Mikeyy Austin is a leader at 20 years old, the Lansing, Michigan artist just released his debut album “L I F T E D” while tackling being a college student, while giving back to the community. I had a chance to sit down with him and talk about the process of making the album, being a leader in the community and more. “L I F T E D” holds such a positive sound in comparison to the rest of the hip-hop gambit right now and I encourage you all to give it a listen. Make sure you stick around til the end of the interview as Austin will be premiering his brand new video for come home.
Dead End Hip Hop: Who is Mikeyy Austin for those who don’t know yet?
Mikeyy Austin: MikeyyAustin is a 20 year old hip-hop and soul artist, musician, bandleader, and community builder from Lansing, Mi. Most of all, my identity can be found in the desire to leave an imprint in the lives of listeners and in the communities that I serve.
DEHH: One of the first things I noticed about you and definitely moreso once I put the whole package together, you’re a young buck, with a large vision.
MA: I would agree that I’m young with a big vision. Not having a lot makes you use your imagination and makes you dream.
One saying that has stuck with me over the years is “If the size of the vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, than it’s really insulting to you.”
That drives me to want to do more, be more, and reach more.
DEHH: And this mentality extends past the music too right?
MA: This vision goes far past Music. Music is something that I’ve been doing for a very long time. Although I’m young, I’ve been performing for the past 15 years. And while still in high school, I began to notice the influence and the voice I had because I did Music. So my goal has been to use Music as a way to express myself while connecting with others to uplift and encourage. At the same time, using that platform to give back. I don’t think you need to be rich to give back. I think it’s all about using the current platform you have to do so. Whether that’s being a college student, artist, or working a 9-5. I’m currently all three-in-one, so the way I use my musical platform to give back is a little different than how I use my platform as a student or an employee.
I understand that if my end goal is to uplift people, Music is a great way to do that, but it’s far from the only way.
DEHH: Let’s jump into the music, what sparked and motivated “L I F T E D”?
MA: The idea of L I F T E D has been on the tip of my tongue for about 9 months now. When I first decided to make any debut album and when I was in the writing process, I told myself I wanted to uplift listeners, whether they’re in a bad mood, or are already in a good mood. I wanted this project to make any listener level up.
So the albums initial name was “Oral tradition”, as I would attempt to tell a story life as a black child that grows into an adult.
I later decided to make it more personal, and to share my story in each song. And I performed a verse off of the last song, “Coming Home” ft Yellokake, at an open mic. And the audience responded afterwards telling me how uplifting of a message it was. That’s when I knew I would keep the title the same as the mission of the project.
DEHH: You’ve got a lot on your plate tell me a bit about the process of making this album while balancing all your other responsibilities?
MA: The process of creating the album went really smoothly while factoring in everything else I do. In fact, I’d say it complimented it at times. For me, I would go from school, to work, to the studio, where I recorded the whole album with YoungHeat. Between school, work, and just living in the small city of Lansing, I got to see a lot of things that sparked ideas, reminded me of my childhood, and that raised questions. Being able to journal those things throughout the day and turn those thoughts, ideas, and memories into 16’s drives the passion throughout the album. And once I began to get comfortable with the idea of the title being “L I F T E D”, I found myself on a lot of airplanes, traveling from Michigan to Virginia. I remember rehearsing verses the whole plane ride, and envisioning my lyrics could make people feel this ‘LIFTED’.
A lot of the responsibilities that I’ve faced in the past year really put me in a position to think and create based off of those thoughts.
DEHH: Everything from the sound to the lyricism on here is positive and upbeat, and challenging a lot of what is being thrown in our face right now talk a bit about that.
MA: Before anything else, Music is just fun for me. So being able to have upbeat music, live instrumentation, singers and other rappers create, it was such a fun challenge. And while working with YoungHeat on this album, we both had our own styles that meshed well together. But we were both okay with trying new things and challenging each other. So it started with the sound as the foundation. Heat would have ideas on some of the beats and I would add stuff from there. Other songs, I brought in my band and we created songs from scratch. Once that base was created, I would write the lyrics. I knew I wanted the theme to be uplifting, but there are so many different uplifting positions you can take while rapping. So I had to make sure the lyricism fit with the tone of the beat. And lastly, every song has some sort of feature. I knew I wanted to let other artist be apart of this project, so I kept different people in mind while writing and through the production process, to give them room to excel on the tracks.
Most of all, I wanted this album to be able to be played from beginning to end at like a family BBQ or a Block Party. I wanted it to be real, authentic, upbeat, and community oriented.
DEHH: What’s your favorite song on “L I F T E D”?
MA: it’s hard to give one so I’ll give three for different reasons.
Number 1. Coming Home ft Yellokake.
That’s the most vulnerable and open I’ve ever been on a song. I talked about my childhood, watching myself grow up but the people I came up with remain the same, deaths of loved ones, and social injustices we see nationally, and even something as close as the Flint, Mi, water crisis –
“We ain’t forgotten
Those names that’s hashtagged,
We mourn our losses.
We turn our faucets
While we drink water with caution.”
Being that open on a song kind of gives it a special place in your heart.
Number 2. The Griot ft. Phourthelove, James Gardin & Ozay Moore.
First, these are some of my favorite artist ever. Having them all on one track was crazy. This one has gotten the biggest response thus far, and the process of making it was fun. I remember sending the song to Phourthelove so he could do vocals on the hook with James. He forgot to send the vocals for the hook back and instead recorded a “freestyle”. He hit me up while he was in the studio listening to it saying, “bro I love this. I’m gonna record a freestyle now”. He sent it to me the same night and it was one of my favorite verses on the album. Between his verse and Ozay Moores verse, I felt it represented the title “The Griot” well.
(Griot is a west African word for storyteller). I wanted this song to be full of storytellers speaking from their own perspective.
Number 3. So High ft Taylor Taylor &a Stoop Lee
If you’ve listened to the album, you would have heard the voice memo before this track. That memo comes from a night where I invited about 12 rappers, singers, musicians and producers to the studio for a jam session. No real agenda, just to hang and create. I was playing the guitar in the voice memo, ‘Young-O’ came up with the melody, added with vocals from myself, stoop LEE, taylor taylor, James Gardin, and MilesYoung, I went home and turned the melody into a song. Being that free to create was a first for me. And doing it with friends made it my favorite song to make.
DEHH: Now you do a lot of work in the community as well, tell me a bit about Reo Town Sessions?
MA: Reo Town Sessions is a arts organization/ campaign I started in December of 2016. The goal was to highlight a local artist once a month, giving them a chance to present their art while interacting with the Lansing community. This is not specific to musical arts. We’ve highlighted dancers, photographers, poets, and more. While doing this, I was also able to put on concerts like “The Black Arts Matter Celebration”, where all proceeds went towards our ‘Arts Matter’ campaign, where we raised $4,000 in art scholarships for senior students continuing their education in the arts.
So we created a cycle of supporting local artist and giving them a platform to perform while giving towards the education of the next generation of artistic leaders.
My new video depicts us surprising students with scholarships earlier this month.
DEHH: What’s next for Mikeyy Austin? Will we see you on tour this year, will we eventually get a follow-up to “L I F T E D”?
MA: I am continuing to do live performances. Live shows is my favorite part of being an artist. I am to travel and perform more this summer, bringing an uplifting message to a city near you. I’m able to perform with my band, so my shows are pretty electric and memorable.
I am working on new Music as we speak, as well as new content and new messages. A follow up is over the horizon, but I can’t give it a date quite yet.
Mainly, I plan on doing everything at a higher level in the near future. Music, performances, community work, etc. I’m all about improving and growth. L I F T E D is an amazing body of work, no bias. I want the world to hear it and love it the way I do. But I also know that it’s all up from here.
DEHH: I heard you brought a video for me, tell me about it.
MA: On May 22, 2017, the Reo Town Sessions crew and I went to all of the Lansing School District High schools (Eastern, Sexton, and Everett). We surprised students with art scholarships and a few other gifts such as a free senior photoshoot.
This meant a lot to me because I graduated from Eastern High School just 3 years ago.
Along with that, my favorite song on the album is “Coming Home”. That’s because community means so much to me, and I love the place I call home. That’s why I decided to dedicate that song to Lansing. Mi. So it only made sense to put the song I dedicated for the city with actions for the city.
I hope that this video encourages, inspires and uplifts. I hope the images and the lyrics translates to viewers and listeners. And ultimately, I hope it inspires someone to be the change in their community.