This story refers to sensitive details that may be triggering regarding the violence our community experienced. Resources and assistance are available through multiple campus programs. FAQs, messages from campus leaders and other important updates, as well as mental health and supportive resources, are available at msu.edu/emergency and dpps.msu.edu.
In the days following the February 13th violence, fourth-year Media and Information student Joseph Roy was trying to find ways to cope. As an artist, he turned to his passion – creating music – to release the whirlwind of emotions he felt from that tragic night. While MSU canceled classes for the remainder of the week, Joseph, who goes by the moniker J Roy, began writing the lyrics for “I Believe (#Spartan Strong).”
So silent that you can hear the wind,
When you don’t feel like you can go to school again.
Four days after the violence, Joseph published the song on YouTube.
A conscious artist
Joseph's creative process comes from the heart. With “I Believe,” his powerful lyricism resulted from sitting with his emotions after the tragedy.
“I didn’t just get up and record something the moment it happened,” he said. “I really had to think about ‘how do I feel?’ And ‘how do I want to express it?’ That’s the kind of approach that I take with everything because I don’t want those things to get misconstrued, and I don’t want to deliver things the wrong way.”
Dealing with the raw emotions of loss, heartbreak, and uncertainty is nothing new to Joseph. When he was 12, his father passed away. Following his father’s death, Joseph began making music for the first time as an outlet to express the pain he felt. This newfound outlet for music became the foundation for the next 12 years of Joseph's life.
“Every time I am creating, the purpose is to create something meaningful, something that people can relate to,” Joseph said. “Everything I make is with intention and has a message behind it.”
A path less traveled
Joseph’s MSU journey began in August 2017. The following semester, he left campus to begin his duties on a six-year contract as a member of the United States Navy Reserve. He traveled to Italy, Florida, and San Diego as an IT worker before returning to MSU in August 2019. During this time, he was a contestant on Netflix’s Rhythm + Flow, performing in front of Chance the Rapper, Twista and Royce Da 5’ 9”.
Then in March 2020, COVID-19 forced Joseph to leave campus again and return to his home in Detroit, MI, for remote instruction. It would take until August 2021, at 22 years old, to finally have a more typical college semester.
“It took a long time to feel like I was actually in college,” he admitted.
For Joseph, meeting successful alumni who walked the same halls inspired him and reminded him of the power of going to MSU.
Joseph is on pace to graduate in fall 2023. After that, he plans to move to Los Angeles to work in the music and film industry. He has his eyes set on Amazon Studios but is open to any opportunity to get more experience.
“In high school, I always thought I had to go the traditional route, ‘don’t follow your dreams, be book smart and go get a promising job,’ but I was like, you can do both because there is money and a promising future in your dreams. ComArtSci definitely sold me on that in that one week.”
Check out Joseph's work here.