Big Sean is criminally underrated and never gets enough credit from the rap game for his witty bars and smooth delivery. 

While I agree that Big Sean deserves to be mentioned as one of rap’s MVPs, I think another aspect of the Detroit rapper’s rhymes get overlooked: his music challenges stereotypes about rappers and Black masculinity. 

I know it seems a bit far-fetched for the man who created “Dance (A$$)” and “I Don’t F**k With You”, but hear me out.

Sean has become infamous for his series of high-profile relationships. And like most celebrities, doesn’t have much control over the media’s portrayal of his love affairs. However, Sean takes back control over his narrative by serving the public with shockingly candid tracks detailing his side of the story. In his honesty, we find that Sean’s romantic experiences are surprisingly more relatable than one would think. Since rappers are heralded as the paragons of black masculinity, we tend to view them as players who alternate between women as often they do the chains around their necks. Yet, Big Sean shows that one stereotype does not fit all. His songs about love work to form a dimensional look at relationships in the millennial era from a hetero-male perspective.

Naturally, Sean acknowledges that his fame inevitably attracts women as told in songs like “Moves” and “Bounce Back” from his latest album I Decided. He does not deny those player tendencies,– which, by the way, he attributes to his father —  besides, any hyper-visible figure like Sean is going to have their fair pick of the ladies. 

The interesting thing about Big Sean however, is that he finds that his fame can get in the way of what he really wants— a long-term relationship. We rarely hear rappers speak about their struggles finding love in mainstream hip-hop and the fact that Sean is so open about his quest for love is refreshing.

Sean provides another uncommon perspective on relationships with his song “Owe Me”. On this track, Sean explains how he still wants to make things work with his unfaithful girlfriend. 

This act of forgiveness is rarely expressed in mainstream hip-hop due to the high standards of masculinity to which rappers are held. But Big Sean doesn’t care about what role he should play as a rapper. Instead, he speaks to his experience — no matter how vulnerable he may seem –all while maintaining his trademark swagger. That’s the brilliance of Big Sean — he confidently speaks his truth over sophisticated beats making it almost impossible for anyone to judge him.

Admittedly, the most heartwarming way that Big Sean deconstructs stereotypes is by proudly claiming his love interest. His current girlfriend, Jhene Aiko, joins him on two songs on I Decided and he mentions her by name several times throughout the album. He brags about Jhene, positioning her as an asset to his career rather than a hindrance. Big Sean touts her accomplishments that she’s made on her own, praising her as an individual and not a piece of arm candy. He makes having a girlfriend seem cool, which has become increasingly difficult in a culture afraid of commitment.

Big Sean might not be the exemplar of gentlemanliness, but the representation of love he brings to hip-hop is much needed.

While there are shows like Love and Hip Hop, which is based on infidelity and emotionally abusive partners, it is important that young people have examples of healthier relationship in hip hop as well. All in all, Big Sean’s love songs create the perfect soundtrack for love, as millennials know it.