Making his HNHH debut with Maxo 187 earlier this year, Houston's Maxo Kream impressed us with his trippy, trappy take on the city's classic sounds and his tireless, shape-shifting flow. Since then he's only stepped his game up, linking with Playboi Carti and Fredo Santana for a few fire collabs and touring with Father in his home state. We sat down with Maxo while he was in New York to hear some new music (which sounded crazy) and get the story behind one of H-Town's most exiciting new artists.

HNHH: What's up Maxo? Why do you think your most recent tape (Maxo 187) has had a bigger impact than your two previous ones?

Maxo: Man, I feel like the biggest change was from [2012’s] Retro Card to [2014’s] Quicc Strikes, when I was like, ‘You know what, I’ma stop bullshitting and really try to find my sound.’ I did that with Quicc Strikes. I’d say that one’s a little more fun, but with Maxo 187, I wanted to bring out the story and just talk about shit that people could relate to. I know a lot of people probably can’t relate to all the robbin’, all the damn drug dealin’, shootin’ shit. But everyday problems? Everybody got that shit, you feel me? 

HNHH: But you’re still talking about a lot of heavy shit on there.

Maxo: Oh hell yeah, hell yeah. True. 

HNHH: I thought it was funny, the contrast between that and the cover, where you have a big grin on your face.

Maxo: Shit, it is what it is. At first, I had a whole different concept, but after I finished mixtape, I was like, ‘I’m feelin’ this.’ We did a photo shoot, I cheesed, it was black and white, I was like, ‘Fuck it, this the mixtape cover.’ On some random shit.  

HNHH: 187 definitely has some Houston-sounding tracks on it, but others are more experimental— do you work with producers from Houston?

Maxo: Yeah, I work with Wxlf Gxd, he did most of the production. He outta Mo City. Definitely an in-house producer, we got the chemistry. I work with Ryan ESL, he’s from Dallas. I reach out to other producers, but I’m pickier than a motherfucker when it comes to beats. I don’t give a fuck about your name, or what you sold, or who you got on your shit. If your shit don’t jam, if I can’t catch it, I can’t make the music.

HNHH: There’s been a lot of talk about other regions trying to steal or appropriate the Houston sound, do you feel like that’s a problem?

Maxo: Man, I feel like they be trying to imitate it, but they don’t ever get it. You can’t really steal the Houston sound, and plus, people be thinking like back in the day, like the Paul Wall, Slim Thug… Even farther, they can go to the Big Moe, DJ Screw, but it’s more than just [puts on exaggerated accent] ‘Comin’ down, tippin’,” it’s even more than just Maxo Kream, you got a lot of artists in Houston. Boys need to go down there and check again, because they think they know all their shit, but they really just imitating it.  

HNHH: The reason I ask is because A$AP Rocky is one of the guys most frequently pegged with that, and you have A$AP P On The Boards on your tape.

Maxo: Yeah, A$AP Ant had linked us for The Big Payback, his first mixtape with DJ Nick, then he sent me some shit, shit was dope. A$AP— those are bros. Rocky, that’s the bro. I was with him at South By and shit, coolin’. He’s in the “Cell Boomin’” video with Father. As far as what he’s doing, I wouldn’t say imitating or trying to copy that Houston sound, he’s just influenced by Houston.

HNHH: What about other rappers in your local scene right now?

Maxo: Well you got Lil Family, he’s a Kream Clique artist, The Sauce Twinz, they buzzin’. Outside of that, you got Rizzo, he’s part of the Sauce Factory, Rodji Diego too. Then you got Dopeman from Southeast H-Town… Houston’s got a lot of artists that’s actually starting to build a buzz, because we don’t got the media, we don’t got HotNewHipHop up the street, Complex up the street and shit like that. We just got Twitter, SoundCloud and pushin’, and even from the old days, you got Fat Pat and DJ Screw— they was sellin’ out the trunks. Even Master P, he was sellin’ out the trunks. So we already got that mindstate, like, ‘We gotta go grind and get it.’ And now we got the internet, that’s another way, but still really be in the streets pushin’ the music.

HNHH: I thought it was crazy that you had Sauce Twinz and Joey Bada$$ on back-to-back tracks. 

Maxo: Yeah, and the funny thing is, Joey Bada$$, he be tellin’ me that his favorite song is “Astrodome” [which features Sauce Twinz], he fuck with that shit tough.

HNHH: Was it a hard sell to get him on the track ("1998")? The beat was crazy, experimental— like he normally only does boom-bap.

Maxo: Nah, not at all. As a matter of fact, I’ve been rocking with Joey ever since he popped out with the “1999” mixtape. We had met at the Smoker’s Club shit backstage, smokin’ and shit, freestylin’. I was mostly just rockin’ with him on some cool shit until recently, he’s like ‘Yo, send me something.’ I sent him the track, he sent it back the same week that his album was dropping. 

HNHH: One of my favorite songs of the year is “Fetti,” the one you did with Carti and Da$h. It’s like three different corners of the country colliding. How did that happen?

Maxo: It was at South By, after we shot the “Cell Boomin’” shit. It was me, Ian [Connor], Carti and Da$h, and they was staying at my spot. We was just smokin’, gettin’ off the shits and fucked up, then Carti was like, ‘Yo man, let’s hit the studio, I got an 808 Mafia beat.’ We in there smokin’, trying to think of what to come up with for the hook. And Carti just sat there for like five minutes, like ‘Fuck it, I got it.’ He went in there and just spit the hook, Da$h went in, did his shit, after him, I went in. 

HNHH: Yeah, it felt like you guys were all catching the same vibe.

Maxo: Codeine. 

HNHH: [Laughs] Yeah, I mean, you could just tell you were all in the same spot and came up with it together. 

Maxo: Hell yeah, right on the spot. In the studio, fucked up— just went in on that hoe. I actually got some new shit with Carti— it’s me, Carti and Fredo [Santana].

HNHH: How’d you initially link up with him and Father?

Maxo: Man, I had a show in Miami during Art Basel— me, Father, Key!.. I had walked up to him, like, ‘Yo, I’m Maxo Kream.’ He’s like already, ‘I’m Father, I fuck with you!’ We just linked like that. It was me, him and RichPo, we was smokin’ and shit.

HNHH: My favorite thing about your music has to be your flow— it’s all over the place. 

Maxo: My flow, man. The thing is, honestly, I listen to so many different kinds of music that my flow just be switchin’. Like one minute I might be feelin’ Gucci Mane, then I might jump to some Papoose, Nas type shit— it’s all over. I don’t just got one specific place where I get inspired from, because I fuck with so many different people, but The Game, 50 Cent, Nas are like my favorite rappers-- best rappers to me, you feel me? But when you hear my shit, you wouldn’t really get that. 

HNHH: And what are your plans for the rest of the year?

Maxo: Shit man, I wanna drop at least two more projects, get that shit crackin’. Just go hard with the visuals, don’t stop. I wanna bring out more shit like Maxo 187, but keep pushing the quality. 

HNHH: Last words?

Maxo: More music, more videos. Don’t do drugs, sell them. Get money.