All Hail Maxo: A Review on Maxo Kream's "Persona Tape"
It is finally here. The highly anticipated follow up to last year's #Maxo187 has arrived to change the way we all look at the new era of Houston hip-hop and one of its loudest voices, Maxo Kream. His junior full length release finds Maxo building upon his already menacing demeanor and rapid fire delivery, exhibiting his skills over production that is different from anything we've previously heard the de facto leader of Kream Clicc spitting over.
Maxo's first two releases, QuiccStrikes and #Maxo187 created this mythical trap god persona, and his aptly titled new release gives him the space to fully flesh out the character persona he has created. His freshman and sophomore efforts leaned on darker textures: blues, blacks, and purples, but The Persona Tape utilizes more yellows and oranges whilst still maintaining those darker tones; something that I would have never thought to be cohesive with his attitude. A cosign from the late A$AP Yams helped Maxo elevate his status early on in his career, features from fellow Houstonians Doughbeezy, Lyndo Cartel, Le$, and the Sauce Twinz reinforced his status in his city. He gained regional recognition in hip hop hotbeds such as Atlanta with features from Father, New York with Joey Bada$$, and Chicago with Fredo Santana. This new release continues the tradition of expanding his fan base in and outside of the South, with features from Atlanta’s Playboi Carti and Rich the Kid, an appearance by third coast living legend Paul Wall, and production by Chuck Inglish, formerly one half of The Cool Kids, and Atlanta’s Slug Christ.
The opening track “Choppas” serves as a reintroduction into the world of Trigga Maxo, he reminds the listener what he’s about, hitting licks, trapping out the SWAT (Southwest Alief Texas) and altogether being an intimidating prescence. It feels like fully fleshed out song, but it also serves as an intro track in a way; setting up the mood for the rest of the thirteen track tape with the refrain of “that’s my persona, that’s my persona.” “Karo” follows, and it is initially one of the more gripping tracks, descriptive and rich with imagery of moving product with in the trap. About a minute in, Maxo starts to hit his groove and delivers this rapid fire verse before switching it up for the chorus effortlessly. The opening pair of tracks both posses the same sort of vibe, a steady head nod inducing beat, with a heavy phased out bass line that shakes the ground, courtesy of Wldrness who produced the tracks.
“Hit Mane” is the first track that possess those darker elements that #Maxo187 was so successful at conveying. With these haunting keys that create this suspenseful feel that finally gives way to a rapid fire verse which switches up into this chant like verse that draws you in right as Maxo slows it down just to bring it back up to speed inducing a release of adrenaline which is sure to get you off your feet. “Big Worm,” one of the four singles released prior to the tapes release follows. As the title implies, there’s a ton of allusions to the classic Ice Cube movie Friday, with Maxo assuming the role of the song’s title character. The visual that accompanies the song parodies some of the more notable scenes from the film, including Big Worm, Maxo in this case, swanging around in an Ice Cream truck. The only thing that’s missing from this track is a sample of “Bye Felicia,” and Chris Tucker saying “what’s up Big Perm, I mean Big Worm.”
“Smash” gives us the tape’s first feature with the enigmatic Paul Wall, and appropriately so, this song is chock full of H-Town imagery, dropping references to Frenchy’s, NRG Stadium, the Palladium Theatre in Richmond, sipping drank, and of course Robert Earl Davis Jr. The production on this track feels like the barebones of a DJ Paypal song, the Chicago based producer who specializes in breakbeat and footwork; it’s definitely one of the more ambitious productions on this release. Paul Wall delivers a great run-on-sentence flow filled with his typical boasts about sipping mud and slabbin’ out. Seeing Paul Wall on this tape is a sign that the older generation of Houston artists are starting to accept the youth’s interpretation of Houston’s rich hip hop culture. “G3” is this release’s “Trap Mami/Flippin,” the lush production provided by Tommy Cruise provides the perfect hazy environment for Maxo to share his inebriated thoughts about losing friends, fighting with the family, and chasing women.
“Comin’ Dine” is sure to bring a huge grin to any who subscribes to the classic Houston hip hop sound. The Chuck Inglish produced track is Pimp C meets Dr. Dre, with the heavy bass wobble and the G-Funk synth keys that hit when Maxo begins his first verse. The wordplay on this track is something else, with quick quips like “flossin’ like a cavity” and “it’s just me KC and Anthony,” a clever allusion to Casey Anthony. The chorus is perfectly H-Town too, chanting about riding around in a wide body slab while sipping on some purple sprite. This is just one of the best tracks we’ve gotten from Maxo, mostly because he brings in these elements of nostalgia while still remaining in the present. He’s showing respect to those who put Houston on the map while showing those same legends who is going to maintain that status that the likes of DJ Screw and Pimp C worked so hard to build.
“Out the Door” was the first single that we got about half a year ago, using a sample from Made in Height’s “Panther,” is a slow lumbering song with walls of bass. I initially thought this song was released as B-Side to #Maxo187, but hearing it in the context of The Persona Tape, it fits neatly into a list of like minded tracks. “Smoke Break” feels like a hotbox freestyle, just the ease he conveys in delivering the opening verse, and the bouncing rhythm to the second verse draws the listener in, and by the end you’re singing the chorus like you’ve known it for years, “I can’t even eat, I need to smoke before my breakfast/Standing on the block and moving squares like playing Tetris/New plug on the smoke, I’m selling dope in Houston, Texas.”
“Talkin’ Shit” has Maxo being extremely versatile in his delivery, and the feature from D. Flowers compliments that versatility by coming in to the verse so that Maxo can change the tempo of his next delivery. “Shop,” which we got late last year appears on The Persona Tape in a slightly different form, but for the better. The production was polished up, and they lengthened the intro of the song to expand upon that already suspenseful feel the production provides. Maxo even has a sort of Sauce Walka-esque flow during the song where he goes off beat for a few bars before jumping back on tempo.
“Spike Lee,” which features Atlanta’s Playboi Carti and Rich the Kid was my favorite of the four singles, regardless of the fact that it has just been about a month since its release. Maxo’s first verse is one of the best on this whole tape talking about serving bunk lean to hypebeasts who just want to be seen trying to live the lifestyle he really experiences on a daily basis. It’s got some great triplets like “I’m Tee’d up like I’m golfing/I’m splashing like a dolphin/He sideline hatin’, talkin’,” and “Them mollies come in handy/She eatin’ them like candy/ She trippin’ off them xannies.” Carti’s rendition of the bridge is sure to get you out of your seat, or at least give you an ear worm, I’ve been waking up with “Dope fiend, tryna take all my protein/ Dope fiend, no sex, she want dope lean.” Rich the Kid delivers with a solid verse as well, which really helps because this song would feel incomplete if it were just two verses, the beat made by Chuck Inglish is too good for a two and half minute song. As a fan of all three of these up and comers, I’m pleased with how this song turned out, because every member of the trio gets to flex their respective muscles on the track.
The Persona Tape closes with “None of Y’all,” a track where Maxo basically roasts anyone and everyone and makes that evident with the line “I don’t fuck with none of y’all,” reminiscent of another Houston rapper’s song, “Hi and Bye,” by Rocky Banks. This song is perfect to close this album; despite the fact that Maxo draws his audience into his world he wants to make it painfully evident to a large portion of his fan base that they can’t live this life and they shouldn’t even try. He appreciates the business that these people generate for him, but he wants them to know their role. It just reinforces that intimidating, menacing aspect that Maxo Kream is so well known for.
It's been a little more than a year since we've had a full length release from arguably the biggest and brightest voice coming from the Bayou City, and seeing him bringing these new elements into his repertoire only heightens his monumental talent. At this point I think it’s fair to say he’s the voice of the New Era of Houston rappers, the city is going through a renaissance, and Maxo has basically cemented his role in that movement. I think this tape can really bring the city together, both the youth and the older generation, by making us all realize this guy has tremendous potential. Let’s be honest this isn’t the last release we will get from Maxo, especially with the reception I’ve seen The Persona Tape getting this past week. He’s building and building momentum and it’s going to be exciting to see where he takes this platform, the only room to grow now is up and out, he’s made himself a figurehead in his hometown, and now it’s time to capitalize on that and branch out. If anything, this tape will make the rest of the city’s aspiring MC’s take notice and step their game up. Regardless this tape is yet another instant classic from Maxo Kream.
Written by Waylon O'Day, Web Director of Coog Radio and Co-Host of Texas Tea Podcast, Follow him here.