Rap’s infatuation with realness is insurmountable. An indelible part of the culture, there’s a lengthy list of young prospects and veteran artists that fell victim to its elusive pursuit.
That same authenticity, is often exaggerated for commercial success – look no further than 21 Savage, whose sinister persona fuels track after track of trapping out of ‘bandos and navigating deathly corridors in a similar fashion as the Grim Reaper.
Contrasting rap’s current metagame of fetishizing the kill, Houston artist Maxo Kream delivered his debut album Punken, which highlights gangland terror with an undeniable level of honesty. Rappers are expected to embellish, and in more ways than one. The higher your alleged body count, in the alley or the bedroom, the more clout you have. Kream diverts this usual trope however, by predicating his image more on accurate-sounding details than bombastic and overblown hyperbole.
Kream brings a series of verses to the project that carry a level of detail sought after by only the most determined investigative journalists. “Jew, Medulla, Josh, and Alex, had no beds, we slept on pallets/ Daddy was a swiper and my mama was a booster/ Cousin Pooh, he was a killer, all my uncles, they some losers/ My brother Ju was janky, niggas robbin’ andale/ ‘Till I went inside his room and stole his AK/ Stupid ass decision, I regret it everyday/ A nigga caught him slippin’, shot him right inside the face,” Kream spits on the intro cut “Work”. From his sleep arrangements to calling out his family members Kream presents his life and upbringing with pinpoint detail.
Complementing these details is the album’s lack of dead-air. Rarely does Kream “let the beat breathe”, instead cramming as many bars into each cut as he can. The Sonny Digital-produced interlude “Beyonce” almost knowingly prods at this trait, having Kream’s verse trail off into the distance. With a bottomless vault of comparisons for his choppa, which include Kevin Costner and Frank Sinatra, leaving the track’s outro to the wind is probably for the best.
With help from producers MexikoDro, Mitch Mula and plenty more, Maxo Kream is taking rap back to the streets, without the blinding glare of diamond encrusted face chains or watered down, radio-friendly verses.
Stream Punken below or on Apple Music and Spotify.