Sweden-born soul singer Sebastian Mikael touches people with his music. Screams erupt when he performs “Made For Me,” and during meet and greets and other off-stage interactions fans tell Mikael how the messages in his songs “Money,” “Beautiful Life,” and “Forever” have impacted their lives. Mikael tells SoulTrain.com he gives credit to his parents for introducing him to the artists who inspired him: Marvin Gaye, Sade, Babyface, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson. He calls their music “honest,” and says he doesn’t “want to spread the wrong message. I look at the artists who inspired me to do what I do today. I try to do the same things they did, but I am learning from my own experiences.”
Inspiration can come from a number of persons, places, things; their influence can contribute to great music and careers. Along with Mikael, SoulTrain.com decided to ask several other established, on-the-rise, and up-and-coming artists—those winning independently and those awaiting their first break—what artists inspire them. Read what they each had to say in this very special SoulTrain.com exclusive. Maybe one of the following will inspire you.
“Marvin Gaye, Sade, Babyface, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson, among others, were huge inspirations. Through their music they inspired people to believe in themselves, to go for their dreams, and not hinder themselves. That’s the feeling I had coming from Sweden to America. Sweden does have some great music, but it’s more in the pop lane. I didn’t fit in with their market. Being a soul singer, it was a dream of mine to come here. I never wanted to limit myself, I didn’t want to be scared to dream. So my responsibility is to inspire people through my soul music to follow their dreams and to not limit themselves—even if you’re coming from other countries.”—Sebastian Mikael
“I draw my inspiration from my life and the environment I was brought up around. A lot of times it wasn’t nice. There was nothing nice to talk about. We had our fun as kids, but overall, sometimes coming up, you have a helpless feeling; you don’t got no money, you’re forced to do certain things. At home it ain’t a complete family, so you turn to the streets for that family. When I started to make beats, that [feeling] just carried over from my everyday life. It wasn’t in me to make happy beats! I couldn’t make one if I tried! I was just, basically, painting a picture of how I felt. I just did it through beats.”—Havok (of Mobb Deep)
“I’m a faithful person, so my inspiration comes from God. Prayer is definitely a part of my life. What I pray for the most is me just being thankful, thanking God for everything. I pray for him to keep helping me, keeping me, and guiding me to go the right way in life. I pray for my momma and my family.”—Ty Dolla $ign
“Being a recording artist for many years, my inspiration comes from so many talented artists across the globe. Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Lauryn Hill are at the top of my list when it comes to women who have influenced me. These women have made positive contributions with hip-hop and society, therefore, solidifying themselves as ‘The Great Ones.’ The attributes that I possess from each of these phenomenal women is Queen Latifah’s business savvy; MC Lyte’s independence and rawness on the microphone; and Lauryn Hill’s ability to make you feel her soul in her music by evoking those emotions that reaches the nation in such a powerful way. Because of these women, I am the next generation of female MCs who will continue to inspire.—Tam Tam
“My husband/producer Allen Ross inspires me to take my music career to the next level. He has worked diligently for over 11 years to make his dreams a reality. He now owns and operates a successful media facility called IvorySky Media which offers audio, videography, and photography services. He is living proof that if you work hard and dream big, you can reach your highest potential. My children also inspire me. They motivate me to tap into my inner courage on a daily basis. If they see that I’m consistently unafraid to follow my dreams, they won’t be afraid to follow theirs in the future.”—Tracy Cruz
“When it comes to inspiration and the people who inspire me, I look no further than Tye “Saint” Ramos and LAFA Music, because Tye is someone local who left to pursue his dreams and aspirations, and turned those dreams into a reality. He’s taken time to advise me, guide me, and provide me with the direction I needed to make my own decisions. I think it takes a man of conviction to dedicate his time and resources to someone else who shares the same visions, artistically. Kudos to you, Saint.”—HighTyde, aka Captain Lou Albano
“Oft times we feel like we can conquer the world because our close friends and family do such a great job of building us up and encouraging us to press forward. As a collective, they inspire us to do our best and to give our all through our art. I have to say that at the moment, Mali Music is a major inspiration to me, because he is the epitome of what it looks like to stay true to your beliefs and still live out your dreams.”—Andriea (of ISH)
“I grew up in a musical community that was always fostering creativity and individualism. Because of that, I was never afraid to fail. Instead, I operate in courage and look for opportunities to share my voice.”—Caleb (of ISH)
“Who inspires me: I like to believe I’m the inspirational force that drives me to want to get to the next level! Don’t get me wrong—there have been rappers, actors, singers, etc., whom I looked at and wanted the same goals or stature, but ultimately it came from within.”—Mr. 1204
“My inspiration comes from all the hard working and dedicated independent artists I have become a fan of—especially a young cat named Token, Ben Goldger from Salem, Massachusetts; and Hightyde, Ryan Evans from Battle Creek, Michigan. Those two guys have been my biggest inspiration to move forward with music in 2015.”—Prezidential Poe
“My family, friends, and loved ones inspire me more than anything. My desire to make life better for them drives me to keep pushing until I make it. The love and support they give me is so genuine and amazing. Singing and making music is something that I love to do, but helping and blessing others is my passion. Ultimately, the reason for me wanting to achieve major success in the music industry is so that I can do just that – help others and be a blessing to their lives. These places are where my inspiration comes from.”—T.Y.
“My biggest inspiration has to be my mother and my city, Battle Creek. I lost my mother when I was two years old. I’ve always been told I can’t do this or I won’t do that, but every single day I look up and think about everything I have and will accomplish knowing she’s up there watching me. My city has been constantly struggling with death and pain. I don’t want my people to lose hope. That’s what I want to bring. I’ll give my last breath to bring it home and make both my mom and my city proud; not only telling my story, but telling ours. RIP Mom and Dom!”—Griffin
“One of my big inspirations is the king of darkness himself, Tech N9ne. For so many years he’s made music that he wants to make, not letting the industry mold him. He is the number one independent rapper the world, he tours more than anybody else in the industry, and that’s insane because he does that every year. All I want is to be able to make the music I want to make and be able to share it with the world. You never know when music can save someone’s life. Music has helped me so much over the years growing up with no dad, and that’s all I want to do is make good music. Maybe I can help someone get through tough times like music did for me.”—F-man (of #SickDaze)
“I would have to say that the person who inspired me the most in my life was my father, Willie King. I literally learned everything I know from his advice as well as his experience through various stages of both of our lives. He was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and was a childhood classmate of Ike Turner. He later moved to Chicago, Illinois, and was employed at BRACHS Candy for 30-plus years. He taught me the importance of hard work and to always think before taking action. Thanks to him, I’ve been to every museum and zoo in the Chicago area, countless expos, and many sporting events which shaped who I am as an artist and entrepreneur.”—Gerald “G-Ride” King
“The people who inspire me the most are my kids. Whenever I’m stumped, they always figure out some quirky thing to snap me back in focus. Regionally, I’m inspired by every other artist with drive; the guys out who not only can make music, but push it, grind hard until the end result is reached. Those are the true artists in my eyes, and it always sparks my inner drive when I encounter them.”—Nemoniq
—Mr. Joe Walker
Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, Mr. Joe Walker is a biographer, author, entertainment journalist and columnist, currently a senior writer for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and consultant/writer for Liquid Arts & Entertainment’s liquidae.com. Also co-creator of TheGrooveSpot.com, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker, connect with him on Facebook, and also visit his blog ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.