MAJE w/Pelada, FET.NAT, DJ Shyshaya Saturday, May 27, 10pm The Marquee Ballroom, 2037 Gottingen Street $20/$25
Hip hop artist Michael Alexander Jerome Earle, AKA MAJE, is having a year. After a brief period of laying low, MAJE is back in full force. With an album on the horizon, a laundry list of upcoming collaborations and projects and a showcase slot at this year's OBEY Convention, 25-year-old MAJE wants to hit a balance between quality and quantity.
"I've been blessed," he says. "This year has been really good, music has been taking care of me and I'm super stoked on that. I don't take that for granted at all."
In between working two jobs, MAJE has found time to write several albums' worth of songs—all in his confessional, personal, clever style. "I always say if it makes a good Instagram caption it makes a good lyric," he says. The album, 12 tracks down from a proposed 20, is out June 26. Recorded with DJ Uncle Fester and Jordan Metro, with features from Ghettosocks, King Wooz and more, a teaser track, "ETTG" can be found on MAJE's Soundcloud. "ETTG" stands for Eastside To The Grave, and for this album, MAJE is writing what he knows: East Preston.
"If you like me, you like East Preston," he says. "It's everything about me—the lingo, the way we are as people, everything. There's no way I could ignore it."
The new focus came after MAJE's 2015 Viola Desmond songwriting contest win for "Head Held High" written by Earle, Ashley Burke and Samm Splash. With it came a $10,000 prize. "Winning was amazing but I kind of felt trapped as an artist," he says. "There was so much attention on that song and I felt like I couldn't really write anything else because of the people that song drew in."
He took some time to retreat, writing as many songs as he could. "I just wanted to make some music that made me feel free—that flowed," he says. "I realized my first step was talking about where I came from. East Preston gets slept on, but so many great things came from there. I thought, 'This is my first step on that MAJE journey.'"
His musical journey started in East Preston, after all, with his desire to "be the best at something" and writing—be it poems, fiction or songs—was the ticket. "When I was 11, all my friends were heavy into basketball. I love basketball but I wasn't super good and I wanted to be the best at something. I realized I was good with words. I also thought rappers were the coolest—the chains, the cars, the fancy lifestyle—they are the coolest people on earth.
"I wrote constantly, and my mother wasn't really down with it," he says, laughing. "There were a lot of arguments about school. A lot of my teachers had my back, they let me do my work in song form, my mom came around because she realized I wasn't going to let it go."
Before MAJE became MAJE, there were a few iterations. "I've had a few rap names—Caution, Top Notch, Too Cool, Young Diamond—really immature typical hip hop names, but I realized if I wanted to be taken seriously I can't have one of these funky names," he says. "I wanted something that could stick, so I just use my initials. It's all caps, I hate it when people do lower case."
MAJE's to-do list is impressive. "My goal this year is quantity, that'll help me plan my 2018," he says. "I don't want to make something and then have to disappear for six months because I don't have anything after that. I want to keep my finger on the trigger and keep it coming."
In the works is an EP with Arenye, plenty of video to accompany his songs, a collaboration tape, a short film and multiple features, which MAJE often freestyles in the studio. "I don't want to take any breaks, I want to go for it and see the crowd's reaction," he says. "But at the same time I'm doing this for me."
Competition, whether with himself or with others, is a major driving factor. "My competitive nature is one of the things that defines me. I always say I hate losing more than I love winning," he says. "When my name comes up along with another artist, I want it to be no question who is better."
This isn't ego talking, this is pure work ethic, and a desire to impress. "Some people knock the fact that I take this so seriously, but I take this mad serious. I study everything—every artist in the local hip hop circle here. It's not a joke to me, I really love this," he says emphatically. "My goal is to wow you so much that you have to react, by talking to me after the show, sending me a message or just the look on your face."