Is it possible to be hugely successful and at the same time underrated? There’s definitely a difference between success and appreciation, and it’s not uncommon for an artist to be praised for everything but the one thing that makes them truly unique.
Since Sean is also from Detroit, there may be just a touch of hometown favoritism at play here, but when a figure like Royce da 5’9” goes out of his way to shine the spotlight on a rapper he feels is underrated, we should at least take a moment to ponder, regardless of the level of success Big Sean has achieved. (Interestingly, while Royce himself has achieved a considerable degree of commercial success, his talent and ability also aren't truly appreciated at the highest level.)
Just a few short years after impressing Kanye enough to sign him to a recording contract, Sean has released three full-length albums, earned several GRAMMY nominations, and become a legitimate rap superstar. Throughout his career, Sean has consistently honed his craft and grown as an artist, which ultimately has resulted in the Sean Don we hear today.
In terms of success, Big Sean is absolutely not underrated. He’s become a dominant force in hip-hop and has shown no signs of tapering popularity. Lyrically, however, Sean’s skills are commonly overlooked, as they’re usually not front and center on radio hits that don’t elicit the type of rewind-friendly lyrical focus one might find in the underground.
Not only is Sean’s wordplay often top-notch, his lyrical content has grown and matured right along with him as an artist. Positive intention, veganism, honor and respect—these are all subjects being touched on by Sean, often through dizzying double entendres and perfectly placed punchlines. The fact that he’s presenting these ideas on a mainstream level is impressive in itself, but the skill with which he does it is often lost in the spectacle of the stardom he’s attained.
With so much success achieved, it's fair to wonder if it really matters to Sean whether or not he’s underrated lyrically, but that’s exactly the type of thinking Royce is trying to curb. Album sales and sold-out tours are all well and good, but the mark of a truly great artist is the desire to be the best at your craft, and to always push forward.
Big Sean can check all of those boxes and deserves his just due. Not just in dollars and cents, but in respect, praise and a true appreciation of his skillset.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.