Def Jam’s latest signee is a Arkansas-born Dallasite, but his fanbase is scattered across the world. YouTuber-turned-rapper Maj has racked up millions of streams and 115,000 subscribers over the past eight years of vlogging, but he says he had to separate himself from the platform that made him famous in order to start a career in the music industry.
“I was just a regular YouTuber, just reacting to artists and doing my own take on their music and having fun, I was just messing around,” he says. “I happened to think, maybe I’ll fuck around and make a track one day when I was bored. I did and when I posted it, people were telling me it was good, but deep down I felt like it wasn’t, but I just kept doing it for fun.”
By 2018, Maj shifted his focus to pursuing a career in music. While you might expect that having a built-in fan base online would make things easier, the artist actually found the opposite to be true.
“I feel like certain people really messed up the term ‘YouTube rapper.’ So, when I started, I had to fully cut off anything that would label me as a YouTuber so people can fully recognize me as an artist. When I pulled away from it, I think people got that message. Now, when I come back on [YouTube], it’s more serious. There are other YouTubers that still don’t get taken seriously, that do music on the side, who will never be taken seriously because they won’t pull the plug,” he says.
Having built an internet persona on reaction and commentary videos, Maj felt certain expectations from his followers when it came to the content he posted. Recently, he’s cleaned out his YouTube account, deleting everything except his own music from the past year.
“The fans, they want you to stay a certain way the whole time, they don’t want you to evolve. If you don’t keep the same content, eventually your fans will leave you. That’s just how it is,” says Maj.
Luckily, his fans haven’t gone anywhere, and the folks at Def Jam aren’t the only ones taking note of his music. His most popular song, “Sloppy Seconds,” has more than 7 million plays on Spotify to date.
Naming Nirvana and Tyler, the Creator as his essential influences, Maj has a moody, emo-infused party sound that’s a bit like Don Toliver. His latest EP, The Exotic Party, is a brief but punchy arrangement of three songs recorded right before the pandemic hit.
“We’re trying to bring back the party vibe after this corona shit–and during it–we’re trying to get over it,” he says. Of the last few months, Maj admits, “it was super depressing, honestly. It’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever been through in my life.”
Like many other artists, the rapper went through a bit of a creative drought as he processed everything going on in the world. Since dropping his first EP under Def Jam, he’s felt renewed: “Recently I’ve been coming back on my regular shit. I’ve been making hella music.”
The Exotic Party is out now on all streaming services–listen here.