Historically, black artists in America have not only shaped musical hallmarks but have also contributed to the course of American history. Throughout the 1920's, gospel music played a key part for the fight for equality in the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of Jazz Music emphasized black culture and history defining what we now know as 'The Roaring Twenties.' After a decade of civil rights protests, came disco in the 1970's allowing black artists to finally begin receiving recognition they had initially been denied.
The commercialization of hip-hop in the 1990's brought social-justice and political issues to the forefront of America's attention. All of these movements and advancements of culture were largely brought about by black artists.
Michael Baty, a senior music education major at ENMU and member of the ENMU bands, has found a way to showcase his complex identity in an artful way. Baty writes and records his own music using his past and present experiences, inspiration from other influential artists, and perceptions of others' experiences to shape his music.
Baty describes his music as having a style containing elements of R&B and hip hop. He shared many popular artists that have influenced his work. Among them are: Frank Ocean, Chance The Rapper, Boyz II Men, Earth Wind and Fire, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and New Addition.
Baty noted the importance of recognizing the influence of black artists and of remembering the history of black music.
"The significance of our history, especially our music, can't be overlooked because it is what defines us as a people," Baty said regarding the significance of black music in the course of history. "Our music was completely shaped by our situations. This made for constantly changing music that expanded our history. We have to remember these things so that our music continues to stay authentic and ever-changing. This will ensure our history through music is preserved.”
The beginning of Baty's musicianship came when he was four years old. He began by playing the drums in the church where he grew up, in Albuquerque.
"My father grew up on a lot of the [older] music. My mother as well," Baty said. "They've both been singing their whole lives."
This could be why Baty's musical ability comes so natural.
"I played the drums my whole life. It was just always something that was a gift. I never really studied anything as far as playing the drums."
As he grew older he began to study more of the technical aspects of music and developed the skills that would prepare him for a professional career in music. During his junior year of college, he began studying online tutorials for the Apple software GarageBand and writing music.
"My junior year of college is when I wrote my first song. It was around Christmas time. At that point I was just trying to see what I could do," Baty said.
For Baty, the writing process for each of his songs has been vastly different. He has written and recorded some songs in a single day while some take significantly longer. He shared that song ideas can come to him anywhere and at any time. "I've had song ideas in the shower, on the way to work, and anywhere really," Baty said. Though Baty began playing music at a young age, he didn't really discover his artistic identity until college.
"I think it was around my junior year of college, the time I started writing my own songs, that’s when I started to really identify with the type of sound I wanted to make. I've always played instruments; I've always been musically inclined but I had never really created my own music. I was usually playing music that other people had created."
A key factor to developing his artistic identity was channeling his own life experiences as well as the experiences of people encountered.
"Life was starting to happen. I was starting to grow up and see things from a different angle. You get older and you start to experience different things as far as friendships and relationships," Baty said.
Baty does not plan to stop developing and growing as an artist. He shared that his future holds a reexamination of the content he is producing. Baty plans to begin writing new songs about his own personal life and the specific circumstances that he finds himself in. He has already collaborated with various music producers but is currently searching for a vocalist to collaborate with for future work.