Coming Full Circle: How Maxo Kream Won with his album, "Punken"

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Written by Waylon O'Day

MLM Review: 4.6 Stars out of 5 Stars

After three full-length releases, Maxo Kream’s debut album, Punken, cements Kream’s place as one of the most prominent names amongst the Bayou City’s new generation of rappers, if it wasn’t already. The 14-track project is easily Maxo’s most focused, it also happens to be his most personal, often creating this feeling of conflict within himself.

Opening track “Work” possesses these oozing keys that rapidly gain viscosity once Maxo begins to deliver his verse, before suddenly transitioning into a beautiful choral sample that is truly uplifting. “Grannies,” which was initially released as a single last year, sounds so much better in the context of Punken, the nonchalant cadence that Maxo utilizes while talking about seeing dead bodies is a stark contrast to the shiny glimmering production he speaks over.

The first of two features, “Capeesh,” has Trippie Redd creating a huge distraction from what would be an otherwise stellar track. “Bussdown,” the final single before the album’s release, features some of the best production on Punken, and is clearly indebted to G-Funk. “Hobbies” is Maxo’s versatility on display as he goes from the staccato-like hook into a rapid-fire verse that goes on for nearly minute, constantly changing.

The second feature, “Go,” has Maxo spitting about the younger members of his crew and their loyalty to him, D Flowers largely confirms this sentiment during his short verse. “Beyoncé,” is supposedly an interlude, but it’s easily one of the better tracks on Punken, and features some genius rhymes, such as “Maxo, Kevin Costner/My choppa won an Oscar.” The sequel to #Maxo187’s “Astrodome” is decidedly different than its predecessor, it’s jazzy and sensual, two words never before applied to a Kream track.

“Love Drugs” has Maxo comparing love to a drug, and how he would still choose actual drugs over the drama of a relationship. “Pop Another,” which features a sample from Tame Impala’s “Reality in Motion,” is one of the more ambitious tracks, in terms of the production, but it succeeds with ease as Maxo’s baritone voice hovers over Kevin Parker’s sampled falsetto, like some sort of Xanax-eating demon. “Janky” is Maxo at his most vulnerable as he confesses his doubts about himself and those around him. The following track “ATW” is that vulnerability turned in on itself, as Maxo confidently delivers what is likely a semi-autobiographical verse about how those he trusted broke that betrayed him.

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"Kream made some risky creative decisions as well, playing with textures he never had before, and succeeding with high marks every time. The only areas that need growth in his music are being addressed, and have been project, after project. This is just the tip of the iceberg of Maxo’s artistic abilities."

“Roaches” is a truly superb track, the Boyhood of rap, as Maxo reminisces on his childhood and life before fame. He also expresses dismay over the current state of hip-hop, as well as his absence from his family during Hurricane Harvey before addressing the charges he still currently faces. Maxo closes the track by “5- 99, and that’s the only offer,” before a sample of who presumably are Maxo’s grandparents profess their love for their grandson. “5200,” a previously released single, is listed as a bonus track, which it feels a lot like, especially in the context of the project, and sort of destroys the emotional high that “Roaches” closed the album with. However, it is one of the more enjoyable tracks as Maxo talks about his ability to move anything and everything, “even wedding rings.”

Maxo Kream’s debut album has him growing not only as an artist but as a person as well. The first two songs and the latter half of the album have Maxo opening up to fans in a way most probably would have never expected. He presents himself, almost always, as this mythical trap-god, with no conscious or emotion, but on these tracks, Maxo appears more man than myth, and surprisingly relatable. Kream made some risky creative decisions as well, playing with textures he never had before, and succeeding with high marks every time. The only areas that need growth in his music are being addressed, and have been project, after project. This is just the tip of the iceberg of Maxo’s artistic abilities.