This story appears in HYPE magazine #39, available here.

The Evolution of MajorSteez

Sprouting from musical roots to become the face of new age hip-hop.

Words: Lesiba Mankga

Images: XAINTVISIONPSD

Majorsteez, a duo of brothers separated by a mere two years, has garnered notable attention for their chart-topping singles. These brothers are making serious waves in the South African hip-hop scene. If you haven’t caught on to their chart-topping hits like ‘Asbonge’ with Cassper Nyovest; ‘Changitse’ featuring Emtee & Roiii; and the powerful ‘Smooth Operator’ paying tribute to AKA (Supa Mega), you’re missing out. Their music isn’t just a sound; it’s a whole cultural movement. Music videos racking up millions of views, dance challenges taking over socials – Majorsteez is a name you can’t ignore. But here’s the deal – they’re not here to ride one wave forever. Majorsteez is dropping hints about a more mature sound, and their debut album is the pivot point. No more sticking to just one genre; they’re flexing their versatility with trap, R&B and throwing in some Afrobeats. It’s like they’re saying, “Yeah, we can do it all.”

Billed to have an international feature on their debut album, Majorsteez is eyeing the global stage. And with collaborations featuring practically every big name in the South African music scene, this album is stacking up to be a star-studded body of work.

 

This isn’t some abrupt departure from their roots; it’s a strategic step forward. Majorsteez is keeping it authentic, evolving as artists and giving us a glimpse into their journey. The buzz is real, expectations are sky-high and the boys seem poised to drop an album that marks the crossover into their more mature sound, carving out their identity as serious contenders and not mere internet musicians.

We had the pleasure to catch up with the duo, delving into their inspirations, heavyweight collaborations and the sonic landscape they’re about to unleash in their debut album. It’s not just a vibe; it’s the future of South African hip-hop unfolding.

 

“Whenever we’re in studio, we’ll make 100 songs or whatever, and we think of ways to make the music relatable to the people because, if we can’t make relatable music, then how are the people supposed to enjoy it?”

When we were having our discussion a couple of months ago, we were speaking about you two being on the cover. Last year, you guys said that you were going to be dropping your album sometime at the beginning of this year. So, I feel that this interview comes at a perfect time. Right now, you guys are sort of a massive cultural phenomenon in the music industry.  

Steez: Thank you so much. I don’t know about massive, but we appreciate that. 

What tends to happen with music is that people will jump onto artists at various stages. Some people have followed you from the beginning of your music career. I personally remember hearing about you guys in 2018, but I know a friend of mine heard about you in 2015 already. So, people jump on at different stages. For someone who hasn’t known about your journey within music, how would you describe this duo?  

Steez: Alright, so I am Steez, the older brother.  

Major: And I am Major, and I am two years younger.  

Steez: We are a brother duo born and raised in Johannesburg – west of Johannesburg, to be specific. We fell in love with hip-hop and R&B at a young age. But now that we have taken the genre label off, we are just purely artists and entertainers. Right now, we’re venturing into Afrobeats, and our upcoming debut album is dropping this year after announcing it three years ago. So we are very big procrastinators [laughs], but we are also perfectionists. So that’s another thing. At the same time… f*ck man. Yeah, you know. We are troublemakers. 

While doing my research and preparing for this interview, I read that you guys come from a musical background. Both of your parents are musicians? 

Steez: Yes, so growing up, there was never a silent moment in the house. There was always music playing, like Luther Vandross and Aretha Franklin. They were on heavy rotation in our household all the time. So I think that’s where our love for music came from. But in terms of our family’s history, it’s either that our great-grandmother or great-aunt is Miriam Makeba. Our dad was in a band that was formed shortly after his stay on Robben Island, called Roots. 

That is crazy. 

Steez: Yeah, our mother sang with the great gospel singer Rebecca Malope, and our other cousin is Nomuzi Mabena, so we’re all in entertainment in our home. To be honest, we didn’t really have a choice. 

So, you grew up listening to the likes of Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Teddy Pendergrass, and more. That’s a lot of soul and R&B music, and I’m sure jazz as well. But when did you guys start listening to hip-hop, and who were the first hip-hop artists you listened to?  

Steez: Big shoutout to DStv because we started listening to hip-hop because of Channel O and MTV. TV introduced us to hip-hop, in all honesty.

Major: Fun fact actually, our first music video was on MTV when Steez was 16 and I was 14.

 

That’s crazy. What video was that? 

Major: It was for some song called ‘Oh My Lord’, which we took off our YouTube because right now it’s just super cringe! Oh my God. 

You don’t want to look back at it? 

Steez: Oh my God, yes! Maybe someone did that thing where they saved the video and put it on their YouTube. It might still be out there somewhere… 

Your first music video on national TV came when you guys were just teenagers. That must be a huge deal for you. 

Steez: Yeah, it was quite crazy, actually. But to answer your question about who we started listening to, we started listening to hip-hop by buying CDs at Musica. I bought Graduation by Kanye West, and Major bought a Sean Kingston album, which is so funny looking back. So, from then onwards, we obviously started exploring more artists within the genre. 

When was the moment you guys decided to start making your own music? 

Major: I was 14 and Steez was 16 when we decided to go fully in. We told ourselves we were going to do this thing.

 

That’s such a milestone. Imagine! The first time you decide to make music, your first music video lands on TV. That’s crazy! 

Steez: It was actually because of that; it felt like it was a sign from Jesus that we were headed in the right direction. We had no connections in the industry whatsoever or anything at that point. You know what I mean? 

Originally, the group was a trio, right? There were three of you guys, and then there came a point where it became two. What happened for you guys to break apart?  

Steez: You know, it didn’t even feel like a breakup. I would say there was no major cause. It wasn’t even like a surprise. Unlike the groups like New Addition and more, our breakup was actually quite amicable. We ended on good terms. Our third member was Kyle Jacobs, who’s the same age as me, and we started university together. By our second year, we had been pushing this music thing for four or five years nonstop. But then he started to lose faith, and I think there was also added pressure from his family in terms of making a decision, sticking to it and putting his full energy into either school, or this thing took a toll. It piled up on him, and he decided to take a step back on his own. We just made it easier for him to let go.  

“We planned a session with him [Riky Rick], where he would have had us on his podcast, The Yard, and then, the week that we were meant to have the session, he sadly passed away.”

Hmm. And you, Steez, were also in school at the same time that he was?  

Steez: Yes, he and I are the same age. 

 

Ok, so how did you juggle school with pushing your music career as well? 

Steez: There was no juggling [laughs].

 

Was it easy? 

Steez: It was never easy. If there was juggling, we’d be dropping the balls. It was either one or the other.  

Major: Yeah, it was kind of difficult to actually, you know, divide our time between the studies and the passion. But to tell you the truth, the passion took over, and you know, we really just pursued it throughout our school pressure. We pursued the passion more than we pushed our studies.  

And it paid off. 

Steez: By God’s grace. Otherwise, McDonald’s would be calling our names.

So, obviously it paid off, because you’re here now and you guys are making big moves. I want to address the evolution of your sound because it sounds very different to what it used to be. 

Major: Facts yeah, actually. 

You mentioned earlier how you initially started making hip-hop, but now the genre label has fallen off.  

Major: Yeah, at this point, we’re just making music. We’re just making what we like. But mostly, if we had to list our top three genres right now, it would be hip-hop, Afrobeats and R&B. It’s in those three now. 

Steez: I mean, we’ve dabbled into amapiano, but to be honest, we feel like as much as we have a love and respect for that genre, we’ve always felt like our core foundation is Afrobeats because it’s not so far off from hip-hop in terms of its elements. So we felt like we found our footing in that as a third genre. 

What inspired you guys to explore making other genres? 

Major: Well, it’s actually a crazy story. Our first love was hip-hop and R&B, so we actually started chopping up R&B to make hip-hop or we took some hip-hop sounds and slowed it down to make it R&B. So we’ve really just been dissecting the sounds ever since we’ve started, and the evolution is crazy because now we sample old R&B classics to make Afrobeats. We really just use every sound. Or we utilise every sound to create another sound. We’re very experimental with that. 

“Our mother sang with the great gospel singer Rebecca Malope, and our other cousin is Nomuzi Mabena, so we’re all in entertainment in our home.”

Will listeners hear that experimentation on the upcoming album? 

Major: Definitely, you can hear it on the only single that’s out so far from the album called ‘Smooth Operator’, featuring AKA. 

Touching on that track, I remember we briefly spoke about ‘Smooth Operator’ dropping. It feels like the start of the evolution of your sound that you guys were talking about. I think that is a perception that a lot of people have of you. 

Major: Yes, that’s right. 

I know you guys have just dropped the music video to the song. It just felt so significant because of the AKA feature, since he is sadly no longer with us. How was the whole process of creating that song with him? How did it come about? 

Major: It was a movie, to be honest. Many people might not know that Steez and I have been supported by the Supa Mega for the longest time. Even before ‘Asbonge’, he was so supportive. Even at our shows, he’d come through and stand right in front and turn up, you know, just vouching for the boys. He even got mad that he wasn’t on ‘Asbonge’… that we didn’t call him to hop on the joint. He took it upon himself, and Steezy, to speak to our producer. We designed this record, ‘Smooth Operator’, with Kiernan from scratch. The process was beautiful because we were all there making it together at his crib over a game of FIFA and a couple of drinks. It just turned out to be so flawlessly executed and now it is a masterpiece. It’s a masterpiece on God, for real, and the streets are loving it. I’m pretty sure the streets can tell that we were all in studio together. I’m pretty sure you can hear it as well. Like the energies were right and it’s just a beautiful process. Oh God, life-changing thing, considering he was our role model as well. 

“There’s a little bit of something for everyone in there too. If you like Kelvin Momo, you’re going to like at least two songs on the album.”

There was such a closeness between you guys and him, and I think everyone could pick up on that. As I said, the significance of him not being around anymore is symbolic because this is one of the last remembrances of him.

Steez: Damn, that is actually beautiful when you put it that way… that’s so mad. Shoutout to the Forbes family; shoutout to Aunty Lynn, Uncle Tony and Kiernan’s younger brother, Steph. Also shoutout to Nadia, Z, Baby Kairo and the whole family who gave us the blessing to release the song. 

Oh wow.. 

Steez: That’s what made it even more of an honour. That’s just a fun fact or whatever. As much as it’s our song, it feels bigger than us in a way. We’re just grateful to have been able to do this for him and for the magazine. As I said, it feels like such an honour, man.  

On the topic of ‘Smooth Operator’, are you guys smooth operators? 

Majorsteez: [Laughs] 

Steez: Wait, what do you think? 

The streets are saying you are. 

Steez: What did the streets say? Oh God.. 

Major: You see, a real smooth operator wouldn’t say whether they’re a smooth operator. 

Big facts, no kissing and telling. 

Steez: Man, I mean… We love and respect the ladies, you know. We always have. I don’t wanna come in too much with the ladies. Major, you wanna come in from the ladies? 

Major: Yeah, we love and respect the ladies and, you know what? We do it for the ladies.  

You do it for the ladies, for real? 

Steez: Yes, yes, we do. That’s a fact and I’m pretty sure they agree. 

That’s very interesting. Are there any challenges that you’ve stumbled upon in your career?

Steez: Yeah, plenty of challenges. I mean being 100% independent our whole lives, we used to view it as a challenge. To talk about the early days, gatekeeping was a huge problem for us. But high-key, we see it as a benefit because we just have more options now than we ever had before. We can do whatever we want. At this point, we have a small team who we literally trained to do the jobs that they do for us and we’ve all been learning and growing together, slowly but surely.  

 

I’m curious to know what your stance is on artists being independent or signed to a label.

Major: You know, we’ve been doing so well independently. We’ve been doing this music thing successfully for three years and it’s all been independently. We’ve been able to knock the doors down independently. It makes more sense to stay on that streak. It has more benefits in the long run.  

Steez: We’ve heard from our peers that there’s a lot of favouritism and politics behind closed doors of major labels. I think the benefit of being independent is the lack of politics. We always look after ourselves first. There’s a huge sense of competition within labels.  

“We’ve been doing this music thing successfully for three years and it’s all been independently. We’ve been able to knock the doors down independently.”

That’s true. 

Steez: At the end of the day, business is business. It really depends on where you are in your life. I think, as an artist, what you need to do is recognise what you’re willing to leverage in order to gain more in the long term.

You’re finally gearing up to release your debut album, which has been in the works for almost three years now. What can we expect to hear?

Steez: Right now, we’re just picking the best stuff and testing the waters at the same time. But to be honest, I think, as artists, we tend to trap ourselves in our minds a lot. We decided that we’re just going to commit and go for it. You can expect a lot of excitement throughout the album. A lot of emotion as well. A lot of, like, artistry. But we can assure everyone reading this that, at least half of the 11 or 12 tracks on the album, they will enjoy them. That we know for sure. There’s a little bit of something for everyone in there too. If you like Kelvin Momo, you’re going to like at least two songs on the album. 

So, there are definitely going to be one or two ’piano joints on there?  

Steez: No promises [laughs]. 

 

Fair enough. Is it safe to assume that there will be a heavy roster of features? 

Steez: We have an international feature, yeah. We have a lot of GOATs from South Ah [Africa] too. We’re completing the album as we speak. We’re just trying to have the best of the best on our debut album. We’ve sort of gathered the avengers of the game right now – the only missing piece is, of course, Makhado [Riky Rick]. 

It seems surreal that it’s your first album, considering how long you guys have been dropping music.   

Steez: Yeah, that actually feels like some Makhado stuff too, ’cause he apparently also only dropped one album in his entire career – Family Values. The rest were EPs.  

Major: Yeah, that’s crazy. I think that’s one of our biggest regrets. The funny thing is, we were supposed to release a song with him called ‘Finger Licking’. We planned a session with him, where he would have had us on his podcast, The Yard, and then, the week that we were meant to have the session, he sadly passed away.  

Damn… 

Major: Yeah, that was really painful because he was also one of those people who really showed up for us and was very supportive. So, it would have meant everything if we could have had him on the album. To really complete all the features, you know? 

I’m sure he would have been very proud of you guys.  

Steez: Definitely, I believe he would have been, for sure. 

“We designed this record, ‘Smooth Operator’, with Kiernan from scratch. The process was beautiful because we were all there making it together at his crib over a game of FIFA and a couple of drinks.”

I am really curious to know – you guys have clearly had a lot of viral moments in your music career and a lot of hit songs have become viral. Do you guys intentionally create songs for them to go viral ? Or is it more of an organic process?  

Steez: The first one. 

That’s very interesting…  

Steez: Whenever we’re in studio, we’ll make 100 songs or whatever, and we think of ways to make the music relatable to the people because, if we can’t make relatable music, then how are the people supposed to enjoy it?

Hmm, that makes sense. So it is intentionally thought through? 

Steez: Yeah, definitely. I mean, sometimes, it’s magic. For example, the ’piano song of ours we did with Nadia Nakai and Toss three years ago. We did not see that going the way it did, obviously, but the fact that it went as far as it did – streamwise – into Africa, that was a surprise. But we are very intentional with most things. 

Talking about your songs blowing up and then reaching all these different heights when it comes to performances and touring, what is your game plan?  

Major: Global. 

Steez: I feel like we’ve not necessarily clocked South Ah yet, but we’ve obviously toured a lot locally – to schools, universities, stadiums and clubs across the country. Right now, our main priority with the album is not only feeding the nation a full project, but also being brave and taking the leap of leaving the country by getting on those flights, getting on the boat or getting on the quantum. Whatever it takes… whatever it takes to make it abroad.  

Be it driving or flying 18 hours…

Steez: Exactly! We’ll do whatever it takes. That’s our number-one priority this year – exporting ourselves and, as independent artists, that isn’t easy. It’s taken years for us to even reach a place of feeling brave enough to take that leap. But we’re going to start with Africa, then we’re gonna say UK and then, from there, it’s wherever God takes us. Jesus will take the wheel from there. 

 

In closing, what is next for Majorsteez? 

Steez: To start with, I’d say our debut album – that is what is next in the near future. So, everybody should be looking out for that. And we also aspire to work with a lot more brands this year. 

Major: Yes!  

Steez: We’d also like to pursue our acting careers. 

Actually, you guys already started with that, though? 

Major: Yes, we were on Miseducation on Netflix. 

 

Might I add, that was a great and funny acting debut. 

Steez: Shoutout – thank you so much. So, this year is just about expanding on everything, but mainly what’s next for us is, in Jesus’s name, a global takeover. In every spectrum and in every way possible! 

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