One Of Uptown’s Finest

If you know anything about living Uptown, you know how tight knit the community is. I take pride in being from Harlem and the Bronx because of this. Even you haven’t known someone for too long, you can see how genuine that person is through conversation. That’s how I feel about Maxx Brown. I heard him for the first time on Detroit Red’s mixtape X Files: The Appointment, and got to see him live this year. And when I listen to his music, I can tell how genuine it is to him. Here’s what my man had to say when we linked up earlier this week. 

Where are you from? How did that shape you as a person?

I was originally born in Harlem I moved to the Bronx, Highbridge specifically when I was in about the first grade when I moved back to Harlem briefly and then moved uptown, Baychester area in 2003. It’s funny because as a kid I lived in Harlem and hung out in the Bronx and as a teen I lived in the Bronx and hung out and Harlem. I feel like being in between Harlem and the Bronx shaped me perfectly, the duality of the two areas of the city of all though they are close is very different. I was able to pick up some of the grittiness of the Bronx along with the charisma or flashiness if you will have a Harlem Nigga. It did get a little awkward in like 06-07, when the Bronx and Harlem had there a little war.

How did you first start rapping? When did you start?

I’ve actually only been rapping for about three years but honestly I’ve always wanted to rap, just lacked courage for one and 2, I never actually believed people make it rapping. I guess I began to want to rap when I realized I could decipher the meaning behind my favorite rappers lyrics better than the people around me. Then I started to believe that I could put together a decent rap but I never tried because of lack of confidence, like I said. I always tell people that I got the courage to rap from the ASAP mob. Watching people my age from my area so to speak come of age right before my eyes was completely inspiring, that’s why it’s RIP yams every day.

I first heard of you on Symptoms on X Files: The Appointment by my bro Detroit Red. How’d you two link up?

Detroit Red is my guy he’s one of the few rappers I actually consider a friend. He went to college with a friend of mine from high school and I guess he caught wind of some of my material at some point and he was feeling it so he reached out and we been cool ever since. When I did the brief stint on tour with Joey Fatts and cutthroat records he came with me to two dates.

I saw you at the Quentin Miller Gun Metal Grey Tour in Brooklyn. How did you get down with that? How would you describe that experience?

I got that show through lifted lights, it’s in income in concert promotion company I believe for lack of a better description of what they do. They had booked me for a show last June and it was a great experience when I saw the flyer for the show with Quentin Miller I contacted JY, Who runs and created lifted lights for a possible slot. And he held it down for me. I won’t lie that experience was dope to me. I was a huge drake fan before the ghostwriting scandal, so to perform with someone who wrote his arguably biggest rap record was like a sign of validation, Plus the turnout was great and they seem to have been fucking with me.

Who are some of your influences?

Honestly I feel like I have relatively new years when it comes to rap music. I never had an older brother and my older cousin who guided me growing up was arrested during much of my adolescence. So I grew up bad boy and biggie, that’s my like foundation. Then he went to DMX and Jay Z but I will never really was a huge fan of a particular rapper until Drake. Drake to me was the first rapper who didn’t have a gimmick or a persona or a fake gangster backstory, he was just himself clever and dope and I fucked with him for that. As of now I feel my biggest influence is Wale and vince staples. I feel Vince is really something special and rap music because he is truly a millennial conscious gangster. It’s funny because I get a lot of J. Cole comparisons but I was never really into him.

How do you feel about the current sound of NY Hip Hop?

I feel New York hip-hop is in a great space I have been tweeting Viceland and noisy music because right now is the perfect time for a noisy style documentary or New York. From the legends to the mainstream two cats on the underground New York is in full force right now
What do you think you can bring to the game that’s unique to you?
I think a bring a new sense of realness to the game. When people here realness they usually think selling drugs or talking about guns in things like that. But We live in a very transparent time where being yourself is vital but it’s easy to get caught up in tryna be someone you aren’t. I feel like I will make it OK to be who you are. 

Do have anything you do besides music? How do you balance doing both?

Yes I work a 9-to-5 that funds my life. And it does truly take sacrifice to balance both. But if you’re like me and you know this is what you want to do for life you just have to keep that in mind every day

Do you have any projects/albums/performances we should be checking for?

This Friday, March 24 I will be upstate New York in Kingston. March 25 I’ll be performing at a pop up shop where I am releasing my first piece of merchandise and I’m very excited for that. Also April 18 I’ll be performing at SOBs for the first time something I’ve been waiting to do since I’ve started rapping. Every day I’m working on getting better to bring you my second project “you learn something new every day”. There’s no date for it because I don’t want to rush it but I am working on it.

Check out Maxx Brown on Instagram, Twitter, and on Soundcloud.

The Broke Boyz!

Podcasts took over 2016! From The Combat Jack Show to Rap Radar to The Read to Brilliant Idiots to Tax Season (#FreeTax!), podcasts became just as important or even more important to the culture than terrestrial radio. Me and my brothers decided to start our own last year. We were testing the waters and then decided to rework and rebrand ourselves.

Enter: The Broke Boyz Podcast! This podcast is four brothers speaking on things they love like music, culture, politics, and of course being broke and looking for real jobs post grad. Check us out in our first episode as we discuss where we’ve been since last recording, Trump’s Presidency, and a lot of hot takes in music.


Cherish The Beginnings 

Our beginnings are something to cherish. It’s our upbringing that has a everlasting effect on how we view life. We take what we see around us as children and try to take it to the next level. I got the chance to see this in action with my friend Eddie aka TBOE Blanco. I’ve known Eddie since high school and have seen a lot of growth from him as an artist as well as a person and he shared insights on his new project.

What led you to wanting to start recording music?

I’ve always had a passion for music. I used to wake up every weekend to music blasting and my mom cleaning. Every time I learned a new song I’d perform it for my mom and get breakfast for it. Good times.

Do you find it hard balancing going to school and doing music?

It is a little overwhelming at times and I do lose a lot of sleep sometimes I go days with properly sleeping and it does take a toll on me mentally and physically. I tend not to show it but sometimes it shows on its own but I can’t help but grind it’s all I know right now. It’s bittersweet because my mom worries about me and I worry about her tenfold, I’m doing this for her, my dad, friends and family. They deserve the world and I just want to provide them with it.

What do you think is the benefit of doing both?

The benefit of it is that it makes networking effortless. Since we are all roughly the same age it’s easy to relate to one another as well as communicate. Also, since I’m studying business some of the things I learn help me grow not only as a person but as business as well.

How would you describe your growth as an artist comparing your stuff now to when you first started?

I have grown as an artist exponentially ive been making music for almost 10 years now. My latest work has shown my evolution as an artist and I hope everyone that takes the time to listen to it enjoys it

What’s your direction for the upcoming album?

The album is about me as a person. It’s an informal introduction of who I am to those who don’t know me. It’s been almost 2 years and I feel like it’s finally ready to debute! The project is named The Beginnings because the concept of this album came about when I first started rapping. It was me and my two cousins, MoNo and Dela, and at the time I wanted to drop something. We were brainstorming names and Dela said why not name it The Beginnings because it’s your beginning and it stuck. That’s where my name comes from TBOE meaning The Beginnings Over Everything and Blanco is my legal last name.

What’s your favorite part about recording?

My favorite part of recording is editing. I get to be as creative as I’d like and I feel like this is what helps me stand out as an artist. Mylez, my engineer, calls me a mad scientist when I get in the groove. Even when I’m in the studio for a friends session I’m talking to Mylez giving him ideas about plug ins, tone, and feel.

How do you feel about the youth in the city who are on the rise in music?

I love it! I’d tell them keep working and never stop. Put on for your city and your family, the rest will fall into place afterwards.

Anything else you wanna say?

Reverse is coming soon on all major platforms. I’m performing in Toronto in April and throwing a show in PA in April too.

Thank you to everyone who took the time out to read this. Also a huge thank you to Brint aka NotBrint for the love and support! This is only The Beginning *pun intended*.

(All pictures taken by me.)

I Didn’t Watch The Grammys

Every year music seems to become greater than the year before. 2016 was a monumental year for music to say the least. Among the long list of highlights from this year, Rae Sremmurd went from being the two kids we looked to for a turn up, to being solidified stars; the Knowles sisters dropped two of the best albums I’ve ever heard (Lemonade and A Seat at the Table); and to everyone’s surprise, Frank Ocean dropped two albums…..TWO ALBUMS!

Based off of last year’s award ceremony, the Grammys have become something other than the most respected music ceremony. The prestigious award show has become a shell of itself. From major artists boycotting to the actual recipients of awards, the Grammys just aren’t the same. I grew up loving the show – I remember seeing Kanye perform Stronger with Daft Punk after being criticized for sampling them on his hit Stronger. I remember watching Jay Z, Kanye, Lil Wayne, TI and a pregnant MIA perform Swagger Like Us. I remember ODB crashing the stage and having one of the most memorable Grammy moments of all time. I remember when Outkast won album of the year. Not only are these some of Hip Hop’s greatest moments, but music’s greatest moments as well. The Grammys are supposed to represent what was the best in music for the past year, and in recent history that hasn’t been the case.

In 2015, we saw some of the greatest music released across all genres. In Hip Hop, we got to see the greatness of Kendrick Lamar. To Pimp a Butterfly without a doubt is a Hip Hop CLASSIC. From top to bottom it is a solid piece of work. We see Kendrick dive into the demons he faces while becoming more and more famous, and also speaking to the truths that haunt the Black community. The album was a mix between Funk, Jazz, and traditional Hip Hop. It was met with rave reviews across all forms of media. It was nominated for several Grammys, including Album of the Year. It’s competition was Beauty Behind the Madness by The Weeknd, Traveller by Chris Stapleton, Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes, and 1989 by Taylor Swift. Simply by comparing the bodies of work, you would assume Kendrick would win. That wasn’t the case. Kendrick was beaten out by Taylor Swift. Everyone, including myself, was dumbfounded by the decision. I can be objective in this situation and even at my most objective point of view, I don’t understand what led the voters to choose 1989 over TPAB. Kendrick’s album was not only a better album, but the overlying and underlying messages of Kendrick’s album was so much more profound compared to Taylor Swift’s. Real artistry wasn’t recognized that night in that particular category.

This year many people, excluding myself, thought that this year’s Grammys would be awarded the right way. And for the most part it was. I didn’t watch the awards live, but on Twitter I saw Chance the Rapper left with 3 Grammys on his own. This is a major accomplishment because of his independence from a major label. He took home Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance with Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, and Best Rap Album for Coloring Book. Based off of Twitter reactions, everyone was proud. After Chance was awarded, people jumped straight to questioning whether Beyoncé would win for Record and Album of the Year. Beyoncé was nominated for Formation for Record of the Year and Lemonade for Album of the Year. That song was one of the biggest and most talked about songs since the time of its release. It ended up losing to Adele’s Hello, which was equally as big and talked about. This particular category was a toss up, but album of the year Beyoncé was certain to win right? She didn’t do anything but make an album for empowering ALL women (women of color especially). Speaking on her husband’s infidelity, showing more versatility than ever before, AND making videos to every song on the album. This is arguably Beyoncé’s best work. Lemonade ending up losing to Adele’s 25, a tragic mistake acknowledged by Adele herself. Adele took time out of her own acceptance speech to acknowledge that her Album of the Year was Lemonade. It is now known that the Grammy committee suspected Beyoncé of trying to run the table by having too many songs that crossed too many categories in her album. So for that they penalized her. Something is wrong.

The Grammys have been getting it wrong for some time now. Artists of color have not been receiving the appropriate credit. Only two Hip-Hop artists have ever won album of the year. There have been songs that no one knew came out that have won Song of the Year. Hip Hop and R&B have been the bulk of Pop music for quite some time now. It is consumed at larger rates than any other genre and has had the most influence in the last two decades. And yet, the awards fail to reflect these truths.

Some people argue that race has something to do with why Hip Hop hasn’t been respected at the Grammys, and I have to say I agree to some extent. Maybe in the past race was a factor, but some of the music being made now has been so monumental and so undeniable that it is hard to not reward it. There is a clear lack of respect by those in power to vote. We have to see that and recognize that their validation isn’t reflective of the culture. We have to be smart and not buy into watching an award ceremony that doesn’t respect or appreciate what we have to say. Many artists such as Kanye West, Frank Ocean, and several others have been boycotting the Grammys in response to the awards not showing respect to true artistry. Us as the people who support this culture have to follow suit. We have to give more power to the award ceremonies that do celebrate us, our culture and our talents.