Maxo Kream hits us with all the grit and none of the glorification in a staggeringly deep and personal record.
You might not believe just how profound this album is.
Every image attached to the profile of this Houston-based rapper suggests that you’ll get belted with an unsavory audible shakedown, but, though it ain’t pretty, just about the opposite is true. Who is Maxo Kream? It’s fair to say he is not the type of guy to take altercation lightly, but underneath is a man who lives in painful longing for liberation from the tribulations of crime and social deprivation. How do I know this? Have I met him? Nope. It’s all in the record. Such is the mind-blowing power of hip-hop when it’s done this well.
The title Brandon Banks refers to Maxo Kream‘s father who, as we learn fairly early on in the album, is currently living out life in prison. It is from here that Maxo kicks off a reflective and often sombre narrative, which depicts his own misgivings as well as the hardships of his immediate surrounding world. Family is a recurring theme, as are the linked ideals of friendship and loyalty. The storytelling often operates in the aftermath of a bleak gangster lifestyle, and how those burdened with the relevant loss and misdirection attempt to find their way through the catacombs of daily life.
Even more touching is that the character of Maxo Kream‘s father acts as a recurring narrator throughout the record, and we get nothing short of an extremely three-dimensional interpretation of this person. Is he an abusive father with an excess of rage, or is he a shining model of encouragement and hopefulness to his children? According to the literary musings of Brandon Banks, it appears that the truth lies twofold. This depth of storytelling exists in hefty doses all the way across the album, and always with no shortage of honesty. Lyrically poignant tracks such as “Meet Again”, “Bissonnet”, and “Brenda” are just some of the stronger examples. Besides the more obvious negative emotions, it all comes with a sense of empathy and determination which bares the soul of this rapper in a remarkably candid fashion.
Musically, there is a distinct subterranean depth to Brandon Banks. Just about every track is rough and ready in its delivery, and even though the aggression ramps up in the middle section, there is still an underlying calm-after-the-storm prose to the album, which is enunciated as much in the music as it is in the lyrics. As for the voice itself, there is something steadily chilled about Maxo Kream’s vocal style. His brand of rap is solid, tight, and controlled, but discharged with a laid-back fluidity that might trick the untrained ears into thinking it was all a very lucky ad-lib. It’s fair to say that the more trap-oriented style of rapping is an acquired taste as it always will be, but in this case it is pulled off bereft of any drawn-out cliche or bandwagon-hijacking.
No doubt Maxo Kream‘s fanbase have known for a while that he is a genuine talent and a serious contender, but for all us newcomers, Brandon Banks is a sincere and potent document of both his skills and his conviction. Amidst the king-size swill of modern hip-hop, we have here a record so well defined by its poetic truthfulness, that it’s hard not to feel empathy toward, even if some may find the musical style unappealing. All walks of life are encouraged to try it just once, if only for the vicarious eye-opening experience of it all.