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Maxo - LIL BIG MAN Music Album Reviews

The L.A. rapper grapples with uncertainty and depression over warm, creamy, lo-fi beats.

Like the title suggests, LIL BIG MAN is a coming-of-age story. Maxo is young enough to dream like a kid, but old enough to be aware he won’t be able to for long. One day, the L.A.-based rapper fantasizes about helping his family living comfortably and wearing a big-ass chain, the next he’s praying for the bare minimum: “23 hope I live to see 24.” As he reflects on the lessons that have helped him grow, he also pauses to feel the pressure of trying to leave his mark before his clock runs out.

The creamy vocal samples and muddy drums come from a team of lo-fi rap’s finest—lastnamedavid, Vik, Swarvy, and Roper Williams—and they make every verse seem like it takes place in a dream. Some might compare Maxo’s sound to the baritone Earl Sweatshirt or the abstract MIKE, but he resembles neither. His voice is soothing like watching a wide-open Steph Curry three-pointer on loop, and his lyrics are straightforward, leaving few lines up to interpretation.

Like anyone in their early 20s, Maxo is often wracked with fear. Few things weigh on him more than the prospect of wasting his remaining days—“My clock been ticking, I'm just tryna get myself right,” he asserts on “Time.” Even a warm Swarvy instrumental on “Strongside” doesn’t prevent Maxo from shrinking into his shell: “Covers on my head, guess I’m scared of the future,” he confesses.

But at his best, Maxo’s dread is balanced with a glimmer of hope, like on the EP standout “In My Penny’s.” His optimism, when it peeks through, is refreshing for how hard-earned it feels: “Even last place see the finish line,” he tells himself. On “Crown Heights” Maxo stares his depression in its face, accepting that he will live with it while balancing acceptance with positivity (“But I’m just countin’ my blessing, all that I have for you”).

Through LIL BIG MAN’s brief runtime, Maxo never finds the answer he’s looking for, but his search is winning on its own. Within 30 minutes, he hits upon a tangle of vivid feelings—uncertainty, anxiety, hope, depression, pain, love. “Maybe I be thinking too much, I don’t know,” he shrugs on “Crown Heights.” Above all, LIL BIG MAN captures this sensation: Nothing defines being 23 like knowing that you don’t know shit.

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