Rated Next: MAJOR.

Meet singer and songwriter, MAJOR. It’s not only his birth name but it’s his mission: “My mom named me that because she prayed that I would make a major impact on the world,” he tells Rated R&B.

Born in Houston, Texas, MAJOR.’s life has revolved around music and entertainment. His musical upbringing included studying at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City and Berkley College of Music in Boston.

“My mom really pushed for us to have music as a part of our reality and I was the one who stuck with it and that’s why I’m here when I’m at now,” MAJOR. explains.

Although MAJOR. — who is signed to Grammy nominated producer Harmony Samuels’ B.O.E. Music Group — is a relatively new artist, his resume proves that he’s not new to the music industry, penning hits for Ariana Grande, Nathan Sykes and Sony Records’ Think Like A Man Too soundtrack, to name a few.

MAJOR.’s sound is the perfect blend of soul and pop, which sets him apart from the many Trap&B artists coming out.

In May, MAJOR. made his official debut with his dual single “Keep On” featuring Kevin McCall and “Why I Love You.”

MAJOR. recently sat down with Rated R&B to talk about his early beginnings, his plans for an EP, how he met Harmony Samuels and his thoughts on artists who don’t write their own songs.

Check out our interview below.

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Rated R&B: Who are some songwriters and singers that inspired you?

MAJOR: From a songwriting perspective, definitely artists like Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, James Taylor and Donnie Hathaway. As far as performers, it would be Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Rat Pack, Jackie Wilson and Cab Calloway. Some of the artists today who I really enjoy and really would love to collaborate with would include Bruno Mars, Andy Grammer and Kanye West. I love their energy and what they bring to the stage.

Rated R&B: How did you end up signing with Harmony Samuels’ label?

MAJOR: Funny thing enough is when Harmony first made it out here, we actually came to LA around the same time. I was a family friend to Rodney Jerkins, the producer, and Harmony was brought in to work under Rodney. He definitely was one of the standout junior producers working at the time. Rodney used to have me in his studio listening to some of the new music he was working on with several artists. He would get my opinion and when I heard Harmony,  I was like “he’s got next.” Now I’m no Quincy Jones or anything like that but I was like “he’s just got it.” Me and Harmony reconnected a couple years later at church and then we were just like “Yo! Let’s work on some stuff.” He helped me find my sound and it’s been a few years since we’ve been working together. It’s been amazing because it’s just the right mix of everything I am. From the church to the soul to the big band to the jazz, it’s beautiful man.

Rated R&B: What’s the story behind your two singles “Keep On” and “Why I Love You”?

MAJOR: For “Keep On,” we were at Harmony’s home studio. He just started playing a beat and words just started coming. As we were going, we were like “we should get Kevin McCall on the track.” We just came together with the song and it was just it. Everybody that we let hear it, just locked in on the vibe.

“Why I Love You” was a melody that was inspired when I was on set for this web series. I went to Harmony with it and he was like “this is a love song” and that’s when we came with it. [“Why I Love You”] will be the blueprint love song — not just with the melodies and the instrumentation, but the conversation we are having about love.

Rated R&B: What inspired a dual single release?

MAJOR: We wanted to switch it up because a lot of people now are just doing one single at a time. We wanted to make a statement and let the people know that we’re coming strong. Think about back in the day, when artists released singles they used to have the side A and side B — on vinyl records and even on cassettes. That’s when we were like let’s do an homage to the yesteryear and let’s do it with something fresh and real.

Rated R&B: When can we expect the new EP?

MAJOR: Later this year!

Rated R&B: What sets you a part from the other songwriters-turned-singers out there?

MAJOR: I can only make an impact by coming from my truth. I can’t really say that this is just what makes me so different from everybody but I’m going to have a conversation from the experiences that I’ve been through and the understandings that I have. I want to inspire the earth. My music bridges worlds. It’s a conversation that brings everybody to the table for an epic exchange. That’s what my music is: it’s music that makes you feel good, music that makes you think better.

Rated R&B: What are some conversations you’re having on your EP?

MAJOR: It’s 7 songs and three interludes. The conversation that I’m having is about how you will find yourself delivering everything that you ever hoped for. Some of the songs talk about how life is going to hand you a whole bunch of crap that you weren’t expecting to get in your hands but it’s how you choose to act — how you choose to respond will make the difference.

Rated R&B: It seems like some critics will bash an artist for not writing his or her own songs. As a singer-songwriter, how would you address critics?

Some people have the gift of putting words to what they want to truly say. Some people have less of that gift. Nat King Cole didn’t write “The Christmas Song” but he sang it as if it came from his own thoughts. It was one of the biggest songs ever. At the end of the day, stop telling people they gotta do things a certain way in order for it to make sense.

For more information on MAJOR., visit nowthatsmajor.com.

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BET Premieres New Digital Series ‘State of R&B’

BET has launched a new digital series called State of R&B. The three-episode series features a panel of music influencers including singer/songwriter Sevyn Streeter, singer/songwriter Elijah Blake, singer Rachel Kerr, producer Harmony Samuels and songwriter LaShawn Daniels. The panelists candidly speak on a range of topics including their love for 90’s R&B, how technology has changed the music business and how they’ve been healed through music.

Episode 1: “90’s Back”

In the 1990s, R&B matured in a way a man or woman who has found their stride in life would. Fronted by artists with impeccable vocal abilities, performance technique and star power and backed by major labels, the ’90s saw R&B reign supreme. Music industry influencers LaShawn Daniels, Sevyn Streeter, Elijah Blake, Rachel Kerr and Harmony Samuels discuss the impact of 90’s R&B. The group discusses icons like Brandy while also paying homage to our Soul Train Awards honorees Toni Braxton and SWV.

Episode 2: “What’s Good Now?”

Technology has changed the music business. Now the way music is created, consumed and experienced has changed. Sonically, R&B is more explorative and discovery tools (streaming services) and social media have been key platforms to showcasing the genre’s versatility and influence. We’ll discuss what’s working, what’s interesting and what’s developing. Watch as music industry influencers LaShawn Daniels, Sevyn Streeter, Elijah Blake, Rachel Kerr and Harmony Samuels dish on the new model of R&B.

Episode: “Music Heals the Soul”

What is music’s role in today’s turbulent social and political times and people’s everyday lives? Based on the theme of this year’s Soul Train Awards, “Music heals the soul,” we end the series with an introspective conversation about the transformative power of R&B/soul music. Watch as LaShawn Daniels, Sevyn Streeter, Elijah Blake, Rachel Kerr and Harmony Samuels discuss the powers of R&B music. The conversation takes you on a journey of vulnerability, being authentic and trusting the process.

Chart Check: Lyrica Anderson and A1 Heat Up Urban Radio, K. Michelle Lands on Urban AC

Lyrica Anderson A1 Bentley K. Michelle

Welcome back to another edition of Chart Check! Each week, Rated R&B provides detailed insight to the chart movements of your favorite R&B artists and R&B songs. In this updated format, we will discuss Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs (Urban AC) and Nielsen’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop National Airplay (Urban) charts extensively. Read below for more information on the week of November 25, 2017:

Urban Radio

Cassie has officially returned with her new single “Love a Loser.” The song, which features rapper G-Eazy, received 14 adds on urban radio formats in the latest tracking week. This is Cassie’s first single since “The Boys” with Nicki Minaj, which was released in 2012.

Married musicians and Love and Hip Hop: Hollywood” stars Lyrica Anderson and Floyd “A1” Bentley have been working behind the scenes writing and producing songs for other artists for years, but 2017 is looking to be the year for their own work to finally take off. This week, A1’s SWV-sampled single “Always” landed on the official urban radio chart at No. 40. The song, which features Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign, gained a 213 spin increase since last week. Meanwhile, Lyrica is floating four spots under with her tune “Don’t Take it Personal,” which is the lead single from her recently released album Adia. The song was spun 496 times and picked up one add at urban radio in the latest tracking week.

N.E.R.D. and Rihanna are two of the music industry’s most elusive acts, but they may have a hit on their hands with their new collaboration “Lemon.” After being released just a few short weeks ago, the bouncy banger has officially landed on the Urban radio chart at No. 39. The song garnered a whopping 420 spin increase at urban formats, the third-most in the latest tracking week.

Urban AC Radio

dvsn is ready to multiply their recent success by sending their first single to radio. That’s right: “Mood” has been selected as the first radio single from their latest album Morning After, which was released on Oct. 13. The single received eight adds on R&B radio formats, which is the most for the latest tracking week.

MAJOR. has returned to the R&B scene with his new single “Honest,” which leapt onto the Urban AC chart at No. 17 last week. The momentum continues this week as the piano driven ballad skips 17-16, garnering a 60 spin increase since last week. The song also received six more adds at R&B radio formats.

With her first charting single, K. Michelle’s new era has officially begun! This week, “Make This Song Cry” landed at No. 27 on Billboard’s Adult R&B chart, thanks to a 51 spin increase since last week. This is the first radio single from the Memphis-bred singer’s upcoming fourth studio album Kimberly: The People I Used to Know, which is set for a Dec. 8 release date.

Quick Notes

And in quick notes: Miguel’s War & Leisure lead single “Sky Walker” is picking up speed as it rises 16-14 on this week’s Urban radio chart. The single received a 282 spin increase and has crossed the 10 million mark in urban radio audience; Rapper DeJ Loaf and singer Jacquees’ new single “At The Club” continues to rise on urban radio, sitting just 3 spots below the official chart. The song received four adds in the latest tracking week; John Legend’s newest Darkness & Light single “Penthouse Floor” debuts at No. 26 on this week’s Urban AC chart. The song, which features Chance the Rapper, was the highest debut of the week; and finally, Kenny Lattimore has finally made a “Push” right onto the Urban AC chart, as he is the last of the three debuts this week. His new single, from his new album Vulnerable, landed at No. 28 with a total of 211 spins at R&B radio and formats.

What about you? Are you feeling Lyrica and A1’s new singles? How well do you think Cassie’s new song will do? Did you enjoy this week’s Chart Check? Let us know how you feel in the comment section below!

Exclusive: Syleena Johnson Gets Deep on Lack of Soul in Music + Talks New Album ‘Rebirth Of Soul’

One of R&B’s most authentic storytellers Syleena Johnson is not shy about recounting her trials and triumphs through her music. For more than two decades, the Chicago native has curated records that have brought joy and sweet pain to our hearts.

Deep and honest cuts like “Faithful to You,” “Apartment for Rent,” “Labor Pains,” and “Label Me” have championed women’s life stories while enlightening men on the day-to-day struggles of womanhood.

Johnson’s first and less documented release, This Time Together by Father and Daughter, premiered in the summer of 1995. The joint album – with her legendary father Syl Johnson – ignited her soulful stardom with songs “Keep on Loving Me” and “Piece of the Rock.”

Seven solo albums and one joint album later, the 41-year-old singer-songwriter pays tribute to her music genius of a father with her fall release,  Rebirth of Soul.

Along with the gearing up for the release of her new album, Johnson continues to secure her bag with television and health/wellness ventures.

During our 30-minute conversation, Johnson dished tribute album to her father, her new TV One talk show Sister Circle, her wellness brand SheLean and her favorite R&B artists now and more.

Check out the interview below.

Already, Sister Circle is capturing audiences across the nations — specifically women of color. How important is it for this new generation of black women to hear other black women like yourself and the other hosts empower and uplift each other?

If I can be frank, this show is important right now in a time where our current leadership is inadequate, unmotivating and sexist, which is causing our nation to adopt those undertones. In an entertainment field, where women — especially black women — are being exploited on television in such a negative way, Sister Circle is a breath of fresh air. We’re not perfect. We’re not walking around with halos. We’re still black women who have the same black women issues.

Our goal is to converse on these issues and show perspective from the African-American point of view in a bulk where the entire show is made up of African Americans. And Sister Circle is something that we don’t have right now in this climate where there are so many issues that pertain to us and our culture. It’s not black women directly. Black men, our sons. Black men, our husbands. Black men, our brothers.

What was it like having Wendy Williams, the contemporary Oprah of daytime, grace Sister Circle‘s inaugural show?

It was one of the biggest example of black women supporting each other. She’s the queen of daytime talk right now. By her being our very first guest, she pretty much blessed the show. She pretty much said, ‘I’m proud of you girls and you’re doing your thing.’ What more can you ask for? Other than Oprah Winfrey herself (laughs).

How does Sister Circle stand apart from other panel talk shows?

First of all, Sister Circle is live every day, five days a week. It’s the first all black panel talk show with no other nationalities. There is a male that represents the LGBTQ community which I have not really seen on any other talk show. Also, our hosts come from all walks of life which is really fun. Plus, we knew each other before starting the show which makes the chemistry really strong.

Recently, you started a health and wellness initiative, SheLean. Tell us about it. Also, did personal health motivate this new business venture? Or was this idea presented to you after the success of fitness DVD Mommy’s Got Soul?

No, it wasn’t personal health. Although SheLean was something that my best friend and I had already put together, what really put the fire under me is when I learned that every 4 out of 5 African American women, according to the CDC, are suffering from heart disease, type II diabetes and mild cancers. African-American women are also developing lupus and other different autoimmune diseases, which I believe is directly related to diet, poor rest and lack of vitamin and mineral content.

Also, the lack of education to be able to remedy this void plays a part. So with SheLean, the initiative is to educate the matriarch of the household, which is a woman, and in educating the woman you can help decrease childhood obesity, as well as obesity and obesity related disorders in minorities cultures, with African-American women and individuals being primary.

How do you resist food temptations and stay on a consistent workout regimen with your hectic work schedule?

During the five-day week, I eat clean. I need my energy and I need my stamina. Eating bad during the week will cause me to be sluggish and groggy. I allow myself a bad meal on maybe Friday and Saturday and then I go back to eating clean on Sunday. Like today, I had a glass of wine and a fried chicken burger. It was a good cheat meal for me (laughs).

I don’t go crazy though … like you won’t catch me eating a full pizza. I’m not really a sweets girl. I don’t get rid of temptations. I minimize them and I put them in my diet where it works. I think what happens is when people diet and they starve themselves it causes them to binge. That’s how they end up eating a whole pizza and ice cream (laughs).

Rebirth of Soul, out now, is an ode to your father, Syl Johnson. What was the overall recording process like?

It’s really easy working with my dad in the studio. So the recording process was awesome. It was all live instrumentation. On the Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You,” there was a live harpist and string quartet in the studio. So live instrumentation was the most intriguing thing.

With a title like Rebirth of Soul, do you think soul has died in music? If so, why?

Yeah … and the reason I say yes is because soul is not a genre. When you’re singing soul music, you’re singing from your soul. And that means you’re singing from your story, your history, from the things that you’ve gone through. I think that the music today is talking about things that are way too surface. They’re not getting deep enough into the infrastructure of their spirit and soul. They’re not baring their soul in records anymore. A lot of artists are just taking a song that was written and they just sing it.

As far as the music you’ve heard this year, who’s music do you feel still embodies soul?

Mali Music. He’s my favorite right now. I listen to a lot of old music like Anita Baker, Sade, Earth Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan. Every morning when we come on set for Sister Circle we first listen to gospel. Then we merge to vintage R&B, which has been in my spirit lately. To be quite honest, I don’t even listen to the radio. I’m not really a fan of anything that’s out at all. I do like The Weeknd … sometimes. It’s the music that I like. It’s eerie. He reminds me of a male Sade in a way. He’s just not as poignant as her.

What’s your favorite cut on the new project? Also, out of all the covers, which did you want to nail perfectly?

My favorite cut on Rebirth Of Soul is Otis Redding’s “These Arms Of Mine.” I was so happy to do this record because it’s my favorite Otis Redding record. And the song I wanted to nail was “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin. I knew that people would compare me to Aretha Franklin, like they already have. I knew attempting a record of that caliber I had to shut it down. So what I set out to do was to do it exactly like her. I mean timing wise, run wise, range wise — as well as singing it in her key. To me that was the best way to pay homage, to show respect and to celebrate Aretha Franklin. She is truly the Queen of Soul.

Rebirth of Soul is available digitally for purchase and streaming now. Packed with 10 amazing covers, including Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James, this incredible body of work is definitely a collectors item.

Make sure to follow Syleena Johnson on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, follow Sister Circle TV on all social media platforms.

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