Maxo - Even God Has a Sense of Humor Music Album Reviews

Maxo - Even God Has a Sense of Humor Music Album Reviews
The California rapper takes stock of his life on an introspective album that balances melancholy and bliss over lush, sampled loops and opulent live-band instrumentation.

During his last visit to New York City in the early days of the pandemic, California rapper Maxo decided to undergo an artistic process called lifecasting. The brainchild of conceptual artist John Ahearn, the casting is more intensive than your average portrait: Sitting in a recliner with breathing tubes up their nose, subjects are covered in a pasty, clay-like material made of alginate similar to the kind used when creating dental molds. The process requires 20 minutes of complete stillness; the sitter’s clothing is cut off, forming part of the structure of the cast. Maxo went through this three separate times, left alone with his thoughts as the alginate blotted out most of the light and sound around him. Afterward, he was left with three larger-than-life sculptures of himself: one in a football jersey with slicked-back cornrows and a long, weary face; one smiling in a white tank top and pulling a fitted baseball cap over his head; and one in his trademark flannel, arms crossed, face as stoic as a local landmark. 

These three statues grace the cover of Even God Has a Sense of Humor, Maxo’s second album for Def Jam, and reflect the dueling senses of melancholy and bliss at the core of his music. As a rapper, Maxo is blunt and plainspoken, eschewing clever wordplay for storytelling and edifying clarity. LIL BIG MAN, his 2019 Def Jam debut, explored the uncertainty, excitement, and ennui of Black life in one’s early twenties. That record often evoked the self-reflection of flipping through a photo album: It focused largely on making sense of the past, Maxo too in his own head to fully contemplate the future. Now that he’s closer to 30, he’s sifting through the embers of his misfortunes while keeping the life he’s built for himself intact. “I’m just trying not to burn everything I touch,” he says at the end of “Free!”

Even God Has a Sense of Humor is powered by an urgency to make sense of the dizzying way time ebbs and flows. Dallas singer Liv.e’s hook on the serene “Both-Handed” epitomizes the album’s spirit: “What if the meaning don’t exist, babe... What if we/Never figure it out?” Maxo’s writing can hop from hyper-specific to vague, sharpening and blurring focus as he sees fit. Take early highlight “Nuri”: He briefly hovers over the memory of a trip to Senegal with his mother and ponders advice from a family friend before obliquely mentioning failed dreams and stacks of money. Whether he’s clear or hazy, his delivery carries the verses nearly as much as the words do. On “48,” over Madlib’s pristine loops of guitar crackle and drums, the way he raps “I’m tryna fly, it’s like feet to the floor” summons the image of Maxo with his chest puffed out, like his foot got stuck in a crack during liftoff. Later, on the brief interlude “FUCKZU,” Maxo croons softly to impart powerful messages with the electricity of whispered spells: “You got the power of a God/Nigga, fuck what they told you.” 

As often as Maxo changes perspective and tone, his stories are uniformly gripping. The album’s thematic throughline finds redemption in all manner of tragedy—trauma, breakups, calls for racial injustice that go unanswered year after year. Songs are composites of vignettes tethered together and experienced all at once, as though Maxo were Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan. “Face of Stone” is a man-in-the-mirror moment in which Maxo calls himself out over his own emotional distance and begs himself to break bad habits. “Who Gives Me Breath” is a whirlwind of harrowing memories scattered across the pitched-down groove of producer lastnamedavid’s beat: time with an imprisoned family friend cut off by the jail phone; liquor “dark as my skin” swirling in a glass; comparing his gratefulness to be alive in the booth to pouring blood out on the floor. Whether blessed or in mourning, there isn’t a single moment on Even God Has a Sense of Humor that doesn’t feel like a matter of life and death. 

Maxo’s growing worldview is matched by a suite of expansive beats that walk the line between the sample-based loops cherished by the modern rap underground and handsome live-band instrumentation. Arrangements from drummer Karriem Riggins and multi-instrumentalist Beat Butcha sit next to gossamer chops and loops from lastnamedavid and Mutant Academy member Graymatter. They run the gamut from traditional (“Who Gives Me Breath”) to psychedelic (“What 4”), and all flow smoothly into each other, thanks to executive producer Dom Maker, of Mount Kimbie. None of these beats seamlessly combine multiple styles in the way that redveil’s Learn 2 Swim or Oddisee’s To What End do, but putting soul, jazz, gospel, and rap in conversation with each other is a risk that pays off in a beautiful, understated way.

That the album never loses its footing is a testament to Maxo’s will as a rapper. In the nearly four years since LIL BIG MAN, he’s gone from being a wide-eyed but cynical everyman in the vein of Blu, unsure if he’d even make it to 24 years old, to a bulwark for his family and a leader of a flourishing rap scene. Life hasn’t gotten any easier, but his words have become sharper, cutting closer to the heart than ever. Even God Has a Sense of Humor doesn’t offer concrete answers to life, the universe, and everything. It’s the kind of music you make when you’re happy just to wake up to a life worth untangling. 
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Maxo - Even God Has a Sense of Humor Music Album Reviews Maxo - Even God Has a Sense of Humor Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on March 07, 2023 Rating: 5


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