Majah Hype — or Nigel, for those closest to him — knows he’s a big deal. Before 2020, the social media sensation’s star was on the rise. From the feisty, loveable, relatable characters he played in video sketches online to sold-out performances and his own BET Digital series, Majah Hype was riding high as the Caribbean King of Comedy.
Then came allegations of physical abuse by his ex-fiancée and a rapid fall from grace. But Hype is proving that laughter really is the best medicine. He maintains that the allegations are false and has worked his way back into the hearts and minds of even more adoring fans.
Here’s a bit of my conversation with the self-made star, with insight into his characters and comedy, his life off-camera and his side of the controversy.
A One-Man Show
“My sole purpose is to bring the culture together,” he says. “I don’t care where you’re from — you could be Jamaican, Guyanese, Trinidadian, Grenadian, St. Lucian — my main objective is always to build the numbers in the strength of the diaspora. We’re all Caribbean. We’re all from the West Indies. So why not build up a family?
Majah Hype has just shy of two million followers across his social media channels, all looking for moments of comic relief. In Jamaican, Haitian, Trinidadian, Guyanese, Dominican, Barbadian and other spot-on Caribbean accents, he portrays a cast of characters evoking nostalgia and hysteria in anyone with a close Caribbean connection.
“My comedy always has to be relatable, so that’s why it’s situational. I love the fact that I can make a joke about something that somebody probably went through that wasn’t funny at the time but now, watching Majah Hype, it’s hilarious. I also try to shed light on the stereotypes that we face.”
He still refuses to say exactly what his own Caribbean heritage is, even though he is known as the Caribbean King of Comedy. But as he shares the background of some of his most beloved characters, through a little deduction, we conclude that he’s got at least some Jamaican blood.
“Di Rass [a Jamaican] is based on my father, just a no-nonsense type of guy. Mitzy was actually a mixture of my experiences going to beauty salons and from my kids’ mothers. I think that life in general is an influence. The first two characters that I’ve ever created were Grandpa James and Di Rass and I really had to look at the characteristics that would make them have longevity and be relatable.”
Because no one knows his heritage for sure, every Caribbean community claims him.
“I’ve traveled to four different countries where they’ve all said, ‘Welcome home’ without even looking at my passport. It’s a beautiful feeling to be accepted by so many people. That means I’m doing a good job of representing these cultures. And I’ve never had someone feel like I’m disrespecting their culture.”
The accents he’s given his characters are the ones he grew up around in the homes of friends and family. I ask about his process for perfecting an accent. He says it’s the same research you’d do for any job.
“You always go to the source. One of my neighbors is Bajan, so I picked up certain strategic parts of the accent. But now and again, I have to listen to Bajan music, watch Bajan interviews. You have to pick up the mannerisms in the tone difference between city and country… uptown and downtown. I want everybody to be able to relate to my videos.”
His acting is all self-taught, and his production outfit consists of himself, a mic stand and his cell phone.
“There’s no multi-camera, it’s one camera. I don’t have a script, I just have a scenario. I actually do each character by themself first. For example, if I’m doing Grandpa James and Di Rass, I will do every line that Grandpa James has to do and then I’ll change the frame, change the angle of the camera and I will do every line in response that Di Rass says. I do the edits myself as well.”
Regarding whether he prefers making videos or interacting with a live audience —
“It’s the best of both worlds. I get to be creative in my own space and see the reactions of the people through their comments. But the ultimate goal is to go on stage. I love to interact with my fans. I love to hear how I helped them through situations or how my videos saved their lives. To actually hear those stories is more gratification to me than money. Those are the things that make me feel good about my job.”
His connection with his fans propelled him to produce his own show on BET Digital and led to performance opportunities alongside A-list comedians.
“A lot of people don’t know this but I’m with the Gersh agency — the same agent as Dave Chappelle, Jamie Foxx and a host of other comedians. I’ve done shows with Mike Epps, Michael Blackson, Tony Woods, Guy Torry, Marlon Wayans. I’ve stood up amongst the best and held it down for my culture.”
When I saw him live, it was at the Hard Rock’s Guitar Hotel in Hollywood, Florida.
“[Performing at the Hard Rock] is a great accomplishment for us — not just me, but for us because it’s opening doors for other people to walk through. I’ve done The Wilbur in Boston, Howard Theatre and The Comedy Store, which is one of the most historic comedy venues. We’ve been breaking barriers in Caribbean culture and Caribbean comedy.”
Behind the Hype
His self-made bonafides go beyond the digital realm too. Rather than accept cut-rate offers made by some promoters as he was gaining popularity, he invested in his own live performances, booking his 2018 “Are You Dumb?” tour and 2021’s “Majah Issues” tour.
“We work for ourselves. We don’t wait on a promoter to try to downplay our worth and our value. There’ve been so many times when I’ve told my price and they’ll say, “But I could get such and such for five bills yuh know. I could get such and such a $1,500 you know. Well then go for them! You’re not going to devalue me.”
“For me, I just build my own revenue by investing in me, because to be honest with you, if I did sit down and wait on a promoter, I’d probably be broke right now.”
I ask about the origins of his comedic aspirations. Did he always have dreams of becoming a comedian?
“Absolutely not,” he says. “Growing up I was always the one who was joking and had the room laughing, but it was never what I wanted to do… I was laid off as an electrician and I just started doing the videos because it was just something to pass the time and have fun with. But then it just started to work, the audience started to grow. And when they called me back to work I took the leap of faith and continued in comedy.”
It hasn’t always been smiles for Hype. In 2020, his then-fiancée made a series of allegations that he had physically and mentally abused her. He responded by sharing intimate details about their relationship, pointing to the support of his other exes and exposing a pattern of behavior that brought her motives into question.
He stopped talking about it for a while. Then he ventured out on the Majah Issues tour, ready to address the controversy head-on.
“Who can joke about you more than yourself? They’re serious allegations, but I know the truth and whoever was in my corner from day one, remained in my corner. When the first allegation came out, I didn’t respond to it because I knew that it was foolishness and I knew that it was preying on people’s sensitivity. Then there was a second video of allegations about things that anybody who knows me or my character knows I don’t stand for.
I don’t regret responding, but now I wouldn’t have responded the way I did. I was in a dark place, I was in a place of hurt, I was in a place of betrayal. I genuinely loved that person, but I don’t think that was the same interest from the other party… You don’t try to destroy somebody that you love. She had love from Nigel, not just Majah Hype.”
As far as the lessons he learned —
“I don’t think God makes any mistakes. It showed me that I still know how to love and that was the lesson, that you can love through absolutely anything. I won’t go into anything blindly, without knowing goals or intentions. I was humiliated, I was embarrassed, my kids went through traumatizing situations, but perseverance is everything and I’m in a much better place now.”
As he moves forward, he’s gained insight and perspective to share.
“Always invest in yourself. And stay positive. We have to look past those toxicities we know are familiar. We have to lift each other, love each other and support each other. That will be the thing that will better our future and our kids’ future.”
As his star once again rises, Hype is staying on the ball with multiple plans and projects ahead.
“[I’ve gotten into] real estate, I’m going to be filming a movie with Ky-Mani Marley and I’m also creating a Black-owned business directory called For Us 360.”
You can follow Majah Hype across social media channels @majahhype.