St. Louis is a place that’s known for homegrown music icons, including artists Chuck Berry, Nelly, and Smino. So many of them leave the gateway to the west to seek success on a national stage. But what about the artists who stay?
“There’s a certain shift like when people in St. Louis see somebody who is stepping out of bounds and doing the non-traditional things,” says Mvstermind, a musician, producer, and the director of musical experience for St. Louis City SC. “We kind of just surrender whatever resources and things that we have to help assist that person. And that happened to me.”
Born Muhammed Austin, Mvstermind was born and raised in St. Louis and has reached local legend status. His position with Major League Soccer team St. Louis CITY SC, a role he created himself, inspired by Big Sean’s position with the Detroit Pistons—is indicative of that.
“For me to be able to walk up to our MLS franchise and have a position that I’ve created come into existence lets you see how much the city trusts its own, and how the people here have done enough work in order for it to even be trusted,” Mvstermind says.
Mvstermind has seen his fair share of the rest of the U.S., touring as an independent artist as well as sharing the stage with marquee artists including Travis Scott, Nas, Busta Rhymes, and many others for more than a decade. At one point, he’d planned to leave and pursue his musical dreams in Los Angeles. But that never happened. After he learned he was going to be a father, he decided to stay in order to have the support of his family. But that’s far from the only type of support he’s received here.
“[It’s a] really robust artists community and a really robust community that supports people who are truly doing the work, he says. “There are so many people in St. Louis that have bricks inside of my foundation. I literally can give true personal thanks to so many different people who have extended their help, who have extended resources who have just shown me love and support and grace. And so it’s a very personal connection to me in St. Louis.”
He says his decision to stay in St. Louis ultimately led to opportunities he’d never envisioned before, and now Mvstermind can’t imagine living anywhere else—he’s cultivated a robust career and community locally, and his path and success shows other artists they don’t have to flee to coastal cities like New York or LA to pursue artistic dreams. They can do it right here in St. Louis, and Mvstermind will literally show them how.
Since 2019, he’s hosted Mvstercamp, a three-day intensive enrichment program (RAC STL is a presenting sponsor of the event) that coaches artists on everything from how to soundcheck, industry standards, and guerilla marketing tactics. Artists learn things like how to set up an LLC, how to properly fill out a W-9, and how to interact with a performance venue.
“In order to be a professional performance artist you’ve got to be down on your business, and you have to really understand how to interact as a business because you are one,” he says.
It’s more difficult than ever for artists to make a living off of their music. Streaming doesn’t exactly pay, and touring, merch sales, and other traditional methods through which artists have supported themselves aren’t as lucrative as they once were. But thanks to Mvstercamp, 45 local artists went through the program and walked away with tools and resources to navigate the industry both locally and elsewhere.
“We strive to make sure that artists have the space, tools, resources, knowledge, and that we make it accessible in a community format,” Mvstermind says.
Mvstercamp culminated in a performance at the Music at the Intersection festival held in September, giving the attendees a chance to hear from artists they might not be turned onto otherwise. This mindset of uplifting local artists applies in all aspects of Mvstermind’s work.
“[With St. Louis SC], we try to make sure the artists we book at the stadium are local artists. We try to make sure that if we are going to bring in a big headlining artist, we’re going to have some local artists who have the ability to support them, and the stadium can be used as a platform for discovery.”
It’s an all boats rise mentality. Mvstermind says for the schedule unveiling video for its inaugural season, the St. Louis SC licensed the song “Bigger Picture” from local act Sleepy Kitty, and with that came both exposure and a healthy payday.
Even with all the hats he wears, Mvstermind still finds time to make music of his own, which he often does from his practice and recording studio in south St. Louis. In August, he released “Distance,” and more music will come in the future. He’s just been focusing on an “extended side mission” with these other projects.
“What I’m basically creating is a Table for All of us in Saint Louis to Eat, and have a stronger support and ecosystem for the music to reach the masses—built for community, by community.”
Folks in St. Louis may know Mvstermind—last year St. Louis City Mayor Tishaura Jones literally declared October 2 Mvstermind Day—but the names of the artists Mvstermind is putting on may be less familiar. Mvstermind says he plans to change that.
“I’m really just building the table. We now have a platform at St. Louis City SC where we got 22,000 people who can digest new releases from artists. And we are finding other ways that allow our musical community to be able to thrive and have more reception.”