Words by Genice Phillips
The list of urban artists in the pop-rock arena are very far and few between. The ones we do know of – Lenny Kravitz, Tina Turner, Prince, and Michael Jackson – have firmly stamped their names in music history as icons. Their musical offspring have followed similar trajectories –Beyoncé, Chris Brown, Janelle Monae, Rihanna, Miguel – and have certainly evolved the Top 40 soundscape with neo-soul, hip-hop, reggae, and R&B. Now nothing sounds strictly one genre.
The next generation of artists are emerging and continuing the sonic explorations of fusion music. 18 year-old Major Myjah is one of those talented newcomers, offering a smooth amalgam of pop-infused rock with R&B leanings.
His start, however, began in the pop-dancehall vein. At age 12, the Miami-bred singer released “My Sunshine,” a clean-cut, tweeny pop song that reached international success. But his musical ear turned to more eclectic sounds, listening to iconic artists of the 60s – The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix – and contemporary artists such as Coldplay, James Fauntleroy, and Drake.
“When I was young, there was a certain music that I was exposed to, and that just directed my sound and how I was feeling at that moment in time,” Myjah explains. “Over the years… meeting different people and vibing, and really coming to my own as a human being, and as a man, I felt like I just zoned in on my craft. I started figuring things out.”
Now he creates a musical hybrid of genres that bend to his creative talents – he writes, raps, produces, plays guitar, and sings with a fluid vocal range that articulates his breathy, poetic tone.
His SoundCloud page is filled with radio-ready tunes and his lyrical repertoire is quite emotive. He’s comfortable in mid-tempo ballads that allow space for his vulnerable, lovelorn crooning and melodic guitar work. But Myjah can also pivot to maturer, swag-leaning R&B, lending his vocals on features with L.A. singer-songwriters Jake&Papa (“Beat in the Trunk”) and hip hop artist Asher Roth (“Last of the Flohicans”).
At times, he vocally channels his R&B predecessors Chris Brown and John Legend, specifically, in personal tracks like “Memories of Us” and “Trouble”, but then transforms into mellow rock that nods to pop/bluesman John Mayer in “Come Get Me”, featuring famed producer, songwriter and artist James Fauntleroy.
“The relationship with James really started as me just being a fan and wanting to work [with him], because I had heard his music and thought it was so dope,” Myjah remembers. “We made the link and it was good and organic, and we were in the studio, just working and decided to do a couple records.”
Growing up in the industry has connected him to several other hitmakers; he’s broken bread with production heavyhitters Supa Dups, No I.D. and EDM DJ/producer AfroJack. But further exposure of the knowingly cutthroat music business has also brought to light some sobering realities.
“There are people in the industry who are not necessarily the best people. So I’ve learned to build your team from the ground up and know who you ride with,” Myjah says. “You see a lot of people come up together – A$AP Mob, Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa and their crews – and in today’s world that‘s the best way to do it. Find a group of people that you really rock with.”
At the center of his squad is his mother, who is also his manager. Along with his father, legendary dancehall artist Bounty Killer, Myjah’s mother has been part of the music industry for several years, and has built lifelong relationships with some of the most revered artists in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean, including members of the Marley family and reggae pioneer, singer-songwriter Freddie McGregor.
“Music and business-wise, I’ve learned everything from her,” Myjah says. “My mom has a saying called ‘one hit at a time.’ You always have to let it be known who you are as an artist… Don’t be afraid to be out there; don’t be afraid to let people know who you are.”
He’s used that advice to help guide and develop his career, whether to build relationships with fans on social media or performing live on stage. He recently hit the road for his very first tour, as the opening act for Ky-Mani Marley, son of reggae icon Bob Marley. The “Maestro” tour, which wrapped up on the West Coast at the end of July, will move to the East Coast in the fall.
“Tour life is great, it’s a beautiful thing,” Myjah says. “I get to learn so much because being on tour is back to back, night after night. So even if you mess up, you get to redeem yourself the next day… And being on the road with Ky-Mani, to see his live performance, he’s really good every night. Being able to watch that and take that in, to be on stage with him, it’s so dope.”
As Myjah’s music and talents continue to emerge, he’s also determining how he wants to be defined in the pop-rock climate. His fresh voice and dynamism adds to his cross-genre appeal, but he’s uninterested in following any set of rules or thinning his musical and socially conscious viewpoints for mass market acceptance. Instead, with his guitar and pen in hand, Myjah’s self-assuredness and youthful aspirations project a much more fearless narrative.
“I will be someone who is not just going to play by the book and not just going to put out what they want me to, but make music that is going to change and shift [the] culture,” he professes. “That’s what I want to do.”
Major Myjah’s debut EP “Trouble”, drops August 28.