIA certified the single at gold while the UK’s BPI certified it silver.
# 1 – As Long as You Love Me (featuring Justin Bieber)
Certified platinum five times by the RIAA, as well as a platinum certification from Australia’s ARIA and New Zealand’s RMNZ, and certified silver by UK’s BPI, “As Long as You Love Me” became one of the best-selling singles credited to Justin Bieber and Big Sean. The electro-pop single came from Justin Bieber’s third studio album, Believe, which was released in 2012. Bieber’s emotional performance that fueled the soul behind the song received a well-timed, rhythmic jab by Big Sean’s guest vocals. On the US Billboard Hot 100, As Long as You Love Me peaked at number six and was a top-forty hit on a global scale.
Best Big Sean Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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