A beautiful thing about life and the path to wisdom is that it is not linear. There are many moments of setbacks, resistance, outside forces, and personal limitations. However, those moments are where new light and understanding can pour into a life - truly an awakening of spirit, mind, and soul. Maxo felt this moment quite literally as he had a plaster mold cast around his upper body at the studio of famed sculptor John Ahearn, who created the three studies of the California rapper that adorn the cover of his new album, Even God Has A Sense of Humor.
“I felt the cold liquid plaster fall all over me and I started to feel the light close away,” Maxo tells me over a video call. “I had to stay calm and focused on breathing through these two straws in my nose. I was alone in there with nothing but my thoughts and my heartbeat. I could feel the plaster almost growing off of me, like I felt the weight shift upward and I could feel the plaster hardening. When John said it was done, he knocked on my forehead - but the feeling of the knock felt like it was 5 feet away. Eventually the plaster lifted off, and I could see the light of the studio again, and it felt like a total rebirth, an out of body experience. Ever since then, I’ve been locked in, my spark is back.”
Maxo converses with the same essence that he speaks in his music. It’s thoughtful, dense in quality, and sprinkled with heavy one liners about the 27-year-old’s perspective on life, creativity, and legacy. He wanders with phone in hand through his Los Angeles home going from window to window, seemingly using the references of his neighborhood to help spark his thought process.
I'm speaking to Maxo a week before the release of his anticipated follow up album to his 2019 effort, LIL BIG MAN. His next work, Even God Has A Sense of Humor finds a slight shift from the structure of LIL BIG MAN, steering this album in a direction towards elements of jazz, soul, and instrumentality. “I made some of these songs, and these songs in turn grew to teach me about myself and the world,” he states. “Sometimes when I write, it’s just a full stream of consciousness, and then I have to take a big step back and look at the music and appreciate the full plate of music. It reminds me that I am a vessel and I need to be present in order to receive these messages from the universe so I can cement them in the art.”
What would 2023 Maxo tell 2018 Maxo?
What makes you you, makes you different; that makes you special. It’s okay to be proud to be you, keep being you, and you don’t have to go out and reach for things that feel genuine, it’ll come to you. I would also tell him on some life shit, don’t block your own blessings and don’t let yourself be your own enemy. I appreciate the steps I took in order to be able to tell my younger self don’t do anything to change your path, real shit! I have no regrets out here, even though I could. I would tell him change his mindset for when them things in the path come up, cus I don’t think I handled them in stride the first time.
Tell me about the title of your album, “Even God Has A Sense of Humor,” and what that means to you.
It’s about those moments in life where you’re going through something and sometimes your first reaction is to stop and ask “what's going on, why are things wrong.” Until you realize that these “jokes” and humor help you understand the lessons that are being given. I mean like out here, life can be so dark that you gotta just laugh at some shit just to keep the humor alive. It’s about you recognizing the communication between you and God, almost like a jester. The shit that feels like “jokes” in life is just God’s humor, a way to give you lessons.
What are some of the lessons that you feel God has given to you as a joke?
Man - life be lifing! The last time I dropped music, Kobe and Nipsey were still here bro. Like this feels like a whole new world. When it’s the right time, it’s the right time, and up until now it wasn't the right time to drop. I needed this life shit to happen. I wasn't even thinking about no deadlines. I was trying to get myself together enough to even get to this point. You know, you go through breakups and friend shit and needing to take care of shit outside the art so the art can thrive. I’m infinitely blessed that people still care! Like I haven't dropped in three years and people still thirsty. I’m just rapping!
Does that love feel like weight, does it make you nervous at all?
No, it fuels me more than ever at this point.
Your last album, “LIL BIG MAN” was very structured in delivery and cadence, it feels like lyrics-over-a-beat if that makes sense. But “Even God Has A Sense of Humor” finds you in more of a jazz pocket. With how the music flows around the lyrics, it feels very whole. What was the recording process for this album?
This album is way more intentional, I was really forced to recognize what was going on and understand the responsibility of my art and what it means to the world. This recent phase of my life is very transformative. Understanding myself and understanding discipline. I was locked in with every producer besides Madlib. It took so long because we took our time, I had to learn other people’s processes and respect that process. The song “onedayatatime” with keiyaA took three months to finish and write. I've been really living with these songs and understanding what needs to be done every step of the way. As I love myself more, and have to make more decisions, I have to be more disciplined and intentional.
One lyric that really stuck out to me was on “Free!” with “Just to recognize things I had to bleed.” I feel like every listener is going to have their own personal attachment to this, but what does this line mean to you?
Sometimes you just gotta feel the pain of life in order to know you never wanna go back to that shit again. I don’t always learn the easy way, but pain is the other side of love; so as a person, artistically, I need to live on both ends of the spectrum - the snow and the desert. You have to bleed sometimes to be accountable, to be able to reflect on yourself and be a better person because of it.
What was your feeling once you finished the album?
I took ayahuasca in the midst of making the album, and that helped me almost realize the end of the album before it happened. The album to me was about getting back to my heart, because reacting negatively in life can close up your heart to the world. My compassion and my understanding is a lot deeper now. I learned to have compassion to understand. I feel very much recentered. In a way, I was speaking to my future self on this album. I’m not talking about the best parts of me, I’m talking about the honest parts of me. I get to look back on the completion of this album and reflect and understand more about myself, more about Maxo.
Even God Has A Sense of Humor is available to stream here.