Detroit consistently tops the list of most dangerous cities in America, thanks to a stubborn problem with gang-related violence. For a young black man growing up in the city, Sean Leonard Anderson (alias: Big Sean)’s prospect of “making it out the hood” was as foreclosed as Detroit’s 16,000 boarded-up homes:
“How many people you know – I mean “for real” know – made it/got on? Nobody from my city, Detroit. Hell nah, I ain’t know Eminem. I don’t know nobody who did.” – Big Sean
Yet, Anderson dared to dream beyond what was fathomable for others in his circumstances; to others, it seemed irrational. But from a young age, Big Sean knew he was going to be a famous rapper.
“I knew I was gone make it,” he said. “I just ain’t know how – but I knew.”
The story of how Big Sean got signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music record label is something of a legend in hip hop. As Sean recalls it:
“One summer — it was junior year, going into senior year — I had this weak job. No offence to telemarketers, but I was a telemarketer making $100 a week… I was cashing my check one Saturday, and it was for $100.
One of my best friends called and was like, ‘Yo, Kanye [West] is down at the radio station. If you go down there and rap for him, he’ll sign you.’ ”
Sean drove down from Detroit, somehow found his way past Kanye’s security and convinced the mogul to listen to him rap.
“Kanye shook my hand and started walking away,” Sean remembered. “My friend was like, ‘You gotta go for it.’
So I tapped him on the shoulder and was like, ‘I’m an aspiring MC. I do this show every Friday. Can I rap for you?’ He was like, ‘No. I gotta go.’ I’m like, ‘Man, please — you’re my hero. Let me rap for you? Just let me spit for you.’ ”
Kanye, reluctantly, gave him 16 bars. Instead, Big Sean rapped for ten minutes. Kanye liked it, and they both went home until two years later – out of nowhere, Sean got a call from Kanye, who wanted to sign him to his label. The rest is history.
Oprah famously said that luck is preparation meeting the moment of opportunity. Anderson was arguably preparing most of his life for the opportunity to get noticed by Kanye. However, what allowed him to seize the moment in the first place was his visualization of success – his imagination.
When your goals are consistently on your mind, it offers a level of clarity to your day-to-day that governs your decisions. Sometimes, like Big Sean, you need to seize a moment that holds an improbable success – for all you know, that could be the start of an amazing story.
This post was originally published on Year One.