Houston-based musician Major only started to rap in college because his friends rapped. In January, though, he released XOXO, a project that even the Lecrae-cosigned John Givez endorsed.

“[Major] has the potential to go very far, and he has the necessary tools to do it,” said Givez, who was featured on track No. 11.

Despite growing up in hip-hop-saturated Houston, Major didn’t listen to the genre growing up. Instead, he devoted his musical talents elsewhere, playing piano.

Although it wasn’t considered “cool” by his friends, Major continued to refine this skill by playing in church and other venues. High school was also transformational in his life spiritually.

“One day,” Major said, “the word of God became real to me, and I said, ‘I’m all in.”’

His high school years consisted of “serving God, loving the Lord and practicing piano,” he said.

Major remained unfamiliar with hip-hop, but college would change that. One day after church, he was driving back to campus with a group of friends, who began freestyling over instrumentals. Major had no idea what to do.

Despite the potential for embarrassment, he later joined the rap group for fun. Major began to model his sound after Houston rappers like Chamillionaire, Paul Wall and Mike Jones. He began to delve into hip hop for the first time, after growing up on gospel music.

One of Major’s biggest artistic breakthroughs came when he learned how to make beats.

“It was like a whole new world opened up to me,” he said.

Using his skills on the keyboard, he began to produce his own music, even entering and winning multiple production contests.

Even as Major grew and matured as an artist, he still struggled with insecurities based on his music. It took his first studio session for him to realize that he wanted music to be more than a hobby.

Major continued to grow as an artist and work on overcoming those insecurities. For a while, he declined to release music because he didn’t know how it would be received. Recently, he became confident enough to release XOXO, which was received with rave reviews.

For his first album, Major wanted to create an album about love, something that he said is relevant to all lives. As hinted in the subtitle Not Just Kisses and Hugs, Major told the listener that love isn’t always easy. The album includes songs about happiness, depression and hope like many relationships do.

“Love is giving,” Major said, summing up XOXO. “If you really love, you will give time, money or gifts. Love requires action.”

Part of relationships is going through struggles and being tested, he said, but “real love will always win out” — whether that is God loving people or people loving each other.

Even with the success of XOXO, Major is unsure of what is next for him musically. He works as civil engineer and is engaged to be married later this year. If Major does decide to continue making music, he started a group in 2014 called Outsiders University, which is a long way from the day he shied away from freestyling in college.