Maxo Kream Ups the Ante of Houston Street Rap

With so much news to that flies by in the Houston rap scene, luckily we're here to sit back and deal with it all. Welcome to our own version of March Madness, where every workday we're delivering stories to keep you occupied with the ins and outs of the Houston rap landscape.

Maxo Kream Ups the Ante of Houston Street Rap

Maxo Kream is all of 23 years old.

I know this because even though a tightly groomed beard hugs his jaunted face close, he still wields a bit of a baby face. His charm is that he goes about his way, plotting of new ways to articulate his passion for robbing people. For collecting shoes, for letting nobody in his world except his Kream Clicc brothers and that's it. Maxo cares about keeping certain people at a distance, arming himself with a sound that declares allegiance to Houston and sounds absolutely nothing like it.

When Maxo puts down influences, the names register like a generalized Houston word bank. His sound, however, is more amorphous. When the highlight of his QuiccStrikes tape, "Whitney Houston," bubbled and bounced with slight tinges of Miami rhythm, the second hit was that of "Lewinsky." That track, complete with a brooding video in which Maxo plays ringleader to a home invasion, sounds guttural, something plucked from the mind of SpaceGhostPurrp and sent up North to get a tune-up by The Alchemist. Maxo Kream is Houston, and then again, he isn't.

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Wolf de Mçhls is the signature sound that covers most of Maxo's latest release, the oft-delayed but punishing #Maxo187. Being all of 23 means Maxo's childhood was shaped around the glossy early 2000s, where sounds dragged behind muddy melodies from the likes of Mr. Lee, Pimp C and others. Wolf's pragmatic approach to production has to been to use all of his influences, regardless of geographic association.

The result is as spread-out a Maxo project as you could ever guess, with guests coming from all over the country. Lamb$ associates with Ohio, Cincinnati to be proper. Joey Bada$$, who has built his own career around the sounds he grew up on, hails from New York. Father jumps in with a Motorola flip-phone and plenty of chirps from Atlanta. Le$ and the Sauce Twinz stick to being from Houston, though they couldn't be any further away from each other on the aesthetic spectrum.

In a sense, artists who run in similar circles, professing gang allegiances but spin rhymes in varying degrees, have populated the current rap underground. While the Sauce Twinz run heavily atop trap beats (see "Astrodome" on #Maxo187), Joey Bada$$ has dived so far into boom-bap and a trapped-in-the-'90s ethos that he's come out sounding even better. The Internet age of rap has led to synthesis du jour, and Maxo is a prime example. He will forever rap in different baritones about robbery, selling dope and looking out for his brothers who bleed blue.

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However, #Maxo187 finally decides to let people inward. On the tape's initial track, "Thirteen," Maxo transports us back to his childhood, back when the police pulled a kick-door on his residence and pulled guns not only on his mother but his baby sister as well.

There are other moments there, a mixture of typical snide bravado and charisma, but that's most of #Maxo187 in a nutshell. Maxo isn't going to immediately jump off the page as a rapper. He's sullen and sometimes rhymes with a heavy tongue, but can kick one-liners with the best of them. A punchline like, "whoop a nigga ass for some Pokemon cards" hits to every one of Maxo's prime listeners.

He's buried a few friends and lost a few more to jail sentences, but won't completely reveal much more than that. What remains essentially the same between QuiccStrikes and now is that his eyes are still devilishly black and he'll still find a way to end up on top.

From Motorola trap ("Cell Boomin") to a rundown of different yamps at Fort Bend County high schools ("Astrodome"), #Maxo187 ups the ante a bit in terms of making Maxo Kream even more of a volatile, get-it-how-you-live persona. His fans started a "Free Maxo" campaign a few months ago, after he was jailed for a minor traffic stop, but they know where their allegiances lie. They lie with Kream Clicc, they lie with Maxo. And they'll continue populating the youth movement of Texas street rap until the next generation rolls around.

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