Words by Michellee Nelson
Photos by Martei Korley
When Majah Hype walks through Flatbush, Brooklyn, on a Thursday afternoon, it’s a big deal. Dapping up fans as he walks and posing for pics with old neighbors and bredren, it’s a return-of-the-prodigal-son type of spectacle, a bit like what you imagine must happen when Chris Rock comes home to Bed-Stuy.
It seems that Majah Hype is doing nothing if not living up to his name, becoming an icon for the Caribbean community in Brooklyn, NYC, and beyond. He’s infiltrated our iPhones, tablets, laptops and our daily conversations with his fresh but classically Caribbean style of comedy, and please believe he’s just getting started.
A former artist and DJ with the iconic New York City sound system Massive B, he isn’t a newcomer. He’s been entertaining since he was eight years old, when he was first introduced to music by his grandfather, who had his own band back in the islands. Grandpa Hype passed down his musical acumen and taught Majah how to play seven instruments and read music.
But we don’t know him for his musical abilities. We know him for his hilarious depictions of our Caribbean (and African and American) grandmothers, uncles, fathers, police officers, best friends and more. Majah’s massive social media following—340,000 Instagram followers and counting—is a testament to his ability to reach across nationalities, unifying people throughout the islands and the diaspora. He’s developed some 20 or so regular characters over the past two years, some of the most popular being Di Rass (a foul-mouthed, no-nonsense Rasta), Grandpa James (a cranky Trinidadian elder), and Sister Sandrine (picture your Jamaican friend’s mom sitting at home in her house dress, dishing out tough love, and advice on things like “Pum Pum Maintenance.”)
Before he was an Internet comedy star, Majah Hype had a regular job like any artist just starting out. But when times got tough, he saw it as an opportunity to pursue his passion. He spoke with us about his work as an employee for the city of New York before getting laid off and devoting himself completely to entertainment. “I’m a certified NYC electrician, and I was doing that for nearly eight years,” Majah says. “It wasn’t a career that I fancied myself doing in the long-term. I pursued comedy because I wanted to be back in the entertainment industry, and I wanted to be compensated for something I love doing. When they called me back to work, I had to turn them down.”
A self-described “Caribbean Diplomat,” Majah, “has a passport for everywhere.” He emigrated to NYC at the age of 12, and has been observing and perfecting the city’s many dialects, attitudes, and mannerisms ever since. Publicly, however, he’s kept his actual nationality (as well as his age and birth name) under wraps, in an effort to be universal, leaving fans to guess about his actual origins. “Just put it like this, I was born in the Caribbean,” he tells us. There you have it: Majah Hype, the man, the mystery.
And as much as he might be insanely accurate in his replication of accents, he admits certain Caribbean people are more difficult to win over than others:
“I don’t think it’s easy to make any West Indian person laugh,” he says, with a laugh of his own. “West Indian people as a whole are already stern to begin with. You have to be really funny for them to laugh or even accept you. But I would say Jamaicans and Haitians are the most difficult to make laugh. Jamaicans are really stern and stubborn people. It’s historic. The two problem islands during slavery days were Jamaica and Haiti. They were the places known for slave revolts. Not saying that any of the other islands were passive, of course, but I would say those two places have been known to be pretty stubborn.”
Majah Hype reflected on a recent gig, as an example. “I did a show this past Sunday on a boat ride and before the set, this Jamaican guy walked over and said, ‘Yuh betta be funny enuh, my yute. Cah if yuh nuh funny, mi ah go boo yuh.’ He was telling me that I better be funny or he was really ready to boo me off stage, basically.”
Still, he insists that making people laugh isn’t the hardest part of his job.
“I would say the biggest challenge is maintaining my work ethic,” Majah says. “The more popular you get and the more recognition you get, the harder you have to go. I have a substantial following on my social platforms, but there are always new people that are tuning in that haven’t seen the year, or two years, of work that I put in up to that point. No one goes all the way back on your Instagram to see what you were doing at the very beginning, so you have to be consistent and keep them laughing.”
Besides for his video posts on YouTube and Instagram, Majah Hype has also been doing stand-up comedy for close to two years. Recent gigs include an appearance at the Grace Jamaican Jerk Fest at Roy Wilkins Park, and a tour of the Virgin Islands that spanned both the British and U.S. territories. But it’s his social media presence that has made him a household name in the Caribbean and the Diaspora. “I think why it’s picking up now is because it’s truly genuine comedy,” he says. “It’s content that everyone can relate to and it also has to do with my work ethic. I’ve dedicated my life to what it is I’m doing.”
As we walked through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with Majah, his two sons, and his road manager Dougie during the photo shoot for this story, it was easy to see how he brings so many people together. Unpacking a drone camera and sending it out into the sky, he was immediately surrounded by every kid in the vicinity. Majah Hype, being the entertainer he is, had the group completely captivated. Donning his trademark fake beard and dreadlocks wig a few moments later, he instantly turns into “Di Rass,” hilariously mocking Christopher Columbus as he ventures into one of Prospect Park’s pedal boats.
Speaking over the phone several days earlier, Majah spoke about some of his favorite characters and where he gets inspiration and ideas from:
“My top five characters would have to be Di Rass, Sister Sandrine, Grandpa James and, if I had to pick two more, I would say Bragadap and officer …. the two police officers,” he says. “They were actually older characters that I’m just now bringing back. My original followers would probably recognize them. None of the videos I have on any of my platforms are rehearsed. It’s just improv — all glory be to God. I just get up, pray, take a shower and it comes. A lot of my ideas come to me in the shower, for some reason.”
With a TV sketch-comedy series already in the works, Majah Hype hopes to see himself on the silver screen sometime soon, working alongside other like-minded comedians.
“The ultimate goal is to write, produce, and direct my own movies,” he says. “My hope is to work with individuals who have the same work ethic as me and who bring the same dedication that I bring to the table. It has to be a beneficial collaboration. I would love to work with people like Kevin Hart, Mike Epps who I’ve always been a fan of, or Tyler Perry.”
At this rate he might not be too far away from his goals. Majah has two of his own films —one feature-length, and one short — that he hopes to wrap up by the end of the summer. Just prior to our interview in June, he was honored in a ceremony by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as part of the Caribbean-American Heritage Month celebrations in New York, for dedication to his craft as a comedian and entrepreneurial work.
For Majah, the best part of his role as the Caribbean’s new king of comedy comes from connecting with people and hearing their feedback. “Where I get my satisfaction is from reading the comments and seeing people say, ‘That sounds just like my dad or just like my uncle.’ That’s where my comfort comes from.”
During our day with him in Prospect Park, we saw this phenomenon in real time, as one person after another stopped to commend him on different facets of his comedy, from favorite characters to the accuracy of a certain accent.
“The goal is to unify Caribbean people as one,” Majah says, underscoring the reasons why he keeps his own nationality under the radar. “I look up to other comedians before my time like Eddie Murphy, Oliver Samuels, Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor. But I never wanted to be like them. I wanted to have my own image, and I think I’ve found that.”
Check out more of Majah Hype’s video at his website, ImSoMajah.com.