Punken (2018) Honors:
AV Club Music’s best hip-hop albums of 2018
Noisey’s The 100 Best Albums of 2018
DJ Booth’s 50 Best Hip-Hop and R&B Albums of 2018
FACT Mag’s 50 Best Albums Of 2018
The Ringer’s 10 Most Underrated Rap Albums of 2018
“All of Maxo Kream’s songs trace heart-stopping scenes, but there isn’t a verse in his discography more gripping than the closer on ‘Roaches.’ It’s like something out of organized crime cinema, full of high stakes drama and involuntary introspection, delivered with the huffed demeanor of someone resigned to a life full of complications.” – Pitchfork
“Punken cements Maxo Kream’s status as one of rap’s best storytellers.” – The Ringer
“Over the last couple years, Maxo Kream has established himself as one of Houston’s most exciting young rappers by way of being one of Houston’s least traditionally minded artists.” – Noisey
“A sinister and visceral portrait of Houston street life.” – Pitchfork
Upon meeting him, gangsta rapper isn’t the impression that most would get from buzzing Houston emcee, Maxo Kream, age 27. He has a surprisingly goofy and playful demeanor, often cracking self-aware jokes and displaying a smile which showcases either his gold grin or his trademark gap in the upper row of this teeth. But, make no mistake, Maxo’s backstory is a tale consisting of crime and death that would catch the attention of the most jaded followers of gangsta/trap rap.Read more
This tale takes place in the Southwest region Houston, Texas. Specifically, the Alief area which is endearingly referred to as the SWAT (South-West Alief Texas) by its residents and the other hoods around the city. To local law enforcement The Southwest/Alief are known for consisting of the most violent police beats in the city, to Maxo this is known as home. Anybody from Houston can tell you that it isn’t exactly the place you want to look for a good example of mass urban decay, the city is big and spaced out, even its traditional “dangerous areas” aren’t population dense compared to their counterparts in other majority cities; Southwest Houston is one of the few exceptions where large patches of undeveloped land commonly seen around Houston are traded for tight concentrations of rundown apartment buildings. Once again, this is where Maxo considers home, he has lived in other parts of Houston, but he will tell you that Alief is his stomping ground, where he “jumped off the porch” and earned his name.
Born to a Nigerian immigrant father and a Black-American mother from Houston’s Missouri City region; from the outside looking in, Maxo’s family is relatively traditional and resembles the ideal nuclear family put forward by American culture. This is before you get to the federal indictments, losses to murder, and a century plus worth of penitentiary time handed down throughout his extended family. His dad, a typical strict and disciplinarian Nigerian father, did the most to provide the best childhood experience for his offspring, allowing his kids access to expensive after school programs, private schools, and the best clothes and shoes amongst their peers; this was probably the root of Maxo’s love for clothes and his local reputation for being dapper and well dressed. But the money to provide them with all their wants and needs wasn’t all coming from legitimate means, which became apparent when their family’s suburban home was raided in a joint effort by federal and local law enforcement. The raid was a result of a federal indictment that eventually put Maxo’s father away for the better part of a decade, and jarringly separated his family from their pleasant “American Dream” lifestyle.
Over the next ten years Maxo’s late prepubescent and adolescent years took a distinctly different direction from his early childhood, but he doesn’t seem to have a negative outlook on those years at all; he fondly reminiscences about bouncing from apartment to townhomes throughout the Southwest and living a small house In Southwest Houston with his cousin Lyndon (his early rap partner), due to his mom and her sisters’ extended families (13+ people at a time) all living under one roof. It was during this period that Maxo found an affinity for crime and was introduced to gangbanging, looking up to his older brother, cousins, and the neighborhood bangers with names for themselves. One thing that young Maxo didn’t take well to, was having to relinquish his title of “fly ass nigga” with the absence of his dad’s illegitimate income. To remedy this he took up home burglary and small time drug peddling, often going in his big brother’s drug stashes without permission to sell it to other kids in 4th through 7th grade. His other hustle of home burglary seemed to flourish and eventually led to a heist that resulted in Maxo obtaining a large collection of collector sneakers and sparked him forming a clique named KREAM (Kicks Rule Everything Around Me). Outside of his clique, Maxo had also became a member of a local Crip set, and was active on that end as well.
After years of fighting, behavior problems, and troublemaking leading up to his sophomore year of high school, Maxo’s mother and aunt attempted to put him, his siblings, and cousins in a better environment by moving them back to suburban Fort Bend with the help government assistance. But it seems that they were a little too late, at that point Maxo states he was already “off the porch”. In his words, “I was already active in this Crip shit, I was scrapping every day at Hastings, I done seen niggas get blown away behind petty shit, the first time I seen someone get murdered it was at a candlelight at Alief Amity Park, on some ‘come together stop the violence type shit’ and a nigga got laid out at that event” he continued “so you move me from a place where everybody is about it and you got grown men that’ll kill teenagers and move me to Fort Bend where their ‘hard’ niggas aren’t fucking with the niggas I used to fight with and whoop back in Alief, bro, these niggas looked like lunch.”
Maxo’s troubles followed him to Houston’s suburban Sugar Land region, getting into it with the residents of Mayfield/The Quarters (a small cluster of black poverty in Sugarland, its name originating from the fact that it was previously slave quarters) and the hoods in neighboring Missouri City (referred to as Mo City). In the mist of all this, Maxo was still driving back to Southwest Houston to associate with his Crip compatriots. Taking place during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the influx of out of town hardheads and gangbangers clashing with local sets and cliques leading to a large surge in murders and violent crime and increased pressure on local police to intervene and clean up the streets; this, as well as him and members of his clique being implicated in local shootings, home burglaries, and robberies back in Fort Bend; he found himself drawing more police attention than he had ever experience previously. This attention resulted in raids by law enforcement on several of his associates’ homes, including a misguided and unfruitful and raid on one of his close friends homes by the ATF, and attributed to his legend in Fort Bend as a menace with Sugar Land police previously keeping a picture of him on the wall for all people entering the department to see. Maxo’s life from ages 14 up has been filled with drama and violence, losing friends and family to murder, losing friends and family to murder convictions, touchy situations he describes as “Seeing my bro kill my other bro and niggas wanting me to pick a side, putting me in the shit.”
Nearing the end of high school Maxo’s father was released from Prison and once again became active in family’s lives’, using his connections to move his family back into a upscale suburban home and steering his sons toward college. Maxo states if not for his dad return and influence he doesn’t know where he’d be, but leans toward believing that the picture would be grimmer. Maxo graduated from Kempner High School and attended Texas Southern University (a HBCU located in Houston’s Third Ward, a staple and trending topic in Houston black community for both good and bad reasons). This allowed Maxo a short break from a couple of the negative aspects of his life, replacing them with partying, chasing women, and selling drugs to his growing clientele (mostly consisting fellow students) as his major focuses, he remained at TSU for 2 years accumulating a grand total of 6 credit hours in his time there, considering academics not being his focus. He dropped out at age 20 to focus on a full time career trapping, but the college years are still relevant, because it was during his time in college where he first decided to make a serious attempt at rapping after an inspiring trip to Austin’s SXSW Music Festival.
Inspired by his trip to SXSW and the fact that other street cliques throughout Houston that he was associated/familiar with such as FDAB (founded by late rapper T.O.Y, a childhood friend and Crip associate of Maxo) and MashMode (which has now resulted in the buzzing careers of Houston rap duo, The Sauce Twinz) were transitioning into music as a form of expression and hustle led to Him and his younger cousin Lyndon (rap moniker Lyndo C), making their jump into music. Their early attempt at rapping were met with a surprising amount of local support, way more than Maxo had ever expected. Their songs and video spread quickly through social media boosting Maxo’s status locally when he was already consider a “Facebook/Twitter Famous” local celebrity amongst the younger crowds. Maxo’s ability to play the social network game was a key part in his success in music, he considers himself a social media savant of sorts, using it interact with fans, build his legend, and taunt law enforcement (with screengrabs of his twitter account and his clique/gang members’ feeds being featured in primetime news and police reports multiple times, he states “I know they watching my shit, but fuck em”).
In 2016 Maxo Kream released his third project, The Persona Tape. Featuring appearances from fellow Houston rapper Paul Wall and Atlanta rappers Playboi Carti, Key!, and Rich the Kid, the tape finds Maxo Kream exploring the intricacies of his public profile and how he is perceived. The Persona Tape follows recent co-signs by Wiley and Skepta, as well as his acclaimed 2015 project #Maxo187, which debuted via Noisey and was labeled by Pitchfork as “a sinister and visceral portrait of Houston street life.” Maxo Kream’s distinct sound and persona have earned him praise by Passion of the Weiss as “Houston’s Savior.” With big name features and outstanding production, Maxo intends to show that he can compete with any emcee in the game.
Maxo’s latest album, Punken, takes a deep and revealing look into the rapper’s past, with Maxo mastering his storytelling ability and hypnotic flows atop forward-thinking production. Featuring appearances from Trippie Redd, 03 Greedo, and D. Flowers, and with production from The Wlderness, Beatboy, Sonny Digital, Ethereal, Honorable C Note, $uicideboy$, Tommy Kruise, Wolfe De Mchls, Teddy Walton, and MexikoDro, Punken builds upon 2015’s Maxo 187 and 2016’s The Persona Tape with emotionally and sonically diverse tracks sitting side-by-side with insane drug-dealing bangers.
Maxo Kream Teams With Megan Thee Stallion for a Raunchy H-Town Jam
Maxo Kream Signs to RCA Records, Shares New “Still” Single
Maxo Kream Takes a Deep Dive Into the Corrections System in the “Meet Again” Video
Maxo Kream is Back! The Houston Rapper Prepares for a Big 2019 with the Somber and Soulful “Meet Again”
Maxo Kream Explores His Troubled Past & Present in the High-Tech “Roaches” Video
WSHH Debuts A Downpour of Pills In Maxo Kream’s Ethereal “Pop Another” Video 💊💊🌧
Maxo Kream Shows Us His Side of Houston and Illustrates His Come-Up in “5200”
Maxo Kream Hosts a Southwest Houston Affair With D. Flowers in the Rowdy “Go” Video
Maxo Kream Recruits Trippie Redd & 03 Greedo For Punken, His Most Personal Project Yet
Maxo Kream Shows Off His Rhyming Prowess Over a Stark, Bass-Heavy Production on “Bussdown”
Maxo Kream & Lil Uzi Vert Fly to “Mars” For New Collab
Maxo Kream Lists “5200” Ways to Get Paid on His New Loosie
Maxo Kream Revisits The Gritty Single “Grannies” With Documentary-Style Visual
Maxo Kream Digs Up Skeletons From His Family’s Past In The Harrowing “Grannies”
Maxo Kream Stops Trapping For A Second To Take A “Smoke Break”
Maxo Kream Slangs It “Out The Front Door”
Maxo Kream Sits in a Four Cornered Room Staring at Ceiling Fan in “G3”
Houston’s Maxo Kream is On His Persona Shit in His New Mixtape
Complex Premieres Maxo Kream’s Friday-Inspired Video for “Big Worm”
Maxo Kream, Playboi Carti, Rich the Kid, Chuck Inglish Unite for “Spike Lee”
Maxo Kream Invades Brooklyn, Recruits Joey Bada$$ For “1998” Video, Premiered by WorldStarHipHop
Following a Successful SXSW, Maxo Kream Drops Grime-Tinged “Big Worm” Single
With an EP On the Way, the Houston Rapper Releases Menacing Video Single “Shop,” Debuted by WorldStarHipHop
Houston’s Maxo Kream and Atlanta Rapper Key! Team Up for Drug Dealer’s Anthem “Out the Door,” Debuted by Complex
Debuted by ELEVATOR Mag, the Houston Rapper and Chicago Wordsmith Come Together for Raw Visuals from Maxo 187 Mixtape
Premiered by Mass Appeal, Slim K From Houston Legend OG Ron C’s Chopstars Crew Remixes the 23-Year-Old Rapper’s Acclaimed Release
Following His #MAXO187 Mixtape Release, the 23-Year-Old Houston Rapper Was One of SXSW’s Breakout Artists, Latest Visual Debuted By MissInfo
The 23-Year-Old Houston Rapper Enlists Joey Bada$$, Father, Fredo Santana For Features On His Sophomore Mixtape, Premiered By Noisey
With His #MAXO187 Mixtape Releasing Next Week, the Houston, TX Rapper Enlists Awful Records Artist Father For An Ode To the Trap and Instagram, Premiered By Complex