Student expands her Detroit-based music platform to CMU

Lyrically Gifted Downtown acts as a database, a platform for promoting artists


Lyrically Gifted Downtown's logo.

Calling all independent music artists – the organization Lyrically Gifted Downtown (LGD), is actively seeking talent to add to their search engine of underground artists. 

“Lyrically Gifted Downtown is a source to promote music artists,” said Detroit sophomore Kiyanna Johnson, editor-in-chief of LGD. “It can be singers, rappers, DJs, visual artists – virtually anyone within the music industry.”

LGD's website acts as a information database and gallery for artists and is considered a journalistic publication by Johnson, although it heavily features promotional content. 

Johnson began LGD in early 2016, inspired by "What’s the Word?" a similar project to LGD, spearheaded by Johnson’s friend that promoted artists and musical events at Central Michigan University. 

Johnson created LGD as a way to get into the music journalism industry.

“I created the website on my own using WordPress – I was taught how to use it by my journalism teacher and just started to explore after that,” Johnson said. “I make sure the artists' bios are correct, they have an interesting picture and that there are ways to contact them.”

Johnson said she developed a deep appreciation for music by growing up listening to music in the car with her mother, then being involved with her church choir, eventually joining the registered student organization, Christ Central Choir. 

Actively working to improve her time management skills, Johnson juggles being a student, extracurricular activities and being lead administration of LGD. However, she eventually hopes to obtain a staff of writers and editors to help manage the 20-plus artists featured on the website.

Johnson is expanding the organization through networking at the events she hosts and attends. She hands out business cards, maintains a social media presence and spreads her message through word-of-mouth.

“At first, LGD was offered exclusively to Detroit artists but since I started traveling around, I’ve defined it as local, Michigan music,” Johnson said. 

One of the featured Michigan artists is Lansing rapper and CMU sophomore Ayinde Pulliam, who goes by the stage name "SNAFU."

“Every time I release a new song Kiyanna asks to write about it," Pulliam said. "Getting that feedback really helps me understand another person’s opinions on my music.”

LGD holds artist showcases as often as possible, the most recent was on Oct. 26 at The Cabin. The showcase featured debut artists, DJ battles and other exhilarating performances from CMU students.

The very first showcase was held in spring 2016. At the time, many of the artists were still Detroit-based and had to make the long two-hour drive to Mount Pleasant, Johnson said. 

Johnson's partner, Kendall Holloway, explained that the venue locations have posed challenges in the past, like a time they were denied access to an originally planned venue. However, they were able to overcome the obstacle.

"We walked across the street to Dreamer’s Coffee Shop on the slimmest of limbs and asked if we could use their space – they were all for it,” Holloway said.

Like this scenario, LGD was built upon perseverance and commitment to giving underground artists a chance in the spotlight. 

“This is something that is supposed to go far, based on that partnership (between LGD and the artists) and trust,” Holloway said. “In a sense, we and the artist have each others' backs.”

Holloway is Johnson’s partner on many subjects involving LGD. Not only is he a promoted musician, he also serves as Johnson’s go-to editor regarding artist bios, reviews and website design elements.

Any CMU student who wishes to have their music shared on the platform can contact Johnson or Holloway. Typically, Johnson will set up a face-to-face interview to provide an information outlining what LGD is all about. 

After the interview and a small fee, each artist will have a bio written, including contact information and a picture of their choosing. Their art will then be shared and promoted by LGD, and accepted musicians will be invited to perform at upcoming showcases. 

While LGD is based on hip-hop culture, Johnson mentioned all genres of music are considered.

“I believe I can continue this – it’s built into something that’s bigger than just me,” Johnson said.

To follow LGD activity or to inquire about becoming a featured artist, visit the organization’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @lyricallygifteddowntown as well as their website.