Review Summary: Maxo Kream makes his major label debut in the form of a trap confessional.
Brandon Banks feels like the end of a trilogy at the start of a new chapter at the same time. Punken found Maxo sounding out of place conforming to the trends of trap music, this album feels like a direct continuation to The Persona Tape and #Maxo187; chilling, murderous, and ill-intended, yet human at the same time.
In his major label debut for RCA Records, Maxo is writing a love letter to the streets. It’s a reflection on all the things he and his family have done wrong to survive. The title derives from his father’s criminal alias, who served several jail bids throughout Maxo’s life for being a scammer. It’s a topic that inspires Maxo to delve into all his personal relationships; whether it be the ode of appreciation to his homies that are locked up on “Meet Again”, or the trials and tribulations of being a sibling on “Brothers”. His father even pops up towards the end of the album, providing heartfelt messages about Maxo’s childhood and the struggles that their family survived. It paints Maxo in a vulnerable manner, showcasing the emotion behind his eeriness.
While struggle seems to be Maxo’s muse on Brandon Banks, perseverance seems to always be the result at the end of each song. The album slugs through everything from soul samples and screwed Memphis-esque vocal samples to ominous synth pads and 808s. It's almost as if Maxo is popping the trunk on Elm Street. He trudges through the horror with one mission; getting that money. “8 Figures” is a great example of this. It sets a gloomy tone with distorted sub bass and synths that sound straight out of Twin Peaks, garnished with Maxo’s cold-blooded hook “You ain't really makin' money 'til you make eight figures,” before seamlessly transitioning into a blood-pumping beat change that gives Maxo the room to enter his braggadocious bag. It’s the story of the album; face adversity, work your ass off, and come out on the better end of things.
Brandon Banks also serves as Maxo’s second attempt at tackling mainstream trends. But unlike his attempts on Punken, Maxo does this while staying in his comfort zone. Enlisting hot prospect Megan Stallion on the strip-club anthem “She Live”, Maxo leaves the darkness of his street centered raps to explore a twerk-inciting bounce, but the minimalist beat and bellowing basslines keep him grounded in his Houston heritage. Other songs like “Murda Blocc” find Maxo Kream bringing other artists into his territory, with A$AP Ferg having to match the grim street themes by bringing the listeners back to the Trap Lord days. But not every guest works here, with fellow houston native Travis Scott lending a sleepy, phoned in attempt at being psychedelic on the unfortunately underwhelming “The Relays”. While this song may work as background filler, it acts as a hindrance in the grand scheme of the project.
Serving as the first step in his major label journey, Maxo Kream has solidified a strong trajectory with Brandon Banks. It’s an album that doesn’t hold back on personal stories. In his signature, stern manner, Maxo paints vivid pictures of his life growing up, but this time around, does it in a way that’s empathic with the ones he has done wrong, and sympathetic with the ones that have wronged him. This paired with an instrumental soundtrack that ranges from cold-blooded to blood-pumping, Maxo has made his best project yet.