In a wide-ranging conversation, Mikeyy Austin expresses his love of black culture, Lansing and tacos. Learn more about this emerging hip hop artist and listen to his music at Local Spins.
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Mikeyy Austin is sitting on a stool at Grand Rapids’ Dogtown Studio with the widest grin and glasses that reflect the bright lights overhead.
His talented band is behind him grooving to the sexy tropical instrumental of “Palm Trees & Fajitas” while Austin rhythmically checks a microphone. The Lansing artist emanates the kind of soul and confidence required to be a bona fide hip hop artist.
“When I think of what it means to be a hip hop artist, I think that it means responsibility. You’re responsible to your community. Because really, that’s why hip hop is a cultural thing for our community. So there’s a level of responsibility that comes with it,” Austin says while we stand in the hallway before his livestream.
“So you know whether that is giving back or speaking on real things. I think of responsibility. For those that came before me. They thought responsibly as well, and that’s why you see a lot of guys who stopped rapping, but they’re still heavily involved in their community and just doing other things. Even if it’s not music.
“Hip hop is not just rapping, right? It’s a lifestyle. To me, it’s communities. It’s a brother and a sister. It’s friendship. It’s something that we can identify with.”
Austin’s rhymes have a sense of noir, with gospel chords and horns floating around the mix. He’s dropped several singles and EPs over the years, with the album, “Greenhouse,” released in 2020.
LISTEN: Mikeyy Austin, “Black Out” (from “Greenhouse”)
His tracks also are heavily romantic, about life and love … even food. He shares his love of food and culture both in music and in conversation. Tacos are a favorite.
“Yo, where do I begin when it comes to tacos! So I cook a little bit. Mariah says I cook a lot. Tacos are my number one. Like if I were to start a restaurant, it’s tacos. I don’t know if that’s appropriation but that’s what I would do.”
His go-to dishes include breakfast tacos and chicken tacos. When he’s not cooking, a local staple is El Oasis, a Lansing food truck joint.
“If you were to come to Lansing and if I were to give you one taco spot to go to, hell, Oasis, which is one of the sites I go to all the time. I’m telling you. At home, typically, I’ll just go with a slow cooker and add some tomato. That’s kind of my go to, but I also like to make breakfast tacos. Everything Mexican.”
FINDING SUPPORT IN LANSING’S MUSIC SCENE AND HOSTING A JUNETEENTH FESTIVAL
After sound check, Austin’s band takes a break to smoke a joint and the two of us walk to the back of the building to scope out the Grand River, which ultimately snakes its way to Lansing where Austin is from.
“I think, for anybody who’s starting out, Lansing is the perfect place because there’s either not a ton going on, or people are just open-minded as hell. You can experiment. Try stuff out in the works. If it doesn’t work, you come up with something that they rock with, and they’ll still work with you,” Austin says.
“That’s the cool thing about Lansing. People are really open minded. So for me when I was really kind of crafting myself, and figuring out who I was as an artist, there’s just a lot of support, which made me even more comfortable just being myself.”
Austin has frequented venues like The Loft and the recently shuttered Mac’s Bar, a place he says “everyone has a wild story from.”
Mac’s is known in the Michigan scene as the quintessential dive bar, with its peeling paint and bathrooms that make the uninitiated shudder. But nonetheless, it’s been a proving ground for bands and artists. Macklemore once played there to a near-empty room.
“I liked Mac’s a lot. It was always experimental. It always felt like a Mac’s Bar show. You always knew what you would get,” Austin says.
Future plans for Austin include hitting the studio to record “The Sunlight Album” due out in the fall, and hosting Lansing’s Juneteenth Festival (517) on June 19, which will feature performances by Austin, Jashua Smith, Ozay Moore, among others, and features black-owned food and business vendors. Austin will also perform in Grand Rapids on July 22 for the Listening Lawn series at Studio Park, opening for The Go Rounds.
“As for Juneteenth, it’s really a celebration of black culture, experiences, and expression,” Austin says.
“My goal for the event is to create black spaces in our city where we can show up 100 percent as ourselves. I want to highlight faces, stories and all the things that black culture in Lansing has to offer.”
VIDEO: Mikeyy Austin, “Palm Trees & Fajitas”
VIDEO: Mikeyy Austin, “Spare Change”
PHOTO GALLERY: Mikeyy Austin
Photos by Jamie Geysbeek