Native SUNday Review: Maxo Kream – Quicc Strikes


Tonight marks the second straight week that I’ve delivered on the promise I made to myself to post a review every Sunday; a relatively small victory on the outside, but accounting  for the numerous times my innate laziness absolutely annihilated my work ethic or any dreams of productivity, this small win turns into a mountain sized triumph. Yep, that was a humble brag…deal with it.  I’m still working out how I’m going to do these things, especially how to attack each stylistically. Although, at the end of the day, they’re here for you to enjoy, so if you have any suggestions let me know. Perhaps you think these introduction paragraphs go on for too long and you just want me to shut up and get to the music, which is a fair point; I’ll simply hate you for the rest of your natural born life and curse your family for three generations (on some real Old Testament shit). Let me stop hogging the spotlight though, and lets talk about this mixtape I’m supposed to be reviewing.

For the past couple of years, young rappers have developed and perfected a formula that has proven to be highly effective. First, carefully listen to Houston trill, making sure to drink as much lean as possible, until you feel that you can say sizzurp without a trace of irony and not feel like the biggest lame in the room; second, similarly to the first step, listen to music, but from your hometown or nearby region; third, combine what you learned from the first two steps, creating a fusion that will be undeniably unique to most local listeners, while having a nearly universal appeal; the final step is the most crucial, release it to the masses and watch the frenzy. It’s truth and power can be seen in A$AP Rocky, who in less than a year to conquer the game doing this, enlightening a crop of up-and-coming emcees to the power of this simple blueprint.

However, all of these new hybrids are nice, but it’s always hard to top the originals. Thanks to Hip Hop’s slow southwestern migration, listeners are encountering more and more dope Houston rap. This Texas metropolis continues to produce stars to quench eager fan’s thirst for music, Maxo Kream is definitely one of the most promising upstarts the city has to offer.

Apparently,tightly knit cliques dominate Houston’s underground and street scene, rather than gangs or rap crew. All of the forces that have become commonplace to hip hop in other major cities are present, but these collectives are the driving force behind the music. Affiliations to rival gangs doesn’t hinder entry and friendships, Bloods and Crips fellowship together under certain cliques’ banners. Music is just one small aspect of them though, street life includes some not so savory facets that require attention.

Maxo is the CEO of the Kream Clicc Gang, and since his video for “Rigamortis” went viral, easily it’s most recognizable member. His debut mixtape, Retro Card, was a pretty good introduction, yet it left me wanting more. I found myself rarely coming back to it, but still excited to see what he was going to do next. Luckily, his followup, Quicc Strikes, was right around the corner, so I didn’t have to wait all that long. When it finally dropped, it turned me into someone who had faith in his potential, into a fan who knew his talents can take him somewhere.

Dark, dirge like vocals are the first sounds heard on the mixtape, creating a vibe that is as haunting as it is regal. Whereas “Palace” welcomed new listeners to A$AP Rocky with bombastic and swaggering  choral voices, “YMG” drops audiences into a cold, joyless cathedral, where light hasn’t shone in years. About three seconds into the song, Maxo begins to speak, but he is pitched down and sounds almost demonic. Once the rapping starts, it feels like he is the only person in this world who has any emotions, and unfortunately for us, they are all grim. This ambiance is the result of blunt realism and his questionable past, which is the launching pad for majority of the  fourteen tracks and is felt throughout the project.

The video for “Lewinsky” is ridiculously sinister and interesting, thanks to the songs immoral nature. Maxo murders this hopelessly dope beat, flexing his lyrical ability and showing off his “I don’t give a f**k” attitude; spitting some truly horrifying lines in the most emotionless non-nonchalant manner, “I know I’m Christ, but I got the Devil in me.” “I’ll be  hitting more licks than Lewinsky/ Shoot a glock at a cop, tell him come get me/ On the block, slinging bars like a penitentiary/ Had a glock, sold pot in elementary,” geez, my dude was packing heat and dealing drugs in grade school. What makes the whole song so chilling, is the fact that he shows no signs of remorse or excitement, its just his life–business as usual. Even when Chief Keef says grimy lines, he seems to feel something, either excitement or regret; Maxo does not, total apathy. “Lewinsky” is definitely the most impressive track on the mixtape, but it has some great company.

“Silentgr52ve”, “Hella Yellas”, “Purple City Stars”,  and “Randy Moss Freestyle” are all manifestation of the trill sound that we have come to expect from the Third Coast. “Hella Yellas” is one of the funnier moments on the album, dedicated to all of the light skin women that he has hooked up with, who are in turn jealous of the attention he shows his yellow cars. The production on the track is more up beat, but it contains the chopped and screwed vocals helping it to still feel laid back. “Silentgr52ve” beat is what I imagine the moments before slipping into a coma feels like; so overcome by some chemical high that you can’t move an inch, but instead of feeling trapped, you find yourself enjoying it. He isn’t focused on smoking on this one though, instead, he rhymes about his clique and their killer movements on the streets. It has a dope old school, yet ethereal feel to it.  “Purple City Stars” has a cool pimp vibe to it, but once again there are no games when it comes to Maxo’s crew. Instead of selling or macking on women, he is stealing girls and grinding to get money. A little weird,but really dope, another standout track.

“Quarterbaccs” might have one of the most annoying female vocal samples ever, it sounds like a screeching bird being chased by a flock of bagpipes. However, after a couple of minutes it begins to grow on you. The track is about trapping, filled with the graphic realism that is found throughout the album, but includes an added layer of anxiety. It’s cool to see him actually have some type of human emotion, but it would happen while he serves addicts. “Nigga’s flexing, I kidnap them”, a little menacing to say the least. At this point, my soul had bought into his evil gospel–so, when I heard that line, I laughed a little. Kind of sick, but whatever, don’t judge me.

If you are in a clique, crew, gang, or collective, you have to include one mobbin’ track, its a tradition. “Whitney Houston” fills that role, and thankfully he didn’t decide to just bullshit all over the track. He really goes in, it has been my hype song this past week. That hook though, “Young ass niggas mobbin, screaming fuck the institution/ Hella stupid, rob and shooting/ If we meet it’s execution/ Flipping bitches like gymnastics, she going to let me chop and screw it/ Got that work for distributions/ And this weed in Whitney Houston.” Its not giving a damn attitude helps me start my day the right way, every time.

Quicc Strikes is a great mixtape, but it is plagued by a couple of nasty little bugs. Some of the features on here aren’t that good, they’re not terrible, but they don’t add anything to whatever track they are on. Also, Maxo’s monotone style makes it hard to differentiate between certain songs, especially between the “Freddie H52ver” and “Silentgr52ve”, I couldn’t tell which one I was listening to nor that one had stopped playing. Ultimately, these concerns aren’t enough to ruin the complete body of work. If you have the chance, you should definitely download and check it out. It has already become one of my favorite releases this year.

Jimi (@Nativejimi)