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The Journey: Jersey Rapper Maxi Maxx Stays On The Grind

Maxi chats Meek Mill, industry politics, and more.

If one were to ask “who is the most played artist in Jersey via SoundCloud,” there’s a good chance Maxi Maxx May not be the first name to pop in your head — even though he ranks second in the state only to Fetty Wap with 50 million plays. The Jersey rapper has been in the game for just over seven years, working with some incredible notable acts along the way, like the recently released Meek Mill. So why hasn’t the young upstart ascended to the next level? He’s on his way.

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Currently, he’s connected with Interscope — strictly as a host for distribution of his music — but Maxx is hopeful the relationship could blossom further as he preps his full 2018 LP. Today, though, he’s reveling in positive feedback from his latest mixtape, Everybody Raps, which features (aside from his crew) vocals from songstress Kehlani (“Cum Thru”).

“This tape was just to let everybody know who I am,” he tells AAHH. “The official album is [going to drop] when they get more comfortable … this tape was just to let them know that I’m still here.”

It’s an understandable motivation; though he’s had some incredible looks, he’s had some disheartening false-starts and setbacks. His first significant opportunity came after a chance meeting with Meek Mill, who was impressed by songs off of Maxx’s Lazy K hosted debut.

 
Meek was interested in remixing one of Maxx’s records, but due to clearance issues Maxx couldn’t facilitate it; that led to them working on the song “Weak People,” which to date has over 1.6 million plays. “He sent it back 48 hours, no charge,” he says. “[Meek] was like ‘this one is on me, the next one is on you.’ Ever since then, we kept in contact. We were in touch through the whole Nicki Minaj relationship; he kept calling me, putting me on game … kept motivating me like that. Like a big brother.”

The deal was on the table, however — much to his chagrin — it was a writing deal for lesser-known MMG artists. As well, during that period, Maxx saw a situation his cousin Choo Biggz went through during a video shoot for the song “Tonight” featuring Tank, Fetty Wap, and 50 Cent. Though he was paid, Fif was a no-show. The experience left a bad taste in his mouth and jaded him on the prospect of signing to other artists.

 
“That’s what made me not want to sign to other artists because other artists don’t want to see you grow,” he states.

He’s grown from the situation, and is more motivated than ever; with a catalog that includes the likes of Jeremih, Weeknd, and Yachty, he is ready to be more than just an artist you’ve heard here or there. Instead, he’s aiming for the spotlight — and a chance to share his whole truth on a larger scale.

“I will be the best rapper then come out of Jersey,” he says with a laugh. “Shout out to Redman.”

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
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#IndieSpotlight: RetroPOP Provides A Worthwhile Slice Of Personal Nostalgia

A lot of curious indie projects have landed across my desk this year, but this week one of most unique…

A lot of curious indie projects have landed across my desk this year, but this week one of most unique made its way to my AirPods. 27-year-old RetroPOP passed me his latest effort, RetroPOP Vol 1 This For Amir — a 19-song serving of nostalgic Hip Hop vibes, wrapped in an endearing subplot of family history.

Curated to sound like it’s either a vintage TV flipping through decades of history or stops for some sort of funky time machine, Retro rips through tons of classic samples. The album intro for example — “Burnell’s Intro ‘92” — which has the baseline of Jade’s “Don’t Walk Away” blended in “T.R.O.Y.” His wordplay too is phenomenally engaging. He sounds like a student of the game, with a flow that doesn’t sound forced to nest itself seamlessly into the vintage vibes.

As an older head, there were some pleasant surprises on the project, such as “NY Undercover ‘94,” a short and sweet story told from the perspective of New York police Detectives J.C. Williams and Eddie Torres — the protagonists of the show New York Undercover — set to the show’s iconic theme song. Then there’s “the story of the prince ‘90,” which sees Retro ripping through the theme song of seminal sitcom Fresh Prince Of Belair to tell the real story of the show that changed Will Smith’s life. He even added a clip from an episode I still can’t watch without crying a little [see below.]

Another cool track was “House Party 90,” which has a New Jack Swing sound as he rips from Kid’s perspective — from the cult-classic film “House Party” — sneaking out of his home to attend Play’s epic party.

Then there are these deeply personal tracks such as the Charles Allen Freestyle ‘60, a song for his “Paw Paw.” During the final checkpoint, in case the listener hadn’t quite caught it yet, we discover that Amir is his nephew. Which makes the chronicling of his family’s story alongside all these walks down the pop-culture that helped shape him, that much more meaningful. Entenched with themes of cultural identity, flanked with check in points — and even including a heartfelt poem — it’s journey that leaves you relishing for an era that’s long gone. Yet you walk away oddly optimistic for the culture going forward based on the creativity of the trip.

Overall, it’s a recommended slice of Hip Hop worth giving your time to, especially if you grew up in the 90s and hold a soft spot for some of the era’s defining moments.

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#IndieSpotlight: Dough the Freshkids’ ‘Black Rome’ Is A Buzzworthy Slice Of Hip Hop Goodness

There have been many eras in Hip Hop, but none as forgotten as the Nubian era, which was characterized by…

There have been many eras in Hip Hop, but none as forgotten as the Nubian era, which was characterized by a heightened sense of knowledge of self and anti-oppressive forces that be. The ironic commercial appeal of empowering groups like Public Enemy or Brand Nubian eventually morphed into the current era where “rap” has become a business move/career choice rather than a voice of the underdog filled with subversive talking points that rival university lectures.

This is what I found so intriguing about the new project Black Rome by Dough the Freshkid — representing Crenshaw, California. The follow up to his free tape Six Shots and released via his independent label Every Penny Count, the 15-song effort is a blend of vibes, ranging from an early millennium G-Unit mixtape structure (see the chorus on “Cookin’”), 90s east coast soundscapes (see “We Rich” with its scratch hook), to deeply reflective contextual content aimed at giving opposing viewpoints to widely accepted “fact.”

 
An example of this is the title track, which focuses on the idea that a false image of “white Jesus” was shaped by artist Leonardo DaVinci. Its execution is reminiscent of similar records, such as “Why Is That” by BDP and “Nature Of The Threat” by Ras Kass. This song could literally be transcribed into an incredibly compelling University level essay.

 
Elsewhere on the record, he traverses themes such as the (historical) political and social-economic climate in the United States (see “God’s Curse” verse two) to gang life in LA. Nothing is ever glorified, and everything comes off as methodically thoughtful. On the track “I See He Blued Up,” he addresses industry Crippin,’ as well as unnecessary killing in the streets. “Man up, out the choppas down and out your hands up,” he raps, pointing to the glorification of needless gun violence.

 
Some of the standouts include the gorgeous instrumental that rides with the top down on “Palm Trees II” featuring Tropic626— which I found myself revisiting quite a few times this week — and the unspoken dopeness of “Still Arlington (1994)” which featured Wee Dogg.

“I never promote crack in my raps, I only promote facts in my raps,” he implores as the project comes to a close with the dramatically honest, autobiographical “Sincerely Me.” Even at its most informative and reflective, Dough manages to make this project an incredibly digestible gem packed with lots of wisdom and great talking points. Worth a spot on your end of year playlist if you’re looking for some undeniable fire that is still creeping under the radar.

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#Indiespotlight: Prototype & Lazarus The Kid’s ”Voicemail” Is A Journey Worth Taking

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a…

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a rainy day, I rode around giving this one a fair shake and was taken for more of a journey than I expected. 

The concise EP is immensely musical, with these lush, expansive musical landscapes for Prototype to literally bleed his heart out upon; there is no hyperbole in the emotion packed within these five tracks. Atop soulful samples, energetic drum patterns, and pretty piano keys, there’s a sense of loss and sadness that lingers amongst the celebration and assertion of the dream chase. 

Immediately on the heartfelt “Color,” we’re introduced to demise of a powerful relationship in Prototypes life — one which he gave his all to, and once thought would possibly end in marriage. It’s a loss that is later encapsulated with an emotionally charged piano interlude brimming with a heavy-hearted sense of despair. 

There’s also the loss of Jason Kalinga, who is actually featured “Simba.” The second verse of “Better Way” is a letter to his lost friend, who was another powerful figure in his life.

Amongst the deep moments standing as an endearing open book into his world, there is an incredible sense of confidence; Prototype is chasing the vision in his head — and it’s hard to imagine anyone attempting to detract him from his vision after taking in this project. 

Ending off with the crown jewel, “November 15,” Prototype & Lazarus The Kid position themselves as exciting artists putting out music with not only a purpose  but a strong sense of its emotional connection. They know what they’re doing, and it’s something that hinges more on the artistic merit side of things than the trendy shit. This isn’t for cool points, it’s a therapeutic listen made for longevity. This is a catalog worth keeping an eye on.

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#IndieSpotlight: MusicbyKO “Life In Element” Is The Soundtrack For Pre-Fall Blues

A new LP floated across my desk by an Oakland, California, singer/rapper named MusicbyKO. A warm blend of jazzy 90s…

A new LP floated across my desk by an Oakland, California, singer/rapper named MusicbyKO. A warm blend of jazzy 90s Hip Hop and a cadence reminiscent of acts like Isaiah Rashad. Having shared stages with names like J.I.D. and Earthgang, he appears focused and composed — as evidenced by Life In Element, his new LP.


 
With a very consistent sound, KO slowly unravels a series of tracks that let you into his world just enough — without blatant TMI, or inducing a “yeah right” effect. What listeners get are the tales of a low-level drug dealer (this is both referenced and downplayed at different points), who is taking a chance on a dream, as he slowly but surely uncovers that everything the glimmers isn’t gold, and just because someone calls you brother, it doesn’t mean they have your back — or at the very least even your best interests at heart.

It’s an almost paranoid sense that snakes are roaming the grass that is revisited numerous times throughout the project, like on the song “La La Land,” “Empathy,” and “Let Me Talk With Ya/While I’m Here,” where he notes “I Know niggas right now that want to see me fall.”

He also paints a picture of himself as someone who overextends himself — such as on “Too Much Falls Short,” where he preaches that failing to leave your comfort zone is a fail before even leaving the running block.

That’s just the first few layers of this project; touching on socio-economic issues facing the black community nationwide, and even relationships (see the super dope “Spirit Rise”), he creates a lot of depth. Though the vibe is consistent — almost bordering on redundant — it manages to remain engaging. Also, that instrumental on “A Devil’s Advocate Corner” is a bucket of flame emojis doused in gasoline.

 
Like a bride on her wedding day, Life In Element is something old and something new; all that Hip Hop is dead shit goes out teh window when you hear younger cats with cohesive projects like this. With enough amazing quotables to create a success Instagram daily quote account (“I couldn’t heal in eth place I got sicker”) and an admirable ear for production, MusicbyKO NEEDS to be on your radar. It’s just good for the soul.

Early.

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