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How Maxo Kream Turned Personal Tragedy into the ‘Weight of the World’

Maxo Kream

Maxo’s third studio album, Weight of the World, deals with his brother’s death while feeling the pressures from his street life and the fame that’s taken him out of it. Photo Credit: Gary Miller/Getty Images

We spoke with Maxo Kream about the making of Weight of the World, paying tribute to his brother, his relationship with Tyler, the Creator, as well as the importance of vulnerability in his music.

There’s a lot of pain weighing on Maxo Kream’s shoulders. His music is filled with self and familial reflection, whether it’s illustrating parallels between his street reputation and his father’s, or the importance of gang loyalty. When Maxo raps, there’s no fat or fluff in his delivery. There’s no glitz and glamour added. His raps are blunt and as direct as a baseball bat to bare knees. 

On March 9th, 2020, Maxo Kream’s brother Money Madu was shot and killed in the Woodland Hills suburb of Los Angeles. Maxo’s third studio album, Weight of the World, deals with his brother’s death while feeling the pressures from his street life and the fame that’s taken him out of it.

Weight of the World, which follows 2019’s Brandon Banks, is riddled with pain as it is with catharsis. Like on “WORTHLESS,” where the Houston-born rapper admits, “I do not rap if I’m sober” with a chilling sincerity. It highlights the common relationship between artists and drug abuse. Or on “LOCAL JOKER,” where Maxo reflects on how street life always came before everything else. It’s a harrowing glimpse at the realities he faced before finding another path through music. 

The album’s emotional climax comes on “TRIPS,” detailing Money Madu’s final moments as well as paying tribute to the bond shared between him and Maxo. Through these verses, Maxo doesn’t break his demeanor — he’s a soldier — his voice doesn’t crack for a second combing over the graphic details. One of the only times Maxo’s militant demeanor breaks is after a long pause in the beat before he re-enters and raps, “my brother should’ve wore a vest.” The regret and anxiety fill those empty seconds of silence. 

We caught up with Maxo Kream to discuss the making of Weight of the World, paying tribute to his brother, his relationship with Tyler, the Creator, as well as the importance of vulnerability in his music. 

Your new album is titled Weight of the World. Why’d you settle on that as a title?

Maxo Kream: Because it is what it is. I got the weight of the world on my shoulders. I’m taking care of my family. I just lost my brother. I got the gang on my back. Everything right now, it’s like the weight of the world, man. Same time, I never said I couldn’t handle it. I’m just saying how much weight I got on my shoulders.

What kind of place are you in mentally during the making of Weight of the World, versus your mindset on, in 2019, with Brandon Banks?

I mean, it was the same mindset. On this one, I kind of went, put my emotions in it. I put a lot of pain into this one. But the next one’s going to be turnt. But this one, this one is going to be critically acclaimed, for sure, I think that.

Maxo Kream

When Maxo raps, there’s no fat or fluff in his delivery. There’s no glitz and glamour added. His raps are blunt and as direct as a baseball bat to bare knees.  Photo Credit: Big Persona/88 Classic/RCA Records

A lot has happened in the last two years since the last album. What has impacted you most during the making of this album?

 I say the death of my brother, for sure. That’s the only thing that made me shed a tear. I feel still in my tears, though, only it doesn’t break me. It just made me go harder with the performance. For a minute, I lost the brain, confidence or something. But it was more like some mercy type shit after the death of my brother, because that was his dream, you feel me? 

Do you feel like this album is paying tribute to your brother?

For sure. For sure, for sure. It’s definitely paying homage, paying tribute to him.

You also talk a lot about Nipsey Hussle on the album, who a lot of people see as an icon. On the intro of the new album, there’s a lot of paranoia on your own safety following the death of Nipsey. How did those events make you feel at the time?

I mean, shit, shit like that is going on. It’s just like, it’s just not hitting the spotlight like people just really now are starting to see that shit, but being a rapper is dangerous, but being a street nigga dangerous too. Being both is even worse. But at the same time, being a rapper while being a street nigga, you know how to move as a rapper, so you get used to that paranoia.

Yeah, and that balance that you have to maintain, I feel like on the new album, there’s a sense of struggle between the streets and your current rise in fame. Like, how do you maintain that balance that keeps you and those around you happy? 

I just be me. Plus, you can’t keep everybody happy, but as far as my family, my immediate family, I keep pushing it, put on for my brother, keep the legacy pushing, like … death would make a lot of people just draw down, go in a little cave or something. Me, I’m a soldier, so you know what I’m saying? I’m going to step regardless. Like I said, I’m going to keep pushing.

Houston has always been a big part of music. How important is maintaining your city’s sound in your music.

I am Houston bro. I’m Southwest, Houston , that’s where I’m from. Shit, I’m just speaking from a Southwest nigga standpoint. In Houston, you got South side niggas, you got Southwest niggas, you got North side niggas. Then you got East side niggas, we all different. You feel me? I’m speaking from the Southwest nigga perspective, but anything you hear from me, that is Houston. Because I’m a Southwest, Houston nigga.

One of the songs that you have on the album is with Tyler, the Creator, when did you two first meet and how did the song come together?

I had met him… we started chopping it up, he said that he was in London with Rick Rubin. Got him in my tape, got him to bring the bank, and then shit, he fuck with my shit. I was like bet, let’s get some shit going. When I went to LA he hit me, and boom, we jumped in the studio and then shit, that’s how that came about. We got way more checks than that though, way more.

Yeah, I had a feeling because this just only seemed like a cut from a bunch of other cuts too. It seemed like you guys had a whole studio session.

We had a couple sessions. Just ended up vibing, you know what I’m saying, going crazy.

Who are the producers that are on this album? 

I had a whole workshop. I brought in some dream real producers, I brought in Monte Booker and Groove. I had Teej on here, I had Smino, y’all probably know Nino from being a rapper. He produced a song with me and Don Toliver. It was beautiful. Who else, Tyler, the Creator. I don’t know if I’m missing… I had Don from Mount Kimbie, that’s where I produced “CRIPSTIAN”. Him and TJ co-produced, but I had a lot of producers just going in there getting inside that blend. Mixing up, you feel me.”

How important is it to show vulnerability in your music?

You got to man, you got to. Every time you relate to the people… Everybody ain’t got vulnerability, everybody, you know what I’m saying. Shit, I feel like that’s how I relate, get the heartfelt relationships with my fans and plus that make them feel like they know you better. You know they still don’t fucking know you, you just letting people know how much you want them to know. I feel like I let myself open… I opened up a lot to my fans and shit.

How has your upbringing in your childhood affected you in your adulthood? What have you bought into your adulthood that is pretty much most important to you?

Man, loyalty.

Everything else comes and goes, bro. You break your parent’s rules, you find yourself as you get older. Shit, it’s still shit embedded in me, of course, but I feel like one of the best things is loyalty. No matter what happens, I see how my family sticks together, and that’s loyalty.

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Anthony Malone, is a music journalist based in Brooklyn, NY with a love and passion for everything hip-hop, especially from NY. Rap music is his life and he couldn’t want it any other way.

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