American rapper Big Sean pays tribute to heroic WWII grandmother on stage at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival

Detroit rapper Big Sean paid tribute to his late grandmother Mildred Leonard at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival

Chicago rapper Big Sean returned to his home city of Detroit on 31 July for the eighth edition of AEG’s Mo Pop festival.

During his performance, Sean honoured his late grandmother Mildred Leonard - who was one of the first female black captains in World War II.

Her US Army battalion recently received a Congressional Gold Medal for their services.

The rapper also performed his 2015 single “One Man Can Change the World,” which was released in tribute to his grandmother, who was influential to his career.

Sean has previously spoken highly of his grandmother, who was the inspiration behind some of his songs, such as “Memories” and “So Much More”.

She passed away in 2015, with Sean telling Vanity Fair that “she was the backbone of the family”.

He said: “She was born in West Virginia, she came up from nothing, she was one of the first female black captains in World War II, and she was a female police officer in Detroit. She was a teacher and a counsellor.”

“And she was just the best grandmother ever.”

Big Sean


Big Sean, whose real name is Sean Michael Leonard Anderson is an American rapper, songwriter and entrepreneur.

The 34-year-old Detroit rapper first gained traction after he attracted the attention of Kanye West in 2005, when he headed to a radio station where West was doing an interview and performed a freestyle.

Two years later, Kanye West signed Sean to his record label G.O.O.D Music and Island Def Jam.

Sean has pulled in billions of song streams and has released five studio albums, four mixtapes and over 30 singles.

  • Big Sean is 34-years-old and was born in Santa Monica, California
  • He was raised by his mother and grandmother in Detroit
  • He has his own foundation called Sean Anderson Foundation that helps children in Detroit
  • His net worth is estimated to be around $26 million


Mike Posner

Michael Posner is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer known for hits including "Cooler than Me" and "Please Don’t Go".

The 34-year-old is a longtime friend of Big Sean, who he met when he was 18.

They both hail from Detroit and have collaborated on songs together. Big Sean brought out Posner on stage at Coachella 2022.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber at The 2021 Met Gala (Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Canadian singer Justin Bieber is one of the best-selling music artists of all time and has sold millions of records worldwide.

The 28-year-old has been friends with Big Sean since 2011, and the two have made music together.

Sean generously gifted Bieber a $30,000 ring in 2012.

John Legend

John Legend is an American singer, songwriter, pianist, actor, and record producer who has worked with some of the top names in the music industry.

His debut album, 2004’s Get Lifted, won three Grammy Awards and reached the top ten on the Billboard 200.

Legend has featured on Big Sean’s songs, and they are part of the same record label.

Personal life

Naya Rivera

Naya Riveria (Getty Images)

Naya Marie Rivera was an American actress, singer, and model best known for playing Santana Lopez in Glee.

The Glee star died aged 33 in 2020, after drowning during a boating trip with her four-year-old son.

Sean was engaged to Rivera, but they called off the marriage in April 2014.

Ariana Grande

American singer and songwriter Ariana Grande (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

Ariana Grande is an American singer, songwriter, and actress who is highly acclaimed for hits which have earnt her numerous awards.

The 29-year-old dated Big Sean for around eight months, but the couple separated in 2015 and remain friends.

Jhené Aiko

Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo is an American singer famous for her R&B songs, including The Worst.

In 2016, she began dating Big Sean, but they confirmed their break up in 2019.

However, they have since rekindled their relationship and the two are now expecting their first child together.