By Jordan Holley
LANSING, MI -- Soulful and poetic are the first words that come to mind when listening to Lansing native Mikeyy Austin’s music. With beats that wouldn’t sound out of place on Outkast’s Aquemini and rhymes inspired by Like Water for Chocolate era Common. Mikeyy Austin, whose real name is Michael Austin, is a promising young rapper. He has been rapping since he was young and has always been involved in music in some form.
“I started music when I was five or six, my parents were both religiously involved in church, my mom would write songs for my brother and I and make us go up and perform them,” said Mikeyy Austin. “I hated it then but it always stuck so I’ve been doing music since.”
His raps during this time were mostly poems and scriptures but performing at Lansing Church of God in Christ helped him become more comfortable on the stage. At Eastern High School, he started his own band with two friends and they were able to travel to Texas and perform.
“It was with two of my friends, Hezekiah Trevino and his little brother J.R. Trevino. Hezekiah plays everything but he’s primarily plays the guitar and J.R. plays the drums. It was when I went to their church to visit that we clicked,” said Austin. “ They asked me to play the keyboard and then from that one time, we ended up rocking out and writing songs together and that’s how our band assembled.”
Austin’s inspiration ranges from older rappers like Nas and Biggie, to more contemporary artists like Kanye West, 2 Chainz, Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$ and Freddie Gibbs. But his biggest inspiration is Common.
“I think that my favorite artist would probably be Common,” said Austin. “I’ve liked him for a really long time and although he is older and we may tend to think he needs to stop rapping, his last was project was dope.”
Austin’s approach to making music is also unique with a focus on collaborating with others and letting them bring out their specific sound to his music.
Jahshua Smith, local rapper and collaborator said, “Mikeyy is loose in a good way. He’s the complete opposite of me. I will use the analogy of Legos. When he creates, he gives you a box of Legos and says let’s build this together. I think really dope things come from giving people enough space to decide how they want to contribute.”
When deciding who he wants to collaborate with, Austin focuses on what they can create together and how they can make their vision a reality. He also looks for people who can challenge him to expand his sound.
“I think it’s important as an artist to know your sound and vision that you have for the music you want to put out,” said Austin. “You have to be able to find producers who see that and respect and stretch your limits.”
With the platform that his music has provided him, Austin has worked to give back to the community by helping start the REO Town Sessions in November of 2016. He is also working with All of the Above Hip Hop Academy.
“The REO Town Sessions are meant to highlight local artists every second Saturday of the month. It’s not just specific to musical art but you’ll see painters, dancers, musicians and singers. We highlight all forms of the arts,” said Austin. “It goes deeper than just wanting to highlight the local artists, we want to be able to sow into the next generation of artistic leaders. We raised $4,000 for four Lansing School District seniors that are continuing their education in the arts.”
Through the REO Town Sessions, Austin organized the Black Arts Matter celebration. Which served as both a fundraiser and an award ceremony.
“We had the Black Arts Matter celebration and we highlighted different black artists within the city. We also honored those who fight for the arts with the Arts Matter award and the event ended up selling out,” said Austin. “All of the money that we raised during the event went towards the $4,000 scholarship money. We want to be able to provide and support art initiatives.
All of the Above Hip Hop Academy focuses on teaching kids about the culture of hip hop. Not just focusing on rapping, they also instruct students in music production, breakdancing, graffiti and just knowledge in general about the social and political structure of hip hop.
“We partnered with the non-profit Highfields Incorporated and we work with some of the young students there, they have an all boys campus in Onondaga,” said Smith, who is also program director at All the Above Hip Hop Academy. “The boys are all adjudicated youth so this is like a step down facility for them to go from the juvenile youth center and then going home. Essentially we do a two month program with them where they are able to just create whatever music they wanted.”
In addition to the community work, Austin has also been working on new music. His first album came out May 19th and is called Lifted. While working on it, he spent a lot of time overseeing the work and making sure that everything was put together how he wanted it.
“For maybe three or four of the songs made just from scratch so whether that’s me playing the keys and coming up with the sound,” said Austin. “Then from there having the musicians takeover I was able to be there to hear it being built from scratch. I was there for every step of it.”
Jordan Holley graduated from Michigan State University in 2017. He is currently an intern at The New Citizens Press.
This was printed in the June 11, 2017 - June 24, 2017 edition