Rapper Louie Ray brings the realness of Flint to stages all over the Midwest

FLINT, Michigan—If you have an appetite for live performances, chances are you’ve seen Flint rapper Louie Ray dominate the stage. He’s become a staple in the live performance scene, appearing regularly at Empire Event Center, Chips, Club 69, Raspberries, and even Dort Federal Event Center, among other places.


“I’m at every club we got in the city,” he said. “I’ve also performed in a lot of Michigan cities: Detroit, Saginaw, Pontiac. I’ve been into Ohio and Indiana, Utah, Texas, Chicago.”


In only a few years, Ray has put out a substantial amount of music and has become one of the city’s hardest-working live performers.


“I’ve put out like 10 CDs in a five-year span,” said Ray, 27. “That’s not even including features I’ve done. It’s a lot of music for sure.”


Ray grew up on Flint’s north side, near Martin Luther King Avenue Boulevard and went to Flint Central High School. A few years later, he started rapping at the age of 22. He started out in a group with friends, but then eventually started making his own music.


“I kinda just started making CDs and came up with my own little side brand,” he said.


That side brand has developed into his own distinctive voice over the last five years. Being an independent artist has its challenges, but Ray has embraced the freedom that independence offers to create his sound.


“The main thing is just learning how to go about it,” Ray said. “It’s fun being independent because you can kind of do what you Louie Ray during a Flint performance in 2016.want to do, but it’s hard because you gotta get yourself there, it’s not easy.”


Flint has been a major influence on how his sound has grown, giving it a texture that is both evolved and familiar.


“Flint’s definitely played a big role [in my music],” Ray said. “It’s just raw. People see the music as they hear it, that’s the biggest thing. It’s real. That’s how we like our music around here."


His dad grew up in the same neighborhoods as The Dayton Family, a legendary Flint rap group that is hard baked into Flint’s sound and Ray’s childhood memories. The Dayton Family helped build Flint’s persona with songs that were realistic portrayals of the struggles growing up in the city. Ray brings that same intensity to his music.


“I’m just different, I try to be straight to the point with it. I make good songs, good music. (Flint) makes you rough, the truth kinda be like right there. You kinda get what you see around here (in my music).”


The volume of music he’s produced combined with his performance schedule has played a key role in Flint’s growing hip-hop scene. Akeem Brown, co-owner of music studio Superior Outlet, has worked with Ray and a number of other young musicians in the city.


Related story: Flint music studio providing creative space for Flint artists


“I'm amazed every day at the talent of the kids who come in here,” said Brown, citing Louie Ray, YN Jay, Presidential P, Richyy, Rio Da Yung Og, and others local up-and-coming musicians. They're all artists to keep an eye on in the coming years.


Ray cites his work ethic and focus as key reasons his career continues to progress. He’s able to make a living off of performing at this point.


“We aren’t ballin yet, but we’re making money off of it,” said Ray. No matter the money gained, he feels tunnel vision is the main currency that every growing artist should keep in stock.


“Make sure you got your mind focused on what you want to do,” he said. “You can’t really play out here in the streets and try and rap, it’ll get bad fast. If you’re gonna do it, then do it. Do the work.”


For more information on Ray’s music, performances, and bookings, follow his Facebook and Instagram pages. His music is also available on Soundcloud, Spotify, YouTube, and iTunes.


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Read more articles by Patrick Hayes.