Big Sean talks about becoming a hero for his hometown of Detroit

Detroit rapper Sean Anderson, a.k.a Big Sean, has come a long way since Kanye West first introduced him to the world a decade ago—he’s now a Grammy nominated artist and is coming off the release of his fourth studio album, I Decide.

But the journey to the top hasn’t always been easy.

In an open letter to his 18-year-old self, Anderson, 28, shares some retrospective advice on handling life’s most difficult decisions and what to do in the face of racism.

On his first experiences with racism, he writes, “Your parents will be right when they tell you as teenager that you’ll come across times when people will judge you for how you look, for you being young, black, driving in a car. They’ll tell you you shouldn’t drive with your hat to the back or not wear certain clothes.”

He continues: “You’ll think they’re crazy, but you’ll see things, like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, names you don’t know yet, but you’ll come to know too well in the future. They’re just trying to protect you.”

During a drive back from Michigan State one time, he recounts how people at a gas station shouted at him to “Get out” because of the color of his skin.

In response to the situation, he writes, “It’ll make you angry, but you’ll realize that even though you’re on the same planet, you’re living in different worlds” and advises himself “the only thing you can do to change anything is to make yourself better and send prayers. Any act of violence, you will look back and regret.”

To successfully bring about change, Anderson addresses the necessity of social activism. “One day your city will need you,” he writes. “Flint up the road will need you. They’re going to need all the help they can get. Give these people a hero to look up to — a black one at that — one that the whole city can be proud of.”

Read the full letter on Mic.