Unpackaging Maxo Kream’s Projects

From the trenches of Houston comes one of the most talented rappers from the dirty south in years, Maxo Kream. Maxo (real name Emekwanem Ogugua Biosah Jr.) has been releasing mixtapes since 2012 but only caught real attention in 2015 with the release of #Maxo187, and even more so this year with his debut album. The MC is on the older end of newcomers in the scene, unlike most rappers on the rise nowadays, who are anywhere from 16 to 22. Maxo is 28, and his life experiences extend far beyond rap, providing a perspective unique from most up-and-comers.

His music largely reflects this, acting as a cinematic telling of his life up to the present, drawing stories and experiences from the streets and his time as a Hoover Crip. In his raps Maxo spits vivid rhymes over dark southern beats, shaping up to be one of the best rappers of the new school. He has collaborated with a variety of high-profile artists thus far in his career, from Playboi Carti to $uicideboy$ to Trae Tha Truth.. This guide aims to give a brief overview to the talented MC’s catalog, one that will surely be extended in the near future.

Retro Card (2012)

Unlike his other projects, Retro Card stands out as a distinctly plain mixtape. Maxo is  very clearly just a young kid, dropping a conventional project without anything extra. The tape is nonetheless solid featuring high quality southern production, but it’s about as tame as any of his projects get. Maxo is still finding his groove with his flow and his killer lyrics, but for a first official project it’s quite promising. The standout track on this tape is Abortion, a remix of The Game’s Runnin’,with Maxo’s flows and bars showings just how incredibly talented he is. Unless you are really into Maxo the tape isn’t a necessity since it isn’t particularly special, but it is a cool look at his origins and an overall good tape regardless of that.

Quiccstrikes (2013)

Quiccstrikes is the first time Maxo really started to carve out a sound and defining his artistry. The tape kicks off with the menacing cut “Y.M.G.”, featuring screwed vocals and a slow syrupy beat combining into a glorious Houston-sounding intro. It is also when Maxo seriously begins to refine his songwriting and ability to craft full songs with witty hooks.“Lewinsky” and “Whitney Houston”, for example,both boast catchy and memorable hooks, complete with dope wordplay on the verses.  On the tape’s rutheless closer Maxo spits,

“Minute makers bullets silent, mode and violence, starting riots
Pimping bitches, give em’ guidance
Fuck these bitches run inside em’
Home invasions, we be robbing, we be mobbing, bullets launching
Niggas jogging, Maxo Gaddafi, Maxo Bin Laden.”

flexing his dexterous flow and making savage comparisons to true evil men. Though Quiccstrikes is an overlooked tape in Maxo’s discography, it’s very worthy of a listen. Maxo’s performance throughout shows that he isn’t one to be stepped to, both on the mic and in the streets.

#Maxo187 (2015)

This is the essential Maxo project, it is what introduced me to his music when it came out and what truly defines Maxo as an artist. The production value is magnitudes better than on his previous tapes: the intro Thirteen slaps you in the face with how devastatingly evil it is. Over this terrifying beat Maxo ,spits about his upbringing, boasting about his prowess in the streets at the age of just 13. The dark atmosphere that lingers across this project is infectious, accentuated by the gritty and verbose storytelling that sets Maxo apart from the rest of street rappers on this album. This is best shown on Murder, which predictably tells the story of him and his friend after they commit a murder. The bars are so vivid that you can almost picture yourself watching them plan and execute their mission. I can’t recommend this project enough, it is my favorite mixtape of the past few years and always finds a way back into my rotation.

The Persona Tape (2016)

This tape is the best starting point for someone new to Maxo. Possessing the polish of Punken but retaining the raw and evil tone of #Maxo187, this tape was made to be a precursor for his debut album as a collection of loosely put-together songs to hold fans over until his debut.. The  tape however feels more complete and better than most mixtapes from any rapper nowadays, and for something to ‘hold us off’, it is absolutely amazing. It also has easily some of the best Maxo tracks: my favorite on here is Hit Mane, a tale of Maxo’s time as a hired killer over a DJ Paul-esque beat. The second verse is possibly the best of his career, telling a twisted story of a set up. The first verse is super quotable, he ends it with,

“Slaying niggas solo, no co-defendants, who seen a set
Night vision goggles, infared
Keep hollows filled with poison lead
I might just hog tie you by the river, throw you off the bridge
Pro drilling like a killing,don’t negotiate my prices
Blood spilling like Al Qaeda, walking crisis, one man ISIS.”

These bars show just how raw and villainous Maxo is–who else (other than Craig Xen) calls themselves a one man ISIS? The Persona Tape is a necessity for any Maxo fan.

Punken (2018)

Finally, we are left with Maxo’s long awaited debut album, which to many, including myself, was a disappointment. While it isn’t a mediocre project by any means, it largely ditches what made the MC stand out in favor of a more accessible sound. This album still has quite a few dark and twisted tracks, but for the most part it is a project without much identity. It has super polished yet ordinary beats that sound like they could go to just about any random Soundcloud rapper. However Maxo is nonetheless sharp as a spitter, especially when he breaks out his introspective side on “Roaches”, a song detailing his experience with Hurricane Harvey that will give you goosebumps. The project is good, but its understandable for those who formed high expectations after his past few projects to be disappointed.

Overall, Maxo is a rapper to be feared: he is a lyrical monster and brings a fresh take to southern street rap that feels both modern and classic. He has become one of my favorite rappers ever and watching him grow since first becoming a fan in 2015 has been extremely exciting. He holds it down for my second favorite city in all of hip hop and is the best talent out of there in a long time. He’s doing it better than most right now in the rap game, and Maxo is a definite must-listen to any fan of southern rap or gangsta rap.

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