In a World of Fakes, Maxo Kream Keeps It Very, Very Real

Maxo Kream cuts through the bullshit. The Houston rapper is a clear-eyed observationalist in the vein of local legend Scarface, an imposing figure who understands the subtleties of scene-setting, what to reveal and what to leave to the imagination. Maxo raps clearly, laying bare the images of a gangland past marked by family ties.

“I don’t do any fabricated-ass shit—everything I’m talking about in my raps is real,” he tells me over Skype, his diamond-encrusted gold fronts glistening in the sun as he rides shotgun through Los Angeles. His scruffy beard, which is volumous enough to envelop his neck and jaw, obscures the view of the rest of his face. Those same fronts and that same beard are featured prominently on the cover for his latest impressive mixtape, Punken, which is devastatingly visceral in reenacting the entire breadth of his life in Houston. In a time when “realness” means less than ever in rap, Maxo Kream is a throwback: Authenticity is a core tenet of his art.

The 27-year-old born Emekwanem Ogugua Biosah Jr. has spent the last seven years documenting his upbringing in painstaking detail. Sometimes these vignettes have a dark humor to them: “My shooters so young they was born in the millenium.” Elsewhere, they’re haunting. On the Punken track “Grannies,” he introduces an uncle in two startlingly candid bars: “Petty, thief, and junkie, but he always had my most respect/When I was 6, I seen him stab a nigga, and he bled to death.”

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