Brandon Banks is to Maxo Kream what Culture was to the Migos a few years back: a major step forward in terms of personal growth and artistry that signals the growing ambitions of each respective artist. While Maxo’s last project, Punken, was a serviceable collection of Huston-flavored trap anthems, the responsibility and undertaking of a major-label debut has clearly inspired the young MC to widen his horizons. Lyrically, he’s as on-point as ever. But he has more on his mind than his usual crime-breaking antics: “Dairy Ashford Bastard” reflects on his troubled relationship with his father, taking into account the sacrifices he’s made for his family while also still holding him accountable for his misdeeds (“He cheated on my mom a lot, called her a ho, called her a bitch”). He recognizes his father as an abuser, and as a failure as a provider and — maybe most importantly — as a flawed individual, complicating the usual ‘Dear Mama’ narrative most rappers trot out for empty pathos. Kream certainly isn’t just content with sticking to downtrodden bars about his daddy issues either, whipping out a collection of Mike Dean-produced bangers (“Meet Again,” 8 Figures,” and “3AM”) that play closer to his strengths. But above all else, Brandon Banks serves as the first defining statement from the underground artist that’s been slowly improving his craft over the last few years, and one who isn’t willing to sacrifice his morals in the process. Kream even ominously states, on the aforementioned “Meet Again,” that he’d “Rather be carried by 6 before I’m judged by 12” — a sentiment so ardently loyal that you can’t help but root for Maxo.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Summer 2019.