DETROIT, Michigan -- The first thing I notice about Cass Technical High School, standing nine stories above it, on the roof of a building a few blocks away, is that it has a beautiful campus. It’s sleekly built, with plenty of floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and a vibrantly green grass football field sitting directly adjacent.
It’s a contrast from the Detroit that Big Sean has at times rapped about in his music, and that we often read about, as an underdog of a city fighting for its very life. But it’s also an exhibition of the future of Detroit -- both the exterior and the bright minds roaming the halls inside -- as Sean and many others see it. And it’s that future, that school, and Sean that are the reason I’m here today.
On Monday afternoon (June 8), Sean unveiled the Sean Anderson Studio of Infinite Possibilities, a state-of-the-art facility with equipment and a design that would make some professional musicians jealous. He built it, with the help of adidas Originals, inside of Cass Tech, his alma mater, converting an old classroom to a space to incubate those infinite possibilities.
After arriving at the school at about noon, I head past the cafeteria and hundreds of shouting kids -- most of them surely unaware what a memorable moment the afternoon would hold -- and to the studio. Before you walk into the room, you're immediately struck by the art on the wall: Block lettering of the phrase "Close Your Eyes" on one wall and "Dream About It" directly next to that. The interiors of each of those letters were painted by students, according to the artist that was touching up the lettering.
Inside the studio, there's a booth, a bevy of microphones for different occasions, a drum set, keyboards, guitars and more, in addition to computers loaded up with all the necessary software to record.
Before long, it's time to head to the school's theater, a stadium-seating-style two-story hall that could sit comfortably on Broadway. The school's principal, Lisa Phillips, plays MC from the podium atop the stage, vocally ushering in the entire student body, urging them to file into their seats in an orderly and quiet fashion. But quiet was going to be a tall task. These kids are buzzing about having a rap star -- and not just any rap star, but their city and school's native son -- back home.
After congratulating the junior class on helping bring this moment to fruition, thanks to their increased ACT scores, Phillips introduces the man of the hour. When Sean emerges to address the students, it's like he's just hit the stage at a concert -- but with more screams and cheers. Chants of "Boy" and "I do it" -- two of Sean's well-known ad-libs -- circle me in my seat. The feeling in the room is electric. Things hit a particular fever pitch when one lucky young lady cries out that she loves Sean, and he says, "I love you too, baby."
Onstage, the G.O.O.D. Music rapper explains why he's there that day, and there were two main points that were intertwined. He is where he is, in a larger sense -- in a rare class of rappers, known worldwide, respected within his field and creating business and philanthropic opportunities for himself and those around him -- because of Cass Tech and Detroit. The school and city made him who he is. He is where he is, in a literal sense -- standing back at Cass Tech, talking to teenagers brimming with both enthusiasm and hope -- for that very same reason.
As Sean left students with messages about believing in themselves and following their dreams, whatever they may be, they clamored for a performance. They didn't get one today, but with the studio, they got something pretty special, too. Besides, there will be more opportunities.
"I'm gonna keep coming back to Cass," he said, before disappearing behind the curtain to head to the studio, see the finished product for the first time and mingle with some lucky students.
Stay with MTV News for more of our coverage of Sean's trip to Cass Tech and unveiling of his new studio, including an exclusive video, and be on the lookout for a video recap from adidas Originals coming soon, too.