Big Sean has words to inspire in mentorship with young Detroit artist
Big Sean has talked frequently throughout his career about the value of staying true to yourself.
So it’s no surprise that theme was underscored when the star rapper met with an aspiring teen musician from Detroit for a recent career mentoring session.
Nyla Lewis, a 19-year-old rapper-singer, landed the opportunity as part of a new McDonald’s initiative — Black & Positively Golden Mentors — that also earns her one-on-one time with marketing and digital execs at Roc Nation.
Excerpts of their virtual meeting debuted Wednesday on Instagram, as 32-year-old Big Sean offered advice and took questions from the high-spirited young Lewis. He reflected on his own early days in the hip-hop game.
“I used to try and be like so many other people,” he said. “Then I realized that I can maybe be inspired by those people and take from things they’ve done — but make it my own. Because I’m the best at being me.”
Big Sean poses for photos in the Fisher Building in Detroit on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)
Big Sean pointed to a pivotal bit of support he got as a kid: He recounted his first go at writing a rap piece as an 11-year-old and performing for his mom, Myra Anderson, now director of his Sean Anderson Foundation.
“That was a crucial moment for me. She could have definitely shut me down right there on the spot,” he told Lewis. “But she didn’t – she encouraged it and kept me motivated and kept me going.”
Their segment is second in a Black & Positively Golden series that kicked off last month with computer whiz and Dream Hustle Code founder Ian Michael Brock.
Wednesday also brought the latest music video from Sean’s “Detroit 2” album, an at-times steamy clip for “Body Language” with Jhené Aiko and featuring guest Ty Dolla Sign.
The album, released in September after a pandemic-prompted delay, has netted Big Sean a best rap performance Grammy nomination for the track “Deep Reverence,” featuring Nipsey Hussle.
During a Monday media event to talk about the mentoring program, Sean cited the late L.A. rapper as he offered another chestnut of career wisdom to Lewis.
“It’s a marathon,” Big Sean said in a nod to the artistic and entrepreneurial approach that was core to Hussle’s identity.
“When you’re doing things for the right reason,” he added, “you’re going to get your opportunity. “It’s going to fall into place. You’re going to get that time to prove yourself, whatever way that is.”
Detroit musician Nyla Lewis participated in a mentoring session with rapper Big Sean as part of the Black & Positively Golden Mentors program. (Photo: Humble Hill PR)
Big Sean also looked back on 2020, a year marked by anxiety, turbulence and loss. But he said for those willing to seize the moment, it’s also a time to be thoughtful and take stock — to “explore inner space.”
“When you go through these moments, a time like this, you’ve got to wonder: Is this a cocoon?” he said. “Are we ready to come out of it and be bigger, brighter and greater, an elevated version of ourselves?”
More: Big Sean says ‘Detroit 2’ is a salute to his city’s ‘undeniable soul,’ with aim to inspire
McDonald’s has touted the Black & Positively Golden program as part of a broader push to support achievement and leadership in the Black community. Earlier this year, for instance, the company launched a $500,000 scholarship fund for students at historically Black colleges and universities.
Detroit gospel singer Kierra Sheard, journalist Jamila Lemieux and NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace are among the figures on deck as Black & Positively Golden Mentors in 2021.
Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or [email protected]
Read or Share this story: https://www.freep.com/story/entertainment/music/brian-mccollum/2020/12/16/big-sean-mcdonalds-music-mentorship-nyla-lewis/3920946001/