July 7 2016 12:04 AM

Local rapper Mikeyy Austin releases debut mixtape

Imagine it’s noon on a weekday. Lunch hour. Finding a parking spot in downtown Lansing is nearly impossible. In the rush, people from all walks of life briefly emerge from their workplaces to hurriedly grab food before scurrying back to work.

For an avid people-watcher like 19-year-old rapper and Lansing resident Michael Austin, who performs as Mikeyy Austin, it’s a perfect situation.

“I was driving through downtown during that time, and I wanted to slow myself down. I wanted to look at people,” Austin said. “You see everybody. Some with suits, kind of consumed with their work life, and less fortunate people too.”

At that moment, inspiration hit.

“What if my windows were tinted, but so that I don’t see people through their suits or their lack of clothing? So that everyone looks the same,” Austin said. “What would it be like if it was our motto as people, to tint our eyes, to see people not as what their outward appearance might show but as a person?”

From this jolt of creativity, Austin created his first mixtape, “T I N T E D,” to be released July 11. The focus of the mixtape is spirituality and self-discovery, with themes that delve into culture and art as a whole. While this is his first release, Austin has been performing since he was young.

“I started probably when I was four or five,” Austin said. “My mom made me perform in front of the church. A lot of them were songs that she wrote, so that kind of got me into it as a kid.”

Austin is hoping to tap into those gospel roots to give his mixtape a unique flavor.

“A lot of times as a rapper, we kind of get caught up in ‘write two verses, rap your two verses, and then do a hook and call it a song,’” he said. “I’m challenging myself to kind of get back to my roots and really just have fun with the music and create.”

Austin is still a little surprised that “T I N T E D” ever became a reality. The mixtape started as a hobby with his roommate in their dorm room at Great Lakes Christian College.

“We set the whole dorm room up into a studio, and all the songs were recorded there,” Austin said. “We were making music for ourselves, just having fun. We sent it to our friends, and the response encouraged us to make it.”

Austin took the tracks to REO Town Recording for professional mixing and mastering. He’s giving the public a chance to get a sneak peek at the mixtape Saturday with a listening party hosted by All of the Above hip hop academy at Riverview Church’s REO Town venue. The event also includes live performances and music from DJ Meftah.

“T I N T E D” comes after a about a year in Austin’s life when he stepped away from music entirely. He had been part of a band, but the group never made an album and his involvement tapered off. With this release though, Austin is jumping back into the game. He plans to go on tour with the band who helped record his music, and he’s getting reacquainted with the scene.

“With ‘T I N T E D,’ this is just getting our feet wet. We’re putting something out there to make something bigger,” Austin said. “We are looking to make a big splash.”

A Night with Mikeyy Austin
7 p.m. Saturday, July 9
Riverview Church REO Town Venue
1115 S. Washington Ave., Lansing