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.

Keithan is the founder/editor-in-chief of Rated R&B

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Exclusive: BJ The Chicago Kid Details ‘The Opening Ceremony’ and Teases New Album

It’s hard to believe BJ The Chicago Kid released his major label debut album, In My Mind, just two years ago. Looking back, the Motown Records artist had an impressive debut era. He went on a headlining world tour, earned three Grammy nominations — including “Best R&B Performance,” “Best Traditional R&B Performance,” and “Best R&B Album” — and racked up over 75 million streams on Spotify alone.

In January, he released a vulnerable track called “I’m Sorry” as a treat to his fans. “It’s a song that’s pathetically R&B,” BJ explains to Rated R&B. “I feel like it’s R&B at its most essential feeling,” he continues. “R&B is made to say the things that you can’t or don’t have the balls to say. It’s like you can’t figure out the words to say but somehow this writer and this artist makes this song say exactly how you feel. That’s a part of my job as an R&B singer.”

BJ most certainly doesn’t have an issue with tapping into his feelings. Earlier this month, he dropped three new songs collectively titled as The Opening Ceremony. The lyrically-rich project consists of “Going Once, Going Twice,” “Nothing into Something” and “Rather Be With You.” The songs are just a taste of what fans can expect on his next album that is slated to release later this year.

While fans get acclimated with his three new tracks, the R&B champion teamed with his colleague Ro James for their co-headlining The R&B Tour. Rated R&B caught up with BJ at his tour stop in Washington, D.C. In our interview, he dishes on The Opening Ceremony, his upcoming album, his fight for R&B and more.

If you could add one more artist to The R&B Tour, who would it be?

It would definitely be Luke James. That’s our brother. He’s going to pop up at one of these shows, I’m not going to say which one, but he’s going to pop out and have some fun with us.

What inspired the songs on The Opening Ceremony?

On “Going Once, Going Twice,” I was really eliminating some things in my life that I didn’t really need. I wasn’t necessarily auctioning things off but I thought it was a cool way of having a song in that type of phrasing…describing how auctioneers get rid of things.

“Nothing Into Something” is a song that says you were here with me at the start and right now having what we have is a beautiful thing. It’s about seeing the growth and evolution of our love.

“Rather Be With You” simply describes the feeling with her is like no other. It’s the one place you’d rather be versus anywhere.

Are these three songs tied to your upcoming album in any way?

Absolutely. This is not an EP. To let the secret out the bag, a lot of people put EPs out to see what songs stick with the people. These three songs are on my album.

What can you tell us about the album?

The album is incredible. I’ve grown. I’ve evolved. Life has evolved for me. I’ve grown and seen the world with my label Motown Records. It’s been an incredible asset to add to the music. I just can’t wait to put it out the right way.

Is there a title?

I can’t say yet.

Who are some producers you worked with?

Cool and Dre, Danja, Jarius Mozee, Tubb Young and Karriem Riggins.

Photo credit: Jack Beaudoin

The title of Opening Ceremony and its artwork seem to be inspired by the Olympics. Does the album play on that theme?

Everything I do is huge and worldwide. My first tour was a world tour. So, everything I do begins with the world — not just my community, not just my neighborhood, not just to the people I’ve met but it’s to the world.

You recently said you’re “fighting for R&B, not trying to change it, just push it.” What elements of R&B are you trying to preserve for the masses?

I’m trying to preserve very essence. Our forefathers and our foremothers have laid down such an awesome pedigree of what we should follow. I think it’s up to us to take the responsibility to evolve it, be ourselves and really take it to another level — be creative. Keep the people involved…slow song, fast song, it doesn’t matter. It’s how life has evolved away from me and has given us other opportunities and lanes to help it grow and express ourselves so we should use that.

Speaking of evolving, how would you say you’ve evolved since In My Mind?

Life evolving, my family evolving, my music evolving, my producers evolving…working with producers I’ve never worked with before that I’ve always idolized.

Stream The Opening Ceremony below.

MAJOR. Shares New Song ‘Better With You In It’

After teasing his new love anthem “Better With You in It,” MAJOR. releases the full track.

On the Harmony Samuels production, the singer-songwriter can’t fathom living his life without his special someone by his side. “My life is better with you in it / Ten hundred ways that I can spend it / Oh Happy Day, ain’t no pretending / My world is better with you in it,” he sings with conviction.

“Better With You in It” is MAJOR.’s first official release since 2017’s “Honest,” which peaked at No. 5 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs chart. Both tracks are expected to appear on his forthcoming sophomore album.

Take a listen to “Better With You in It” below.

15 Times Missy Elliott Brought ‘FIYAH’ To R&B Music

Let’s be clear, Missy Elliott is and will always be universally relevant in the world of music.

Misdemeanor Elliott has been an unstoppable force since establishing herself as a trailblazer for R&B and hip-hop music and its culture in the early 90s. Some people, such as myself, may say they first heard Elliott and her iconic “hee-hee-hee-hee-how” line on Gina Thompson’s hit “The Things I Do.” Others may remember Elliott’s artistic expression in a large black trash bag from her 1997 video “The Rain.”

What remains consistent with those possible introductions to Ms. Elliott is R&B has been the meeting place. For instance, the chorus on “The Rain” samples “I Can’t Stand the Rain” by ‘70s soul diva Ann Peebles. Missy Elliott not only lent her rap talents to the remix of Thompson’s lead single – she co-penned the track too, which is one of the reasons why we’re here.

For the past few months, Elliott has been on Twitter sharing memories of writing and producing R&B songs for past and present artists. Rated R&B has compiled a list of Elliott’s top 15 R&B hits that she either produced, wrote or was featured on, along with a reason why they are absolute FIYAH (as Elliott would say).

Aaliyah – “One in a Million”

Written by: Melissa “Missy” Elliott & Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley
Produced by: Timbaland

“One in a Million” is FIYAH because it helped shift the direction of R&B and way we heard it with its advanced melting pot of melody and rhythmic. From Kanye West and BJ the Chicago Kid to Jay Z and Tink, the cultural impact of this record is undeniable. The song spent six weeks at No.1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart.

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