When the members of MTV's Hip-Hop Brain Trust sat down to discuss the year's rankings, the Detroit rapper initially had the #8 spot. But no one could've predicted how much he would progress on the list. Indeed, the same could be said for Sean's influence and impact on hip-hop over the past year.
Already known for his catchy ad-libs, Big Sean really established himself as a cultural fixture in 2012, beginning with his verse and hook on G.O.O.D. Music's Grammy-nominated single "Mercy," which made the word "swerve" a fixation in the process. A few months later, he surprised fans when he appeared alongside — and held his own — the Throne on "Clique."
"He's been able to rap against Kanye and Jay-Z and actually stand out on those records, so he was able to stay on our minds," said Sheila Grullon. MTV's Music Programming Manager also initially conceding that Sean was in a good position at #8.
Album: G.O.O.D. Music's Cruel Summer compilation LP
Selected Mixtapes: Detroit
Singles: "Mercy" (G.O.O.D. Music featuring Kanye West, 2 Chainz and Pusha T), "Mula," "Guap"
Street Bangers: N/A
Key Guest Appearances: "Clique" (with Kanye West and Jay-Z)
Meteoric Metrics: Numbers don't lie: Sean boasts more than 3.8 million Twitter followers, 1.8 million-plus DatPiff downloads for his Detroit tape and a closely followed vlog series that racks up hundreds of thousands of views every time he uploads.
Business Ventures: The 24-year-old inked a deal with Adidas and has appeared in several of their 2012 ads.
Monumental Moment: Appearing alongside Kanye West and Jay-Z on 'Clique' and scoring his first-ever Grammy nods.
Forecast: Big Sean's sophomore album, Hall of Fame: Memoirs of a Detroit Player, arrives in 2013, and it's expected to be a winner. After spinning it for No I.D. and Kanye West, he told MTV News they were both "blown away."
MTV News Managing Editor Rebecca Thomas wasn't convinced, though, that #8 was sufficient: "So much of what makes 'Mercy' great is Big Sean. For somebody to not have an album out and have the impact that Sean has had, he may need to be up even higher."
From there, the debate raged on as MTV News' Senior Hip-Hop Writer, Rob Markman, argued that it was Kanye West who should ultimately be credited with the Cruel Summer singles. Markman went on to add that A$AP Rocky should not be bumped since he dropped a #1 album, while Sean had no officially released body of work.
Counterarguments pointed to Big Sean's star-studded Detroit mixtape, with some members of the Brain Trust saying it was so well-crafted that it could well been a studio release. RapFix Blog Editor Nadeska Alexis added that Sean's crossover appeal was undeniable in the past year, noting that he performed with pop star Justin Bieber on multiple daytime and primetime stages, including the "Today" show.
Renaud Jean-Baptiste, story producer for MTV 2's "The Week in Jams," agreed that the 24-year-old's progress was impressive even to a former naysayer. "He's grown, he's gotten better; he's gotten more mature and I see kids actually modeling themselves after him," he said, pointing to Sean's style influence, before going on to point to another crucial criterion to be a Hottest MC. "His impact is being felt."