“I Always Think About Going Home When I’m At a Party” — An Interview with Max Wonders

The promising young LA-via-Chicago rapper talks moving to Hollywood, Lil Wayne, and synesthesia.
By    November 19, 2015

Max Wonders

You can see Max Wonders walking through East Hollywood, earphones firmly in ears, trying to perfect the chorus of his next song. At just 18 years old, the Chicago native and 2088 member has been gradually building a fan base over the past year with his tight-knit team, creating a sound that’s somewhere in between Oakland’s Main Attrakionz and Chicago’s own Lil Herb.

Max Wonders commands attention and understands that success in the crowded market of internet rappers comes from releasing quality material that feels substantive and reflective. I met up with Max in Los Angeles a few weeks after the release of his You Will Never Find EP, where he was writing and recording music for the release of his next project. Sam Ribakoff

Why are you out here in Los Angeles? Is it hard to work in Chicago, or did you just need a change of pace?

Max Wonders:  When people ask me they just ask “why?,” and they never give me a more specific reason. Like, is it for a change? I can work in Chicago, you know, I’ve made other stuff in Chicago. But the thing about L.A. is I get a different environment. I get a different setup> I get different variables that add up to this larger aspect, you know? It’s definitely to get in a different headspace. I’ve taken a lot from the change in environment. To me, that’s an important variable. If I go to London right now I can make an entirely different project.

A grime project.

Max Wonders: [Laughs] Nah. I take from my environment. I like to think that I’m very observant. I’ve been hearing a bunch of new eclectic sounds in my head just from being in this environment. That being said, I like the environment.

Have you been checking out the local music scene?

Max Wonders: I don’t because I realize a lot of the music scene out in L.A. is tied into partying. It’s really just a party with someone performing. In Chicago we don’t do too much of that. It’s two different scenes. We had parties, and then we had shows. Two different things. I really haven’t gotten out too much because I don’t party. But, you know, I can make songs for people that want to party, but I don’t personally party like that. I always think about going home when I’m at a party. Something sparks in my head and I’m always like, “Damn I wish I was home right now.”

What were you listening to growing up in Chicago?

Max Wonders: Old Lil’ Wayne for sure. I studied the man. No seriously, for real. He’s one of the reasons I think I started rapping in general. I was just hearing him constantly. I think one of my first songs was a remix of one of his. I’d just burn CDs of my remixes to songs and just listen to them in my mom’s car.

Definitely also Outkast, and oldies when I was at my grandma’s. But really the radio to be 100% honest, I was hearing the radio a lot. Because the radio used to be hot in Chicago,you would actually hear music coming out of Chicago. Like, you’d listen to the radio to hear the newest remix. Now you go on Twitter or whatever.

Did you listen to old Chicago house music too? There are a couple of tracks on You Will Never Find that have that kind of vibe.

Max Wonders: You mean like the tempo? [Mimics chugging house rhythm]

Yeah. Did you listen to that sort of stuff?

Max Wonders: Nah, I wasn’t big into that. But like I was saying, I’d hear it through other people. That just comes from me listening to eclectic music in general, which like, sprouted from me being in L.A., and being in L.A. really gave me the space and energy to feel that way.

Do you remember when College Dropout came out?

Max Wonders: I do! I can remember just being around older guys, just people I knew who had it. I remember more so when Graduation came out. That was big.

You were way too young when College Dropout came out.

Max Wonders: Yeah. But I heard all the stuff, I know the music. When it came out I was like 7 or 8, and I just kind of saw the album lying around.

You weren’t making music back then?

Max Wonders: No, not at all. I actually started out playing the violin in school, and I played it until my Junior year of high school in 2013.

Back in Chicago you’re a part of Treated Crew, right?

Max Wonders: Yeah. Those are my guys. Those are real homies of mine. It’s just a bunch of cool people that linked up. I came to Treated Crew on some straight cool family stuff, like Mano and I and everybody were interconnected. Those are my guys. And 2088.

What’s 2088?

Max Wonders: 2088 is myself, Tommy L’Aviatore, Sowle, Kaemin Raphael, who’s also a creative director and a stylist, Cranston Alexander aka Bone Locks, who’s a photographer and DJ now, and Jose Runo, who’s also a photographer. So 2088 is just a creative collective, we do all the stuff. Runo took the photos on the front and back cover of You Will Never Find. Everybody has a part in everything. And obviously, Tommy’s a producer, Sowle’s a producer. We’re always working together.

Who works on the videos? Because although the video for “88 Changes” is really simple, I think it’s pretty effective.

Max Wonders: Thanks man. I directed the video. It’s a very open video, you know? It’s not concise.

Do you think that You Will Never Find got an adequate amount of attention?

Max Wonders: I think it’s still moving. And the people that heard it were the right people. But I’m not really worried about it because I think that EP was a prelude to the next project, which is one that I really want people to hunker down with and take their time listening to. The next one’s going to be free too.

What’s your philosophy on releasing music online? Like when’s the right time to release new music?

Max Wonders: After people have had time to digest the stuff you’ve already put out there. You look at artists who have control over the music they put out—someone like Drake. You can probably name every song on his Soundcloud right now, while other artists, artists you might even like, you can’t name half the stuff they’ve dropped. Like, I don’t want to harass people’s ears. People have the right not to be sonically harassed. I don’t want to be killed with songs. That’s why I’m working so hard on this next project. I’m trying to adapt colors to sounds, like synthesia. It’s not about colors though. I’m not trying to make a concept album. I’m talking about the moods of the music. Really I’m just trying to make the best album I can make.

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