By: Tommy Rodriguez
Maxo Kream earns his keep as a street hardened rapper and storyteller.
Emekwanem Ogugua Biosah, Jr. is, literally and figuratively, a huge MC. With the stage name of Maxo Kream, he’s built huge underground buzz and a grandiose voice, not to mention his imposing physical stature. Beneath his threatening presence and appearance, however, lies a heart of gold and a mind sharp as a knife. As an up and coming MC, he has managed to walk the line between vivid lyricist and aggressive gangster by producing provocative and loud trap music…
Now, with the release of Brandon Banks, his latest studio album, Maxo excels at pushing the envelope on what a trap album can deliver on a songwriting and instrumental front. Every aspect of Maxo’s larger than life persona is splattered on Brandon Banks, synthesizing an equally trunk-knocking and mind-empowering project full of family tragedy, crime, and rack stacking.
Brandon Banksis surprisingly moody in its opening track, “Meet Again”. Here, Maxo’s strengths as an MC are immediately noticeable: his flow is commanding, his musings on the lives of his imprisoned friends impactful, and his hook writing is magnetic over the gloomy keys and warbling synths. Maxo’s ability to remember his past is impressive, with many tracks introducing new and old figures that played some role in Maxo’s upbringing. “Brothers” details the infighting Maxo and his brother experienced growing up in an impoverished home, with their father being forced to split apart the two.
Maxo’s father (whom the album is named after) is a central figure of the album, delivering short interludes between tracks to further push his son towards success, away from the street life they both led. “Dairy Ashford Bastard” is a heartwarming ode to Maxo’s pops, cleverly displaying the love-hate relationship they clearly had while acknowledging that there is nothing but love and appreciation now. The street motivation Banks taught to Maxo is present on plenty of bars in the record, with “8 Figures” being an excellent grind anthem containing a hard hitting beat switch and an unmatched determination.
The heartwarming and educational moments are not the sole content of Brandon Banks; the album is laced with multiple street bangers with killer flows that show the downsides and chaos of Maxo’s street life. “She Live” is a club-grooved ode to street hotties with a taste for luxury, with Megan Thee Stallion dropping excellent bars alongside Maxo. “Murda Blocc” is an ethereal soundtrack to a drive-by shooting, with the malignant keys being matched by Maxo’s brutal lyrical content and Ferg’s monstrous vocals. In terms of pure rhymes, “3Am” steals the show with Maxo and Schoolboy Q rattling off as many cutthroat bars as quickly as possible, crafting multiple unique rhyme schemes over a short, bass-rocking 3 minutes.
In spite of the aggression clearly on display throughout Brandon Banks, Maxo’s mentality has more layers than the pronounced anger he displays on bangers like “Drizzy Draco”. His soft side peers in when necessary, further emphasizing the trauma and pain left in the wake of his and his family’s past. “Changes” displays the tragedy that comes from being friends with those involved in gang-banging over a pleasant guitar driven melody, and “Brenda” paints a picture of abandonment leading to cyclical mistakes in life on top of a depressive set of trap percussion and rising keys. The true standout of Maxo’s storytelling lies within the haunting “Pray 2 the Dope”, where he weaves a horrifying tale of poverty and drug dealing alongside a woozy rhythm, in which he loses hope and God due to his fiscal and mental instability. The greatest protagonists have problems that seem insurmountable, and with this track Maxo proves his worth as a hustler, songwriter, and person to relate to.
Brandon Banks, as stated before, is huge in almost every aspect. Its boldness in shooting for so many lyrical tales over even larger production is something to behold. Maxo’s song-making gifts are fully on display here, and despite an occasionally lackluster beat and Travis Scott feature, are consistently bass slapping and thought provoking. It’s clearly been a wild ride for Maxo Kream, but with this album it seems he has finally confirmed his status as a big dog in the trap game.
Tracks to Save: “Meet Again”, “8 Figures”, “She Live”, “Drizzy Draco”, “3 Am”, “Murda Blocc”, “Pray 2 the Dope”, “Brenda”
Tracks to Skip: “The Relays”
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