“I Might Get Killed for Being Black and Wearing a Seat Belt”: An Interview with Maxo Kream

Jimmy Ness talks with Maxo Kream about growing up with police violence, joining a gang at a young age, and his constantly shifting flow.
By    July 26, 2016


As domestic villainy dominates news, Maxo Kream’s sonic bloodshed reminds us that strife is constant. Brutality at the hands of neighbors, police, and politicians is an evil for the invisible poor. In areas where little infrastructure exists, Maxo is among those who hardened their minds to survive. The 24 year old’s dead-eyed reports of Alief, Houston offers a scant moral compass outside of baring witness.

If you’ve never seen a drug addict playfully dancing with an assault rifle, you have now. During our interview, Kream criticized police violence and spoke highly of his own infractions. As someone privileged to have avoided true hardship, I won’t superimpose my values on his own.

Complex ethics aside, the former wide receiver is a naturally gifted rapper. His staccato flow bludgeons cogent detail into your nucleus. Maxo nimbly chops tales of burnt plugs, fried junkies and paid assassinations among occasional homage to H-Town’s codeine legacy. Last year’s tape MAXO 187 and June release Persona don’t stray from gangsterisms, because debauchery is timeless. As Biggie proclaimed, hell is more fun than heaven. To compliment singular rhyme patterns and engrossing criminality, the Texas hit mane picks unconventional beats. His futuristic production knocks doors down without mimicking the school of Zaytoven.

Days before Florida law enforcement put a bullet in therapist Charles Kinsey, Maxo and I dissected lyrical references to cops besieging his family home, owning semi-automatic guns as a teen and encountering people he’s shot. As mentioned, Kream discussed his experiences with police as well as thoughts on gun control and drug addiction. —Jimmy Ness

You retweeted YG talking about the unreported death of black men down south.

Maxo Kream: Texas, you know that’s the south, there’s a lot of red necks, KKK and shit like that. I feel like in the south, Houston, that shit has been happening, but now it’s just starting to get reported, now it’s happening all over the country. The media is just starting to catch on.

You’ve always been aware of it?

Maxo Kream: Hell yeah. The last time I got incarcerated, the officer actually pulled me over, hopped out of the car and drew down on me. He ain’t ask for my license, nothing, he just pulled a gun out on me and detained me. I feel like people be out here having beef in the street, but the cops legally get away with murder. It’s time to be aware and be on your ten toes, especially being a black male.

Whether they were doing right or murder, my mentality on the police has always been “fuck them, fuck the police.” No if, ands, or buts. It’s either black or white. You either rock with the cops or you don’t. With me it’s always been fuck the police, fuck ’em.

Houston is known to be a gun carrying state. Do you think the violence will escalate?

Maxo Kream: Out here, I know Texas, we got hunting season so you’ve always been able to carry a pistol. As far as a shotgun or an AK47, you go to the academy and grab that when you’re 18. But we’ve always had guns, not necessarily for combat against each other, most of it will be for hunting. I feel like that ain’t never been a problem, but now with the issue that’s been with the police, they gon’ start hunting each other pretty soon. The direction that the world is going, it’s like that Purge movie. I feel like that’s really going to come into full effect, especially when you get somebody like Donald Trump in the office.

What are your thoughts on gun control?

Maxo Kream: Man, I’m down with the open carry law because if someone is going to rob me, I’m going to shoot you. It’s for protecting yourself and that’s what a gun is for. You only use a gun when your life is threatened. That’s why I can’t respect the police because they’ll shoot unarmed men, won’t even taser them. You go to YouTube right now and it’ll show a white dude with a knife coming at the cops. He’s got his knife out swishing and slashing and all of that and they detain him with a taser. Now you’ve got an innocent black man sitting in a car holding a conversation. He tells the cop that he’s reaching for his wallet and he’ll get gunned down.

So I feel like cops are some hoes. They some bitch ass niggas and they’re scared. The only time you pull out a gun, you pull out a weapon, is when your life is in danger and I feel like every time they see a black man they feel like their life is in danger. What they see that endangers them, I don’t know. They some bitches. Your job is to serve and protect, but you’re out here killing the innocent. You’re taking people’s fathers, brothers, loved ones. You ain’t helping shit in the community. You ain’t stopping nobody from getting raped. You’re out here killing folks, fucking up families and shit. I just don’t respect the fucking cops.

Are you more cautious now?

Maxo Kream: No, I move how I always move. I’ve always been cautious. I’m not going to let them come and dictate my life. God gave me my life, not them, so fuck them. Fuck 12, they don’t dictate shit that got to do with Maxo Kream. Maxo Kream don’t fuck with 12. All the way hatred to the cops.

Has police harassment always been a part of your life?

Maxo Kream: All of the time bro, because they knew I rapped. It’s all they do. I was on tour with Chief Keef in Texas, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin. When it came to Houston, they told me I couldn’t perform because I excite gang riots. I’ve had a concussion from a cop at a carnival, fighting another clique.

On “Thirteen” you said “I was 12 years old when the cops kicked the door, had to the gun to my mama, baby sister on the floor.” That’s a traumatic early experience with police.

Maxo Kream: That was my real issue with the police. When I was 12, they came in and grabbed my dad, that was the first time. That was really my experience, like now I see why niggas say “fuck the police.” They took away my childhood. Before then, when I was 12, I ain’t never had no problems. I lived good, shit was smooth. My parents raised me right. I wasn’t in the streets, they didn’t allow that. I had a good home, but after that shit, I was forced to go get it, my way.

It took away your innocence.

Maxo Kream: Hell yeah, it kind of made me grow a little bit faster. I was just a little kid that had to go out there and get it.

Tell me about the change in your life from when your dad was hustling to when he was locked up.

Maxo Kream: Even the first time he got out, it wasn’t just peaches and cream. He had to go get back right, so the situation was better. Then the second time he went, I was like 17, so in high school. That really fucked me up. That’s how you have my whole mentality on the police. I never see them help, protect, serve, nothing, bro. I’ve seen them fuck up shit, that’s all I’ve seen. Separating homes, dividing families.

Your dad hid being involved in that life from you for as long as possible.

Maxo Kream: I was definitely blind to it until that day where they put it all on the table for me.

How do you feel about white people listening to your music as a source of entertainment, when you talk about things that you experienced?

Maxo Kream: I fuck with it because for them, everybody got their own struggle. Some people struggle deeper than others. They’re not black. They’ve never lived my life so basically they’re getting the insight. I feel like every time I drop a tape, they lace up their Air Forces or put on their Supreme or whatever, they’re walking in the life of Maxo Kream. Most of my fans are white, they’re drawn to it, but I’m really painting a picture of the young nigga out of Alief, that’s trying to get it. I just like to make good music, tell my story and make sure everybody gets something from it. Something that everybody can relate to, no matter what skin color because real is real.

Tell me about the song “Paranoia.”

Maxo Kream: It doesn’t matter who, even you, there’s certain shit you’re paranoid about because you don’t want to get caught and lose your job. Everybody has paranoia. That [song] was just my paranoia. Yours might be different from mine. It doesn’t matter where you move up in life. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, you’re going to have a different set of paranoia. Even Hillary Clinton, she’s paranoid she might lose the election. I’m paranoid that if I get pulled over, I might get killed for being black and wearing a seat belt.

On “Choppas,” you said you still see some of the same people you’ve shot or robbed. Do they recognize you?

Maxo Kream: Of course, a lot of them do. They know what’s cracking. You hear motherfucking “Karo,” I say some of the names of the plugs I burnt. They what’s cracking with Maxo. They know how we’re coming.

Do you feel remorse from what you’ve done or are you traumatized by your experiences?

Maxo Kream: I mean, I’m human just like everybody else. A little traumatized, not too shook, just something new to open up my eyes, but hell yeah, I feel remorseful. I’ve got that shit in my mixtape. I talk about it on “Big Worm,” like, “serving all of the kids, this is how I’m living, I’m a piece of shit, want the dough for sure, Maxo Richie Rich, I might want the hoe, but I don’t need the bitch.” I know it’s fucked up, some of what I do.

As a 13 year old gang member, did you have similar responsibilities to the adults?

Maxo Kream: At that moment, you’re a grown ass man. You’re going to do what all of the rest of the homies are doing. You’re going to go, accordingly. Ain’t no more your momma holding your hand, at that point.

Knowing your gang affiliation, were you questioned by teachers about shootings in other schools?

Maxo Kream: High school, at the track meet, if shit went down, blasé blasé, I’d get back to my high school, they’ve got the K9 dogs outside my little beat up white Honda Civic. They question me, pulling me out, even my parents and all kind of bullshit.

Did you ever come close to dying?

Maxo Kream: It was like every weekend as a kid out here. I started a clique. Out here the clique is like real big. Not just a gang. If you’re a clique you throw parties and go to other parties. I was doing this all throughout Houston from the south side and north side, south west. Every weekend, it’s some bullshit and we’re beefing with a lot of niggas.

Other cliques could bond and join up. We ain’t doing that shit. We’re like “fuck that,” because we’re Kream Clicc, on our own ten toes. Just stuff like that caused us to have a lot of enemies so everywhere we went it was some shit, but we were ready for it. Summertime was always hot.

On “Choppas” you said “I was 16 with an M16.”

Maxo Kream: Yep definitely true, that was through my brother Ju. He had an M16, he had an AR57, he had an AK. He had just got out, but he got a violation. It was six months so he had me hold down all his burners. My favorite one was the M16, you feel me? That was the one I actually took. I was toting it around. I got all my first guns from my older brother.

How is your brother doing?

Maxo Kream: He’s good. He was ten years older than me so I always looked up to him, but he’s got his life on the right track and living right. He got shot, it turned his life around. He’s working and taking care of his family like every man should.

You treated crack heads with respect even while selling drugs because it was endemic problem in your neighborhood.

Maxo Kream: Right. It’s not like a crack head is just a crack head. A crack head could be somebody’s momma. That could be somebody’s brother. Crack heads, sherm heads, meth heads, everybody got that shit in their family, whether you’re middle or high class. You’ve got to treat them with respect.

They ain’t all bad people. I know some crack heads that got a job, function better than others. Everybody look at it like “oh, oh!” They’re judging. To each his own. You’re going to look down upon something that you don’t know about or don’t understand.

Jeezy met up with your gang when he was in Houston.

Maxo Kream: I was just with Jeezy when he had come out to V Live, he had a show out here. That’s the homie, we always pull up on him. You go to any of his Houston shows and you gon’ see the 10110 Forum Park Crips out there. You gon see the homies in the video.

What makes you more believable than other rappers?

Maxo Kream: Come to my shows, I ain’t never been shot. You can come to the city and ask, they gon’ fucking tell you. You go to all of the blocks I go to. The gang gon’ shout out, ask em. They gon’ tell you.

Tell me about Spice Lane.

Maxo Kream: That’s the million dollar block in Alief. That’s the Kream Clicc block. That’s where a lot of Kream Clicc niggas set up shop. There’s a hundred thousand grams on Spice Lane.

Your projects always have great beats.

Maxo Kream: Any beat can catch my attention. If it catches my ear and goes hard to me, I’m going to use that beat. I don’t care about big production names. Most people I use, you’ve never heard of in your life. I’ve got a different ear for sounds, different synths, hi-hats. Shit got to sound right.

Did you know the production on “Big Worm” is a rework of grime artist Wiley’s track “Morgue”?

Maxo Kream: I found that out when I put it out. At first, I had no idea.

He’s considered a legend in the UK.

Maxo Kream: Yeah, I had to go back and do my research on him, Skepta and all that shit. I met Skepta at SXSW with the A$AP Mob. As far as knowing what they did with music, I didn’t realize until after I did the song.

You performed with D Double E earlier in the year too.

Maxo Kream: Right, in Brooklyn.

You don’t stick to a traditional regional sound.

Maxo Kream: Because even the old style, they didn’t sound like nobody before them. That’s what makes everybody different. I sound like Maxo. Paul Wall sounds like Paul Wall. Slim Thug like Slim Thug. Everybody sounds like themselves, but you can still tell it’s Texas. Plus you’re comparing the South from a decade ago. Throughout the decades it’s changed, from the ’60s to the ’70s, ’80s to the ’90s, too.

Your flow is so unique. That’s what interested me in your music.

Maxo Kream: When I hear a beat, I listen to it and I go with the drum pattern. On “Big Worm,” how it goes “duh duh duh, duh duh duh, duh duh, dun dun!” I catch that drum and just ride with the song. [Maxo starts rapping] “Trapping Endo, smoking out though, nitro, gas pack, kush of the hydro, styro.” I’ve been rapping fast, I’ve been doing that shit. It was like, every time I worked, it just got better. You can go back to 2012 and hear “Rigamortis.” I can speed it up or slow it down.

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