Freshness Conversations: Big Sean on his adidas Metro Attitude Collab

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[column width="50%"]Big Sean got his big break in a way that seems as if it were grafted a melodramatic after school special. The story goes like this: working as a telemarketer in Detroit and battling regularly on 102.7, the area’s hip-hop station, Sean heard that Kanye was at the radio station, so he dashed over to rhyme a few bars for Mr. West. Kanye liked what he heard enough to stop and listen and eventually sign him to his GOOD Music label two years later. Since Big Sean’s major label release in 2011, his unique cadence and deadpan delivery have become nationwide mainstream radio staples. It’s not supposed to be that easy. Being a successful recording artist requires a consistent social media presence, an invigorating live show (if it’s flat, the world knows instantly), and a steady stream of products and endorsements to keep the performer from becoming irrelevant. Through the years, Big Sean succeeded on all these fronts, and on top of his recording success with two studio albums under his belt, he is about to release his third sneaker with adidas to cement his commercial output. In 2012, for his first adidas sneaker, he collaborated on a blood-red, snakeskin-embossed, bejeweled Pro Model, which dropped in limited quantities. A year later, he released a blacked-out sequel, again available only at selected retailers. For the third installment, Big Sean chose the Metro Attitude model, a silhouette which, until recently, had sat in the vaults since 1986. [/column]

[column width="50%"]This model is set to hit shelves in mid-September, and we had the chance to discuss the shoe with the man himself.

For the adidas Originals x Big Sean Metro Attitude, he draped the model in black, but this time with a floral print that appears on the upper with a snakeskin overlay, giving the print a digitized, impressionist appearance. With subtle gold hits and a reference to his Finally Famous lion chain, the model boasts unique Big Sean details throughout, including a quote on the interior from his song, “First Chain” which says: “My dreams stopped being dreams when I turned ‘em into goals.”

While discussing this upcoming release, we got a chance to discuss the details of the Metro Attitude, as well as some of the keys to remaining relevant in an increasingly-crowded pop music landscape. He also detailed some of his keys to keeping both his style and live show fresh while passing on knowledge that Jay Z and Kanye bequeathed. Click through to read our exclusive interview with a man who has risen from a locally-renown battle rap champ in Detroit to an internationally-recognized pop star. [/column]

[column width="50%"]FRESHNESS: All right, so the first question is simple. During the design process for your third shoe, what kind of direct involvement did you have?

BIG SEAN: It's cool, because we had tons of meetings, and we would just go over things that we like and other things we don't like. I actually picked the style of the shoe because it's one of my favorites, the Metro Attitude. It’s a shoe that I wear on stage to perform. I just wanted to put my own flavor on it. It's a fun process, man. I appreciate adidas for just being cool enough to be open-minded. [/column]

[column width="50%"]Where do we see the Big Sean stamp on this Metro Attitude model?

You see the customizations right before you put the shoe on when you see a quote right on the sole that says, "Dreams stop being dreams when I turn them into goals." Then you've got my signature Finally Famous lion piece, which is a lion with a crown on it on the tongue of the shoe. Those are just the customizations that show you that it's Big Sean’s. But other than that, it's a cool design and a cool shoe. I also like the floral print, and I like the snakeskin mixed with it, which makes it look pixelated.

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[column width="50%"]About that, I read that the floral print is inspired by your studio time in Hawaii, is that correct?

Yeah, man. I spent a lot of time out there working, especially with Kanye. One of my favorite places in the world is Hawaii. I've had some of the best times of my life out there, so just why not incorporate that somehow?

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[column width="50%"] I read that during the making of Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album Pete Rock mentioned Hawaii’s influence on him when he went out there to work on that project. He said, "No one bothers you, and you feel as free as a bird." Can you talk a little bit about the environment in Hawaii and how it affects your music?

Nature is just all around you out there. It’s colors and sunshine. It's like working in paradise. That does something to your mind, and it does something to your work ethic. It makes you want to work harder. It's one of the best places on earth, honestly. And I think that the fact that Kanye had the idea of just working in paradise like that was really genius because you wake up every day, and it just does something to you. It energizes you.

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[column width="50%"]It's different to be an artist today, especially in hip-hop, than it was many years ago. I grew up with mid-to-late 1990's hip-hop, and it seemed like at that time, an artist could focus on being an MC and crafting the best lines. But now, the music game has certainly changed. So you've had success in music, but you've also had success as a personality, even in the fashion world. Can you talk about the challenges of making it in today's music game? [/column]

[column width="50%"]Yeah, I think times have just changed. Along with the times changing, people are changing. I think consumers are becoming way smarter. They know what they want and what they don't want. They're identifying artists, and they're identifying songs and singles. And they're identifying what they like and what they don't like and even who they believe in.

And one of the things that I've recently learned, and seen over and over, is that you have got to have a fan base and people who believe in you. And you've got to show them why you're worth believing in. I think that's all there is to it, man, to be authentic. You know, nothing fugazi ever lasts. If you just stay 100% sucker-free and show people what it is that makes you special, then I feel like that's what sets you apart and puts you at the top. [/column]

[column width="50%"]I feel like longevity is something that's uncommon in the industry. So what's the game plan to staying relevant and having some longevity? [/column]

[column width="50%"]I think you just have to stand out and be something that, no matter what people say, you just undeniably can't ignore. I've been a part of some of the most influential rap songs since I've come up in 2011. I've been on a lot of important rap songs, man. That's a blessing, and I try to show and prove on every one that I do and be me. I never compromise. Some people hate it and some people like it. I set out to rap about what I want to rap about: what I feel at the time or what I'm going through. I have a life to live, and you know, I think that's what people have to accept. People respect that. [/column]

[column width="50%"]Well it seems to have been working so far. So congratulations on staying in the game as long as you have. It seems like a relatively long time already, you know?

Yeah, it's only been like a few years, not quite like Jay-Z, though.

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[column width="50%"]Well yeah. That's like Beatles-length longevity.

Sure, well I was talking with Jay, and I just thought about how long he'd been in the game. It's people like that who I am able to get game from, you know, like ‘Ye and Jay-Z. Both of those guys have two different perspectives on the game, but each is, in his own right, the best at what he does.

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[column width="50%"]One thing that definitely hasn't changed is how Hip Hop is rooted in a visual style. It's been rooted in style from its early days in the mid-to late 70s in the Bronx. So can you talk about your style, stage presence, and the importance of your visuals and your style as an artist? [/column]

[column width="50%"]Yeah, it's all an aesthetic. You just give something to the fans that they can take home. Even as I've been touring more and more, I've been spending more and more money, even out of my pocket on the shows. I make sure that people who come see me don't see the same show again and that they don't feel like the shows haven’t advanced in any way. I always want to make sure my last show and my last performance was better than the last one they might have seen. Or if it's your first time at a show, I want you to be really impressed, and people usually are impressed by my live show because they don't really know what to expect. I want to keep surprising people and keep good visuals. You know, I want to just be a part of the culture, honestly. [/column]