“Brandon Banks” review: Maxo Kream keeps getting better on major label debut

It’s always a good day in music when an artist that you genuinely like releases a new project. Today is one of those days for me, as Houston’s Maxo Kream has released his major label debut Brandon Banks after a year and a half between projects. 

According to Kream himself, the project is supposed to follow his dad’s life as a criminal. Brandon Banks, real name Emekwanem Ogugua Biosah, is said to have used the former as a fake name while participating in criminal activities. I’m not sure how Maxo is gonna pull off an album based around that, but I’m excited to find out! 

If you haven’t already, check out my artist spotlight of Maxo Kream before reading this review and listening to the album. It’ll give you a little more info on him as an artist and some of his most notable music up to this point. Let’s dig into this album! 

First impressions

The Good: After my first listen through the album, I think it is up there with Maxo’s best. Each track is quality and enjoyable in its own way. There are street bangers and many tracks that tell stories from his life, which ends up being a good balance.  

The Bad: Even though each song is very good, sometimes it feels like Maxo strayed from the theme of the project a bit. The project is apparently supposed to be about his dad’s life, but some of the tracks are generic trap bangers that don’t have anything to do with that. 

Lyrics/Flow

The Good: As with his older music, Maxo Kream is still an amazing storyteller and can break out the flows and authentic lyrics at will. Most of the tracks on the album contain stories about his life that kept me engaged. Most of the hooks on this project are done by Kream himself and he did a great job on them. I think Maxo has found his lane as a lyrical trapper that can also bust out amazing hooks quite often. 

The Bad: Even though most of the tracks on this album are memorable in their own way, that doesn’t mean that they are perfect. On this album, we hear Maxo bring out a few new flows here and there but most of it is a sound we’ve heard from him before in terms of rapping style. That isn’t a huge knock especially since the lyrics really stand out even if the flows are similar to what we’ve heard before.  

Score: 8.3/10

Beats

The Good: This is the section that I’ve been waiting for. After listening to this project multiple times, I’m still amazed at how good the beats sound. Maxo fits very well over all of them and none of them sound out of place. The beats have been a big highlight on his previous projects and he does not disappoint here. 

The Bad: As I said, the beats on this project are great. Maxo picked stuff that he has shown he sounds great on, but he didn’t really try anything new. I’m very surprised about that, especially because this is the same guy that went in over beats like “Big Worm” and “Grannies”. I hope he’ll continue to experiment with different sounds in the future because that’s something that I really enjoy from him.  

Score: 8.7/10

Replayability

The Good: When I write this section, I use a few different factors as my criteria. I look at the total runtime of the album, the number of tracks, and how I’m feeling after multiple listens. This album gets an A in all of those above sections because it’s that good. I’d suggest you listen to it if you like authentic street rap. You should enjoy it and possibly find a new rapper to follow. 

The Bad: The only negative I can see for the replayability of this album is that if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t listen to the lyrics as much as the beats, you might not enjoy it for multiple listens. Maxo Kream is a rapper that requires your full attention, so I suggest you give it to him while listening to this project for maximum enjoyment.  

Score: 8/10

Standouts

I usually say that this section is hard to write, especially when a project is chock full of great songs. It’s the exact same situation for this great album. But if I had to choose some tracks that stand out from the rest, they would be “Meet Again”, “Change”, “Brenda”, and “Dairy Ashford Bastard”.  

Final thoughts

One of the things that I struggle with the most in music is when an artist doesn’t get the shine that they deserve. Maxo Kream is definitely one of those artists that I feel doesn’t get the attention that he has earned. He has put out quality project after quality project over the years, and Brandon Banks is yet another great entry to his discography. 

Before this album came out, I was very excited for it but also curious as to what direction Maxo would go in after the great Punken in 2018. This new album met nearly every expectation that I came in to it with. It showed us that Maxo hasn’t lost his touch and still looks to improve as time goes on. He is still as sharp as ever with the flows and storytelling. The only thing that he didn’t really do on this project was continue his evolution with interesting beats that aren’t the norm. Regardless, I’m really happy with the project.

I won’t say that Brandon Banks is a perfect project, because it isn’t. It has its flaws here and there like most other albums, that’s for sure. But I will say that it is near the best of 2019 thus far. The sheer realness that Maxo Kream brings is nearly unmatched in hip hop today and I really enjoy it. I’d recommend checking this album out because Maxo is truly something special in this genre. 

Final Score: 8.3/10


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Artist Spotlight: Maxo Kream

I’ve said this many times before, but hip hop is such an interesting genre for a multitude of reasons. One of the most interesting things about the genre is the distinct sounds and musical styles that come from different cities. You’ve got Chicago drill, Los Angeles west coast bounce, Bay Area hyphy, New York boom-bap, Atlanta trap, Houston trill, and many more different styles. Today’s post will focus on one of the brightest young rap stars in Houston, Maxo Kream

Rise in popularity  

Maxo Kream first jumped into the mainstream light in 2015 even though he’s been rapping since he was in high school. His first mixtape that garnered him more attention was #Maxo187. The tape was featured in numerous high-profile publications including XXL and more. That tape featured popular rappers Joey Bada$$, Fredo Santana, and more. The sound on the tape was very Houston-influenced, with deep basslines, chopped-and-screwed vocals, and violent street tales. 

Following #Maxo187, Kream released 2016’s Persona Tape and then his 2018 debut album Punken. The 2018 project was met with positive reviews for its high level storytelling and versatility. On the project, we saw Maxo continue to improve his rapping ability while continuing to try new sounds and beats to the delight of many fans.       

Why you should give him a chance 

If you are a fan of lyrical rap that tells great stories while also flowing over beats of all types, you’ll most likely enjoy Maxo Kream’s music. He takes all of those things into his craft along with constant evolution and incorporation of new elements. Kream also has nods to the city he came from, citing his city as a big influence on his musical style. He can also craft great hooks that are super catchy while also not being too repetitive or one dimensional. His voice is quite catchy and distinct compared to a lot of the rappers that sound similar to each other.

I can honestly say that Maxo Kream is up there near the top of the ranks of my favorite new artists. I love the way that he can tell such a compelling story while also making each song sound different from the last.  


Notable songs

When you have an artist as good as Maxo it can be difficult to choose his most notable songs. But without further adieu, here are the most notable songs from Maxo Kream’s discography thus far.    

“Astrodome” – Maxo Kream 

This track was one of the first of Maxo’s that I ever listened to. What draws me to this track is the chopped n screwed vocals, they just fit so perfectly. The feature from Sauce Twinz is so Houston and fits perfectly as well. This is a great track from the #Maxo187 project for sure. 

“Big Worm” Maxo Kream

Remember earlier how I mentioned those unorthodox beats that Maxo somehow sounds great over? Yeah, this is definitely one of those tracks. “Big Worm” is an essential track for any Maxo fan-to-be. His flow is impeccable and that beat though. Damn man, this is a dope track.

“Spike Lee” ft. Playboi Carti & Rich The Kid Maxo Kream 

This song right here is one of Maxo’s most popular, and for good reason. It features a young Playboi Carti and an amazingly catchy hook. The verses from everyone are great and the beat is a work of art. This should be an instant add to your playlist if you enjoy what you’ve heard from Kream thus far. 

Punken Maxo Kream

I’ll admit, I’m kind of cheating this section by including this link. But the whole Punken album is simply too good to not listen to. It is the best version of Maxo Kream that we’ve heard so far and it would be a shame if you didn’t experience that. It was one of the better hip hop releases of a strong 2018 and I would really recommend it. But if you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, my favorite tracks from the project are “Grannies”, “Beyonce (Interlude)”, “Love Drugs”, and “Roaches”

 

What’s next? 

2019 has been a pretty good year for Maxo Kream thus far, seeing as he’s released a few singles during the buildup to his latest album Brandon Banks. The singles that he’s released thus far this year include the excellent “Meet Again”, the hard-hitting “Still”, and “She Live” ft. Megan Thee Stallion. Brandon Banks is set to release on July 19th and I absolutely cannot wait. Check it out on your selected streaming service if you like what you’ve heard from Maxo

K-UTE Radio/University of Utah does not own any images contained in this piece.