Houston's Maxo Kream has put in countless hours of work during his time in the underground circuit, accruing the label of legend in that regard. He has been one of the names grouped with the other grimy, pill-popping, ratchet-wearing journeymen who have put in the rounds in a mixtape heavy world; one where it's tough to tell if they're waiting on stardom or trying to milk out the comfort of their cult followings. Now, about three years removed from his breakthrough tape Maxo187, Maxo drops his debut Album, Punken.
The project feels more so like an album than anything else in his catalogue. While Retro Card and Quicc Strikes are fun listens and were introspective of what was to come for Maxo, they felt unpolished and jagged at points. The aforementioned Maxo187 comes closer, and actually feels quite like a prequel to Punken. Both projects are well-balanced, providing something for those keen to bouncy club bangers, hard-hitting trap ballads, and more personal storytelling cuts. Punken even offers an "Astrodome 2," a follow up to one of the highlights from Maxo187.
His latest release centers a lot of the focus on himself, only featuring Trippie Redd, the bassy D. Flowers, and Greedo. Maxo covers a lot of the same subject matter; drug abuse, reflections on his past, and women. In typical Maxo fashion, he colorfully details the facets of his childhood that portray his dramatic change of lifestyle. For example, Chuck E. Cheese, little league, and playstation are now just trinkets of the past. He also though, narrates more unique hardships, such as his recent experience with Hurricane Harvey. On "Roaches," perhaps the best song on the LP, he reels in the audience with his insight on what happened during the time of the disaster and how it inflicted with his work, but more importantly how he made sure his family was where they needed to be. "Roaches" and the lead single "Grannies" exemplify just how good Maxo is at storytelling, something that is often forgotten underneath his heavy trap persona.
Punken, is a thorough release that fulfills what an early fan of Maxo would hope for during his maturation. Matured may not be the word to use to describe it because of its connotation that he has recently been the opposite, but it provides quality aspects that were not once available from Maxo. Throughout club friendly tracks like "Bussdown," or the dirty banger "Hobbies," Maxo makes Punken a fun project while still requiring an comprehensive listen. The face of Houston, and his bully-like persona perks ears at the news of a fresh release, and rightfully so. Don't sleep on Punken.