Fort Worth isn’t short on rappers, that’s for sure. But most of them are gangsta. Their beats are simple and intentionally chintzy sounding, and the lyrics are copious and mostly about boasting, toasting, and the thug life. Not many rappers are doing what Nice Major is.
The 29-year-old Fort Worth artist comes from the School of Kanye West. Rock ’n’ roll and pop accents are everywhere. The track “Light” off Nice Major’s most recent album, The Do You Believe Project, is as good as anything Kanye has put out. No kidding. A simple, gurgling New Wave-ish synth line leads to a growling monster beat over which Major raps in quicksilver style, his voice layered with some static, ramping up the song’s overall dark, robotic vibe. As head-banging as “Light” is, it’s also actually danceable, though you’d be hard-pressed to imagine hearing it in some hot nightclub –– “Light” is just too dark.
Does anyone know who Nice Major is? Not really, at least around here. Born Everett George, he grew up in Moreno Valley, Calif., not far from Los Angeles. In 2003, he packed up and moved to Fort Worth “for a change of scenery,” he said, and because he has family here. After taking a couple of classes at Texas Wesleyan University, Major enrolled in a local school to learn to cut hair. He graduated and slipped easily into a full-time position at Upright Barber Shop, an almost-20-year-old business owned by his family in the Polytechnic Heights neighborhood, where he lives with his mother and sister.
“I got blessed into the job,” Major said. “It was a great opportunity.”
Though his music is exceedingly advanced, he didn’t start writing and performing in earnest until he moved to the Fort. All he had done musically in California was dee-jay. “I always wanted to do something in music,” he said, “because my mom’s also a writer and a singer … and it started working out.”
He began recording around 2004 and performing around 2007. All of his club performances have been in Dallas, and in early 2010 he released his debut album, The Entourage. Major, though, says he never really found his footing as an artist until late 2010, when he began work on The Do You Believe Project.
“I love all types of music,” he said. “From Phil Collins to Run D.M.C., I’ve always been a big fan of music. That’s made me strive to be the artist that I am right now, making everything from pop to hip-hop to contemporary hip-hop.”
Both recordings were produced in DeSoto at Media Xtreme Recording Studios, home of producer Rodney P B Williams, a.k.a. Rodney Willz. On a recommendation of a friend, Major met with Willz, and they clicked. Major went through thousands of beats to arrive at Do You Believe’s 16 tracks.
Though urban flavor dominates, the album is a boldly dynamic listen. Joining “Light” as a standout is “Sunshine,” a West Coast-influenced track full of funk, squishy beats, and squeaky synths, and with a sumptuous, hyper-melodic chorus sung by Fort Worth gospel artist Drea Randle through a vocoder a la 2Pac’s “California Love.” Like Kanye’s rhymes, Nice Major’s aren’t very complicated, but they get the job done, his strong and slightly cranky voice dancing around melodic themes but never straying too far from them. Sounds a lot easier than it is.
Nice Major has his eyes on the big time, which may seem clichéd but is hardly outlandish considering the superior quality of his music. “My goal is for this project to work its way up to … just greatness,” he said. “Everybody wants a name, but I always want to be recognized as a person with artistry. … I’m a fan of Lady Gaga, Queen, Kanye, so many different types of artists. That’s also what I want to get out to everybody and want everybody to see.”
Major also wants to tour. “My shows used to be a drag, but now I work so hard … that it’s an experience instead of being just a show,” he said, adding that he often uses a live rhythm section.
His promotional machinery is mostly internet-based. The Do You Believe Project is available on every web outlet you can imagine, including iTunes, Amazon.com, and SoundCloud. Another thing that separates Nice Major from most of the other rappers in town is his solitariness. Despite the title of his debut recording, he has no crew. He doesn’t go to shows. He’s not a scenester. Nice Major is his own entity, and, to be honest, he might be a little too big for Fort Worth. At least his music is.
Sat w/ Stalley, Ace Mitch, Dustin Cavazos, Topic, and KO Boyz at The Prophet Bar, 2548 Elm St, Dallas. $18. 214-939-4321.