E Major, a Baltimore-native, relocated to Los Angeles to push himself to the limits in regards to his abilities. His latest work “Konduct da Invasion” features instrumentals by Madlib, a beat mastermind, to create a very smooth and almost nostalgic experience, reminiscent of 90’s hip hop. Having earned his degree in fine arts, E Major is a very well-rounded and appreciative artist who blogs about the hidden gems of the independent and underground music scene. The rapper is also a graphic designer (his work on the cover of aforementioned work) and short film maker and has taken some time away from his music to shoot but plans to have an album released in the fall.
How’d you get your start in the game?
E Major: In high school, I’d rap on the bus during the away games. I got more serious about it in college and linked up with a friend who had equipment. We started laying down songs, but it wasn’t until after college that I started recording and putting my music out. It was a long journey.
What did you major in?
E Major: Fine arts. I took painting and drawing and I really got into computer graphics. I’ve been doing video as well, so I started filming my own videos pretty early on. I had friends who do that stuff but I didn’t want to keep asking. I started out thinking I’d be a director and when I started directing my own videos again, I fell back in love with the visual aspect of it.
What brought you to Cali?
E Major: I had a good bit of success in Baltimore. Maybe it was vanity. I don’t know, but I really thought that I had capped out. I was featured on the major radio station and I had regular play on Morgan State Radio. I was also in city publications. So I felt like if I could come to LA and have the same amount of success, it would multiply because there are more ears. I took my next step in trying to make my career happen.
How would you describe your sound?
E Major: Futuristic boom bap, rooted in classic hip hop and always has a soulful vibe to it. I’ve never tried to stagnate. I try to incorporate newer sounds. How can I keep progressing as an artist? I’m always in flux but I’d say classic hip hop, but always moving forward at the same time.
I see that the content of your website changed from an outlet for your music and other Baltimore artists to a blog featuring the arts as a whole and LA culture. Would you say that your relocation has impacted your sound as well?
E Major: Yeah definitely. As an artist, you’re always changing. If you’re not changing you might as well quit. It doesn’t matter what [aspect of the arts]. If you’re in one place, there’s no reason to continue to do it. For me, having come here, it definitely has. Baltimore and LA are night and day and the vibes are totally different. I seem to fit here pretty well but I really am a Baltimore guy. I think that as an artist, your life is going to tie into whatever you do. I have a son who just turned 3. Where I am life literally and figuratively affects the music and art that I make.
Why choose “real music” instead of the computer-generated sounds that fill our airwaves?
E Major: I don’t know that I can make that distinction. I like some music on the radio but there’s a lot that I don’t like and personally can’t connect to. I don’t make a choice. I just make what comes naturally. Some of the most progressive music is commercial. A lot of the underground stuff I used to listen to has stagnated but there’s also some amazing stuff too. You gotta pick and choose. I’m a fan of Kendrick Lamar and some of J.Cole’s and Drake’s stuff. I like unheard of music as well so I’m somewhere in the middle of all of that.
Are you a fan of trap music (i.e. Future and Migos)?
E Major: I always appreciate moving things forward. I don’t appreciate nonsense and there’s a certain amount of [it] involved in that but at the same time I recognize they’re doing stuff that would’ve sounded like aliens to us 10 years ago. Migos invented a flow that was different than everybody else. Nobody was really rapping like that and other rappers did their thing with it. Will I bump that personally? Probably not. That’s not necessarily my sh*t. When you hear Kanye’s album, you could hear how he was trying to bring his old stuff into the newer sound. He also has his roots in the older stuff so I can appreciate it all but still do what I do. You WILL not hear Future in my car.
Was it difficult to build a fan base when you first relocated?
E Major: Yes. It’s a gift and a curse because while there are more people than where I came from but at the same time, there are a lot more rappers. It’s way more competitive and life gets in the way. In the past year and a half, I made a short film so that has been taking a lot of my time. I plan on getting back to do another album after the short film. It’s a matter of being heard and beating [the competition] but once I do, I have confidence in my musical connection.
What inspired the artwork for the cover of your latest project, Konduct da Invazion?
E Major: I made it myself. I like when people ask that because that means they’re paying attention. It represents our world today. We’re getting swallowed up by information and the fast-paced nature of everything. Meanwhile, we see these happy guys floating along, posting shit on the internet like everything is lovely and not realizing that we’re being controlled by our buying habits. It’s a representation of where I see where we are right now.
Are you a graphic designer?
E Major: Yes. That’s my bread and butter.
What would you change about the current state of hip hop if anything?
E Major: I would get all the bs out of the way. The Internet is a gift and a curse because anybody with a computer can out their stuff out. Everyone who is working to get their stuff out are also posting but they’re not good yet and all the [nonsense] is in the way. When I first started, I didn’t post everything because it sucked. A lot of guys who are just coming out are sending their material to blogs. There needs to be a developmental hip hop league to get your bars and learn how to create good music and if you can’t get outta that, then you should do something else. I think I just came up with a new movie! *Laughs*
What are your top three dream mainstream collaborations and why?
1. Kendrick Lamar because he can do anything. He’d make me sit there and worry about my bars. You want to be on a record with someone who’s going to make you step it up.
2. I’ve always wanted to work with Pharell. He understands music from top to bottom.
3. The Roots because Black Thought is one of all-time greats.
What is your recording process like?
E Major: A lot of times because time is of the essence, I’m always saying bars into the voice recorder of my phone. I’ve always got a stash or bars and ideas. Sometimes I make a beat but 90% of the time I like to write to other people’s beats. I hear the beat and I start going through all the stuff I have and I zone out. Figure out the flow first. If I can come up with the hook first, it’s usually a lot easier. I can write to that theme.
How did you get into film?
E Major: I got into gangster movies. That probably has a lot to do with my love of 90’s hip hop. I love Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. I fell in love with movies and the history. When I started shooting my videos again, it was different because I handed the camera to someone else and said do that like this. It helped me to reconnect with it. My brother was taking a filmmaking class and I shot what he wrote for it. It really scratched that itch and I wanted to shoot on my own so we had a Kickstarter for it and raised $5,000. It was in a film festival a couple weeks ago in Hollywood. It’s been really fulfilling. It’s quite different from music because performing hip hop is a visceral thing. It’s a high that you get. Making something like a film is so complex.
When you write material for your film, where do you get your inspiration?
E Major: I get it from stories that I hear. I like darker stories that have a comedic element to it. I read a headline Man hired a hitman to kill his wife – It wasn’t what I thought it was but I started writing a story based on an incorrect assumption. I’ll get an idea and ask, how can I make this interesting for 15 minutes?
Do you have any advice for bloggers or artists trying to make a name for themselves?
E Major: I like reading blogs. I read original content. I hate aggregated content. If you had an exclusive interview or a unique perspective, then I’ll read it.
As far as an artist goes, even if you’re rapping about the same thing that everyone is, you have to bring it in a unique way. That’s something I struggle with. How can I make people say “Oh shit! I haven’t seen that”. There needs to be a twist and it’s the same thing for movies. You can watch the same movie a million times that’s told in different and unique way. What about your story is unique?
Any new music in the works?
E Major: I have an album that I started on and it’s been in the works for a while. I don’t have a title currently. It’s been put on hold while I was working on the short film but I’d say I’ll start recording within the next month and I’ll have something out by fall. I don’t like to rush it.
Photo courtesy of DJ Harvey Dent