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Q&A: MikeyyAustin takes the Best Hip-Hop Artist crown

Local emcee has a new LP and much more in the works

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This year’s top-spot winner in the Hip-Hop Artist category is Michael Austin, better known in the Lansing music scene as MikeyyAustin.  

Known for his soulful hip-hop tracks powered by live instrumentation, Austin, 26, is a diverse emcee, bandleader and so much more. Austin works full time at the Early Childhood Investment Corp. as an equity and leadership consultant. He co-hosts 517 Juneteenth Festival and serves on REO Town’s board of directors and All of the Above’s Event Planning Committee. Plus, he runs Ourspace (517), a new arts organization, while juggling being a full-time student. Whew! Here’s what the busy entrepreneur and artist had to say about his past, present and bright future.  

Your last LP was “Greenhouse” back in 2020. What’s the story behind it?  

MikeyyAustin: “Greenhouse” was my COVID baby. As we were all locked at home, and many people took up plant care, I was no exception. My new-found love for plants met my love for music in the release of a mellow, lo-fi and soul hip-hop album — written, recorded and engineered from the comfort of my room.  

Since its release, I’ve been in creation, discovery and building mode. I am creating new bodies of work, discovering new sounds in my toolbox of artistry and building new platforms and opportunities for myself and other local and regional artists. I am also gearing up to release my first R&B joint EP in January 2023.  

I’m finalizing my full-length album, “The Sunrise Album.” It’s set to release on Earth Day. This project is produced fully by TheyCallMeHeat (DeMarnio Stanley) and Jurell Barnes. I recorded the majority of it while living in Puerto Rico from January of this year to May. I am so excited to release an album that sounds like a piece of the sun.  

At what age did you start performing music? 

I grew up as a church musician, playing piano and guitar and singing in the choir. As a young child, maybe 5 or 6, I was rapping with my brother as “Dem Austin Boys.” My mom would write our raps, and we’d perform at church events, holiday services and youth activities. She still has the tapes somewhere if you ask her (laughs). 

Ultimately, those influences never leave. All creation mirrors inspiration, so when people hear my music, they often note its “soulful sound.” A lot of those sounds, beat selections, chords and live instrumentation come from my experience in church.   

 What about your high school influences?  

In high school, I heard a song that changed my life forever. “Mellow My Man,” by The Roots, was the first time I heard live instrumentation, soul and jazz meet boom-bap. I fell in love. My goal from there was to create a soulful experience and implement live music whenever I could. Fast forward to today, and I’m the bandleader of the Soulcial Club.  

I’ve always had the live instrumentation element, but since 2019, I’d say I really found my voice as an artist.  

For more information, visit mikeyyaustinmusic.com. 

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