Houston’s Savior: Maxo Kream’s the New Natural

With flickers from the perma-lit flame of Screw’s legacy, Maxo Kream illuminates almost every corner of Houston’s dark, violent Southwest in 2015.
By    March 11, 2015


Torii MacAdams invested all his Bar-Mitzvah money in Actavis stock.

Various Internet sources claim that the proper method for kicking a door open is to aim at the area where the bolt is, just below the knob. I think there might be a better way, but, since I don’t have renter’s insurance, I’ve yet to test this theory: Play Maxo 187 a few inches from the door and stand back to avoid splinters. Maxo Kream’s newest mixtape is the business end of a battering ram, an explicit, blunt force exposition of Newton’s idea that once heavy shit gets going, it’s really fucking hard to stop it.


The grayscale palette of Maxo 187 wasn’t the only possible direction for the follow up to Quicc Strikes, a good, if uneven, mixtape without a unifying aesthetic. Candy-apple red cars and the fizz of Sprite cascading over mountains of ice, Jolly Ranchers, and codeine are the assumed folkways of Houston rap, but Fat Pat died in 1998, DJ Screw in 2000, Big HAWK in 2006, and Pimp C and Big Moe in 2007. The cultural truths for the Screwed Up Click and Swishahouse generations of Houstonians are no longer unilateral–for every The Outfit, TX*, sittin’ on white walls and elbows, is a Sauce Twinz, Houston’s answer to Migos. Maxo is, increasingly, falling to one side of this divide; on Maxo 187, there’s flickers from the ever-lit flame of Screw’s legacy, but it’s hard to illuminate every corner of Houston’s dark, violent Southwest in 2015. As Fredo Santana (I think) says on “Issues,” “This ain’t no candy paint and swangers.”

What Maxo 187 lacks in color-changing timbre, it makes up for in gritty detail. Specificity is integral to great storytelling, and Maxo doesn’t shy from giving listeners a peek inside the benighted bandos of childhood memory.

On “Thirteen,” Maxo describes his rapid
descent into drug dealing. “I was twelve years old
when the cops kicked the do’ / Had the gun to my mama,
baby sister on the flo’ / Pops caught a
fed case so the jugie° had to go / Had to show
my brother how to trap and get dough.”

“1998,” a deadpan bit of twisted nostalgia, finds Maxo rapping “Whup a nigga ass for some Pokemon cards / WWF, X-Pac went hard / Run around the school, told me teacher to ‘Suck it’ / Mama used to whup my ass real hard.” The rampant, biographic criminality on Maxo 187 isn’t particularly glorious; the actions themselves are glorified, but they certainly don’t lead to the palm trees and pear diet of the phony Ricky Rozay. Maxo’s misdeeds are inveterate, socially marginal fuck-ups, somewhere between instinct and choice, the type of shitheaded behavior that began early and never got curtailed.

The success of Maxo 187 is owed in no little part to its production, primarily handled by Wxlf Gxd. Maxo 187 is stoner-metal heavy, its nearly unyielding barrage of hi-hats and bass dirges building into something greater, something psychedelic and pulsating. “Cell Boomin” turns a generic, monophonic cell phone ringtone into a slowed down, spectral presence–the trap is booming, and the Metro PCS burner keeps ringing. The beats by long winded A$AP P On The Boards, (unsurprisingly) an A$AP in-house producer, don’t sound out of place; the A$AP sound is heavily indebted to Houston^, so this is, if anything, a full-circle reclamation by Maxo Kream.

A moment that best illustrates Maxo Kream molding the Houston sound to his liking is the transition from “1998” to “Astrodome.” Maxo’s not a strict regionalist–his music’s heavily informed by his hometown, but it’s often backgrounded, and his cast of guests is regionally diverse. “1998” features anthropomorphic Triple 5 Soul bucket hat Joey Bada$$ rapping passably about crime–surely Maxo’s influence–and ends with a slowed down snippet of the chorus from the ever-underrated 20-2-Life’s “After Servin’ A Deuce.” That snippet bleeds into “Astrodome,” with aforementioned ad-libbing goons Sauce Twinz, a ditty about the type of chick who’ll suck dick for Hot Cheetos. This could, in the wrong hands, sound disparate and sloppy, but Maxo’s sound is so nailgun efficient that it creates order from what might be disarray. Your vision of Houston might be limited to Screw tapes and Texas license plates, but Maxo Kream is here to disabuse you of that notion, armed only with some beats and rhymes. And a gun, too, probably.

*I know, The Outfit, TX are from Dallas, but they live in Houston.

°Slang for crack or cocaine

^Kream actually collaborated with A$AP Ant on Quicc Strikes’ “Mob of Gods.”

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