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‘Punken’ is Maxo Kream’s new album released January 12, 2018. This being his first album was a surprise to me since I was a big fan of his mixtape ‘Quicc Strikes.’ Turns out that, or any of his other releases weren’t albums. Nowadays, no one knows what the difference between an album and a mixtape is, it used to be whether you paid for it, but now the only entity that gets paid is Spotify.
‘Punken’ sounds a lot like Maxo Kream’s mixtapes which is fine for now. He will have to grow. A full review will probably come in the next couple of weeks but it comes down to this, I’m a fan of the music, something about Maxo’s voice and the way he works his metaphors into trap/street style lyrics sticks out to me. His southern (or Texan, the same but different right?) accent is unique and also his delivery is special because on close listens, the beats he is rapping over are slow or not especially energetic, but his delivery makes the songs sound upbeat. I can attest to that energy because I saw him open for Danny Brown in 2017.
In the couple listens I was able to give to ‘Punken’ a few verses, bars, lines, rhymes, stories stuck out. Here they are in no order and they will give you a good idea of the lyrical content on ‘Punken.’
Used the Karo paints, I fucked a lot of n—– over
So I bought a pipe and kept the toaster with the holster
Used to ask my brother why he cook with baking soda
Told me I won’t understand this life until I’m older
A lot of what we’ll get from Maxo Kream are stories or anecdotes about dealing drugs, family dealing drugs or family using drugs. This bar touches on his claims of selling lean (Karo being a brand of corn syrup you can buy in any grocery store), about the life of drug dealer having to protect himself and then going to the next level of drug dealing. Cooking with baking soda means his brother is cutting something like cocaine.
Posted on the block, Glock tucked with the hoovers
I was selling rocks to 2 a cluck like a rooster
Maths teacher ask me Maxo why I’m always skippin
I was trappin fractions afterschool like detention
Broke as hell we had to manage
Chicken noodle, syrup sandwich
I chose the above bar because it highlights the way Maxo creates something cool sounding out something very simple. It’s best heard in the context of the whole song but the simple block, Glock, rock, “ock” type rhymes are ones you’ll hear in a hundred rap albums but the beat is light and Maxo’s delivery keeps the song upbeat and jovial despite the darker street lyrics.
Some of the wordplay is worth talking about too. Urban dictionary tells me a cluck is a drug addict. Selling rock to a cluck like rooster made me laugh and if I were texting that lyric, I’d definitely use the thinking emoji.
The second part of the bar above Maxo tells his math teacher he’s always skipping school because he’s “trappin fractions afterschool like detention.” Drug dealers work in fractions of product, selling an eighth or quarter of something like marijuana. Maxo offers a dual metaphor in that line when tells the teacher he’s doing it afterschool like detention.
The wordplay is light but it’s enough to take this beyond generic trap music.
Two days later HPD pulled up and questioned Aunty Trish
She knew I took her car and hit a lick, but she ain’t tell ’em shit!
They searched her car and let her go, they almost charged her for a Grammy
Never snitched, betrayed her family, but she always told my Granny
The song the above bars come from is called “Granny.” The delivery is a drone and Maxo Kream keeps the same quick but plodding rhythm throughout. The bars above are one anecdote in a song filled with mini-stories involving Maxo Kream’s family. All of them end up concerning his grandmother in some manner. We read that drugs played a large part in Maxo’s life (or maybe the character he’s playing). Hip hop is obsessed with not being a snitch, and hear we have an example of an Aunt almost having to do time. Like the other stories told in this song it comes back to granny.
Say I need help, I’m a junkie, I’m addict
Just ’cause I mix the codeine with the Addies
Narco summers, bag dope with the Xannies
Work a nigga nerves and I’m just tryna manage
Mary Jane never talk back
Molly don’t give me no slack (lil hoe)
Lil drank, Act know how to act
Married to the dope, ain’t never turnin’ back
My guess is that these lines are a little tongue and cheek. Either way it’s another example of his delivery. The reason I focus on a verse from this song is to highlight that the style of rapping is very close to Future or Young Thug, but with far less production on the voice, Maxo sounds like Maxo and it isn’t over produced or over auto-tuned. So, it’s not necessarily the flow of some of these mumble rappers, it’s how unauthentic they sound. Maxo Kream spits a very similar delivery but is able to sound real due to his unique nasal, southern accent that pours through in his music.
Went through the dirtiness all the rain
Came from the mud with some struggle pains
Cops took my shine puff daddy pdiddy
Put me on tv like ray charles (Stevie)
By the whole time the feds kick the door down
Organized crime that’s the fight of 99′
Every court gettin judged by a tour of whites
Who never had to struggle in they god damn life
Maxo talks a little about his arrest for engaging in organized crime. A lot of people would listen to this album and write it off as another trap song drug dealer glorifying album, but in these albums there are always underlying political issues being discussed. In the bars above Maxo’s fear is having to be judged by a group of whites that “never had to struggle.” Without saying it explicitly he questions whether he could actually be judged by a jury of his peers, at best it’s a jury of citizens that can’t relate to his experience.
‘Punken’ is filled with strongly personal lyrics with political overtones and wrapped around a person that clearly means a lot to him, his grandmother, who is sampled during the song “Roaches.”
The best verse on the album is on the song “Roaches” where he talks about Hurricane Harvey, he was partying in Vegas at the time and how he didn’t realize how bad his family was during the storm. All worth a listen and better if you can get over the stigmas that come with trap music. Everyone should get over the stigmas they have of certain types of hip hop.