Interview with Maxo conducted by Eric Davis (ED) and Casey Whitworth (CW)
ED: You’re performing at Camp Flog Gnaw this weekend, how are you feeling about that?
Maxo: I’m excited, this is the first festival I’ve ever been to in my life to even, like, be at like i’ve never even attended a –
ED: Really? You’ve never attended one? Dang that’s sick.
ED: This is probably a special feeling, then, to perform at your first.
Maxo: It is, man, it is. I can’t say I didn’t manifest this, so. It definitely is, like, almost a little nerve racking too.
ED: That’s definitely, like, a pretty intense first festival, I don’t know –
CW: Lots of big names, yeah.
ED: That’s sick, though.
Maxo: I just, you know, they big names, but I just ain’t a big name yet. Really ain’t no difference, but you know what I mean.
CW: Exactly. And do you perform tomorrow?
Maxo: Tomorrow, yeah, I’ve got a good amount of time, so they gonna get to know me. I’m gonna bring some of my friends out, might bring Mavi out, might bring Zelooperz out. ED: Ah, that’s awesome, bro, performing your new album too?
Maxo: Yeah, hell yeah, both of the new albums.
ED: Of course, yeah, two 2023 albums.
Maxo: Even God Has A Sense Of Humour and Debbie’s Son, and Lil Big Man, you know we gonna do the whole catalog. Yeah, I’m excited, man.
ED: That’ll be awesome. We’re coming to your Boston show next Thursday, so we’re excited to see the material.
Maxo: Oh, yes, I’m excited to see y’all.
CW: Have you been to Boston before?
Maxo: Um, nah, I haven’t. I’ve got some homies over there. Y’all know who Cousin Stizz is?
ED & CW: No, I don’t think so.
Maxo: Y’all ain’t ever heard of Cousin Stizz? He’s from Boston. He cool, like Michael Christmas and shit. I think my manager from Boston, too. But nah, I ain’t been there, I’m curious to see– what’s like a food that’s popular up there that’s good for Boston?
ED: Definitely some seafood, maybe, like some lobster or crab roll or something like that.
Maxo: Ooh, lobster or crab rolls?
ED: I love crab. I don’t know, are you a fan?
CW: I like lobster more, I think, yeah.
Maxo: Alright, look, lobster in a roll? That’s crazy. Nah, I fuck with lobster a little bit more, but like some crab legs with some good butter, bro?
ED: BU does this sick thing where they do a lobster night once a year, so like, they give out lobsters at the dining halls–
Maxo: Oh really?
ED: – which is pretty cool, it happens once a year. You got one, didn’t you?
CW: I did, yeah, I did get a lobster, a whole lobster.
Maxo: They just give you a whole lobster?
ED: Yeah, they give you the breaking tools so you can break it apart, they give you a little bib too, it’s sick.
Maxo: Wow that’s beautiful, I need that.
ED: Alright, can we get into some questions?
Maxo: Let’s get into it.
ED: I think we’re gonna start off— hard-hitting, crazy question. Do you believe in a higher power? I think this is something that can influence a lot of artists and I wanna know what your thoughts are about a higher power, whether you believe in one, whether it influences you?
CW: If you don’t mind sharing.
Maxo: I mean, y’all know I joined the Illuminati right?
CW: Wow no, did you?
Maxo: Hell yeah. I pulled up in that hoe like, what you need from me, man. Nah, I mean, I believe in God, you know. I also believe in, like, universal karmic things, you know. I believe in, like, the world works in, like, similar ways to just everyday things. I believe in God, big time, but I also believe in God as like a– what’s the word – like something that’s not necessarily a physical thing, but an energy. Like, I believe in God as like an ancestor, you know? I believe in God as like a guide, you know? Somebody, like a light that guides, you see? It’s like, if you choose to listen, that’s on you, but it’s like I also feel like you have to focus in and clear your mind and body and have your diet right to be the clearest to receive the messages that the world’s trying to communicate with you. God, the universe, whatever, you know.
ED: I think it’s definitely an individual thing. My experience with religion is not gonna be the same as yours, maybe not even religion, just spirituality and stuff like that.
Maxo: Yeah, more so spirituality, cause like, I can’t say I’ve ever– I did not grow up in the church, you know? My mama didn’t have a bible in the crib, growing up. Cause like, still was trying to make her Jehovah’s Witness, like she was like— to my understanding, my kids need freedom to think and feel, so, like, I don’t believe in strict religion, I really don’t.
ED: Do you think that influences your music? Your album has the word “God” in the title, and some of your lyrics make some references to it, but how does that feeling guide you in making music, if at all?
Maxo: I mean, the feeling just guides me on what I need to be speaking about, it makes me have purpose. Something don’t let me operate without purpose in this world, you know? I try to be naïve and just not give a fuck, but things don’t really let me be like that, and ignorance really is bliss. Sometimes I miss being bliss, and just free, but, I mean, I take the responsibility in the messages I receive and what I’m here to communicate, you know?
ED: Yeah, definitely.
Maxo: I don’t know if that answers y’all’s question.
CW: No, it definitely does, yeah. On a similar sort of note, would you say you’re superstitious at all?
Maxo: Hell yeah. When I used to play basketball, I used to have to have double socks. I’d be like, if I don’t double up on my socks, I’m just not gonna play, for real. Yeah, I’ve become less of, like, but yeah, hell yeah. And the people I be around, they don’t even let me split a pole, like, y’all heard about that rule?
CW: Yeah, yeah, that’s real.
Maxo: But yeah.
CW: Do you have any, like, pre-show rituals that maybe deal with any superstitions?
Maxo: I just try to pray and be alone. Honestly, go to a secluded area where I can just feel myself, and, like, tap into my zone, you know? Yeah, that’s my pre-show shit. Not a lot of conversation, you know.
CW: This one’s kind of a long one. In Even God Has A Sense Of Humour, the album art is three “life casted” sculptures of different versions of your self image. In previous albums, you haven’t really depicted yourself so openly on the cover. Like, in Lil Big Man, it’s just a silhouette, then to
the three portraits of you in EGHASOH. How has your identity changed from the start of your career to now? What do you think affects your self image the most in the industry?
Maxo: What affects my self image? I’d like to think about that part, but just as far as the cover art, I would say on EGHASOH, that’s the most present image of me, in time. But, if you really look on everything that I’ve released, from Smile to Debbie’s Son, it’s been me, just– Lil Big Man, that’s a baby picture that was inverted that was zoomed in on the back of my head. EGHASOH, that’s me in real time, yeah? But in Debbie’s Son, that’s a painting of an old baby picture of me. On Smile, that’s a close-up of my smile, my face. You know, so, it’s all been me. But, yeah, I don’t, like– as far as things are perceived, I can’t really think about that as somebody who’s trying to create something authentic. But then, like, when you start thinking about how shit is perceived, you start changing how you move, you know? It just starts infecting in different ways, maybe you don’t even notice.
ED: Definitely one of the hardest challenges for anyone, I think, is not caring, or listening to the noise of what other people think. I feel like that’s definitely amplified with someone like you who’s putting their life out into the public.
Maxo: I’m putting my whole shit out there, for real. Sometimes it’s a lot for me, bruh. But then, to answer, going back on your question, I notice from me putting out music, and being my naked self, as transparent as I can be, I feel like, in real life, the conversations with me, even from people that I don’t know or kinda know, I’ve been more transparent because they, off of listening to my music, they feel where I’m coming from. It automatically unlocks another level of comfortableness that they’re willing to go to with me. So, I take pride in the responsibility that people trust me to keep their secrets, like things they feel uncomfortable talking about. I fuck with that. Cause like I don’t abuse that, and like, go talk everywhere, and really I could be trusted, if that makes sense.
ED: What was your experience like with Def Jam, if you’re willing to share? What made you decide to go independent for your latest album?
Maxo: The experience with Def Jam was like… college. Y’all in college, right?
ED & CW: Yeah.
Maxo: You don’t fuck with all your professors.
ED: Yeah, some, no.
Maxo: But it’s like, you’re learning. How to maneuver things, you know, in a way that’s gonna be beneficial in years to come. I feel like, in a way, that was like, I was going to school, I was learning so many things, and really I’m so appreciative of that cause people, my peers learn what and what not to do from seeing me. And it’s like, I fuck with that because, like, I had to go through that in order to break a wall for my community, almost. Like, immediate community, you know, it’s so many pillars amongst my people, you feel me? I’m speaking with zero ego. I’m just saying, like, sometimes I just found myself learning and people learning from me, or through me, almost how I would learn through my brother, you know. When he did something I didn’t know, I may have been afraid to do, or hadn’t done yet. So I think the Def Jam experience was rocky at times, but it never– I’ve always been respected, I’ve always demanded respect as an artist, wherever I go, to be more clear about it. Creatively, nothing has ever suffered, regardless of where I’ve been. Cause we’ve always been tied to what we’re here to do, not what people want us to do. I think, like, Def Jam just taught me– I’m not saying I’m unbreakable or invincible, but it taught me my resilience and patience, it heightened it. And it taught me how strong I am, for real. And, like, how hard, how much of a soldier I am for just some real shit, you know? And really how much I care about real shit, in spaces where there’s a lack thereof.
ED: I really respect that it didn’t, like, change your vision. You always demanded that they respect your vision for what it is.
Maxo: Thank you.
ED: I think that’s really important that some people lose sight of, maybe.
Maxo: You know, what’s helped me— we could go back to the foundation of, like, what my parents have said, even to right now. Maneuvering spaces that are, like, brand new to me. I ain’t been doing this since I was, like, 15. These spaces are new, uncomfortable. But it’s like, with me knowing myself, because of how I was taught to embrace myself, is like, it transcends these spaces, you know. I don’t care who tryna make the rules.
CW: That’s awesome!
ED: And then, you talked about maybe bringing out some of your friends at Camp Flog Gnaw, like Zelooperz and Mavi. So I wanted to ask you about your relationships with people in the industry. Because you have a lot of songs, obviously I’m a big fan of yours, and you have songs with people like Lojii, Zelooperz, you have collaborations with Pink Siifu, Madlib… Maxo: Siifu (correcting pronunciation), Pink Siifu.
ED: Pink Siifu, my bad.
Maxo: It’s all good.
ED: …and then Madlib, The Alchemist and Earl. So I was wondering if you, do you hold those relationships close, or do you, is there a difference between your personal vs. industry?
Maxo: I can’t show fake love, you know, in any realm. So it’s like, that’s anywhere, like, I just can’t show no fake love. Just not in me, so whether it’s in these spaces, where the industry…I done received fake love though, you know? Being like, scarred by it, for sure. Um, but I don’t let this…I’m at this point where I don’t take nothing personal bruh. Like, that’s one thing, like, people be, people could hate you because, not hate you but could hate on you, or try to like, not fully acknowledge you, because in they mind, they lowkey competing with you. When in reality, it’s like I just stepped up in this motherfucker tryna see what’s good, you know? So, I can’t, I don’t really take like, you don’t know what these motherfuckers raised off of, you don’t know like some people ain’t even confident in themselves. And I’m not saying I’m the most confident all the time, but like, it’s like I can’t compete with…I can’t…I’m not gonna live within nobody’s insecurities, if that sums it up. In any realm, I don’t give a fuck. Like it could be, it could be a motherfucker with a 100 million dollars, like that don’t fix how he feel about himself, that reflects in the world that they walk in. But like, I feel like everything around me is real, because I kind of don’t allow anything to not be.
ED: Yeah, I mean that’s a good thing to not allow. I feel like that’s what everyone should strive for, for sure.
Maxo: Try to be like, a good judgment of character, and like I- like it’s love, it’s love. We out here, we young n****s getting to it, like for real. So it’s like, ain’t nothing to be – even a little upset over, straight up.
ED: Sick, thanks!
CW: That’s a good response. Um…
Maxo: Is that- what else y’all got for me?
CW: Let’s see, which one should we…How much time you got?
ED: Yeah we don’t want to take too much of your time.
Maxo: Naw I got time, I got as much time as y’all need.
CW: Word, we only got a couple more so it’s not too much.
Maxo: Okay, cool.
CW: What’s your creative process like? Where does your music, where do your words come from? Is there any, any particular place within yourself you feel like you tend to write more from?
Maxo: Within myself? Uhhh, whatchu mean?
CW: Like where do you get your inspiration from?
Maxo: Okay, I see. I mean I would say number one is my family. Things that raised me. I’m very like, I get my inspiration from reflection. I get my inspiration from just life, honestly just like, from miniscule experiences to big experiences. Yeah and I think my goal with that is just to like,
break it down, to where it’s understood. But I think like, my inspiration can come from so many places honestly. I’m trying to see what else can inspire me these days, for real.
CW: Yeah, nice.
ED: Cool. Next one is- I wanna maybe talk a little bit about your song Time, cause I think that’s my personal favorite from LIL BIG MAN.
Maxo: Thank you!
ED: Yeah, I love that song, so good. Produced by LIV and lastnamedavid, so
Maxo: Naw naw naw, we gon get it right. It’s produced by lastnamedavid and Vik, V-I-K.
CW: I’m gonna write that down.
ED: My bad.
Maxo: I’m not gonna let y’all slip with that.
ED & CW: Of course of course haha, thank you!
ED: But yeah, I don’t know, can you just talk to me maybe a little bit about that song? Because I think, whenever I listen to that I feel really reflective, and ah, I don’t know, I really just enjoy that song, so I was wondering if you could maybe
Maxo: I’m gonna give you the background on that song, real quick. I remember we was in, it’s this place in Cali, where I’m from. I’m not from Rialto, but my homie from there. I’m from, I grew up in the IE (Inland Empire) though so, I’ve been out there. I remember being over at my friend Vik’s house, I was with Vik and my homie Chris, our homie Chris. And, we was, I remember he was playing that beat in the car- this was before I even started recording LIL BIG MAN. He was playing that in the car, and we was, it was like late as fuck, and I think we was sparking a blunt, might have even been a swisher bro. And, he played that beat, and then from that moment, I just like, it was like that was like one of them- before I even wrote that song I knew it was gonna be fire, you know? Like, and I knew it was going to speak for soul, that’s a classic. Like, this music I make where aside even- aside from that song, derived from real moments, you know? It be real moments leading into making a song. With that song specifically, that shit just like, spoke for everything I’ve been through until that moment, you know? And it was like so much pent up, as it still is, but it was like I seen- I wasn’t here right now talking to y’all, you know? I was in a whole different situation. And it’s just like, I feel like that song is so much for me bro.
ED: Yeah, a beautiful song.
Maxo: Just for every- like you telling me that’s your favorite song, you feel me, that’s even a trip.
ED: Yeah, I think it’s just, I don’t know like, you speaking about it now, and the whole feeling I get from the song is authenticity, and it’s real, which we’ve been talking about this whole time – being real. So, I just really enjoy that song, so I wanted to talk about it and, I mean thank you cause that’s such a great song. I’ve listened to that song so many times, it’s awesome. Maxo: I really appreciate you, for both of y’all for like, just giving me the time of the day to like, you know listen and incorporate me in your thoughts. That really means a lot because I’m not the type of person who always- I haven’t been able to be blessed until recent times, like right now
it’s starting. Like, I’m starting to, in real time, see where I’ve touched outside of my immediate realm. So, I just appreciate that from y’all, I can’t even explain how much, but endlessly. That that’s even possible, to be received, you know?
ED: We appreciate so much that you’re giving us this insight
ED: It’s super awesome.
Maxo: Man, bro it’s nothing, I promise you. I got y’all, for real for real.
ED: Do you want to do the last one? Or one more?
CW: Yeah let’s do- In the sandwich of your life, what’s the meat?
Maxo: What is the meat in the sandwich of my life? Damn that’s an interesting question. What’s the meat…I feel like I get what you’re saying. I mean the meat in my life is probably, I would say my family, love, just being ambitious. Just really if we’re gonna keep it simple, my family is the meat in my life, immediate family. When’s that’s off, I’m off, you know? So if the sandwich don’t got no meat its something up, unless you’re vegetarian.
CW: True, which vegetarians- they’re not real.
ED: They’re not real.
Maxo: They’re not real…coming from the people in the room with me underwater (referring to our underwater meeting background).
CW: Hey, nooo.
ED: We got some fish down here. You just can’t see them right now.
CW: This is the realest thing there is.
Maxo: But yeah, I appreciate you guys for real.
CW & ED: Yeah thank you so much, for taking the time. We really appreciate it.
CW: Yeah we love your music. You seem so cool. All of your responses were great.
Maxo: Yo thank you, thank y’all for breaking y’all time with me.
ED: Of course, we’re excited to see you next week in Boston.
CW: Yeah yeah!
Maxo: IN BOSTON, bring something good. Yeah bring something good, Imma see y’all soon though.
ED & CW: Of course and good luck at Camp Flog Gnaw tomorrow.
Maxo: Definitely, thank you for that, thank you for that. I’m gonna send a big- (meeting cuts out)