Pomona’s own Maxo comes in with his sophomore album: Lil Big Man. For seasoned listeners, the title harkens back to an earlier music video of the same name, that was released in the summer of 2017. It’s a simple video that also fits well with the album, highlighting Maxo’s style and output thus far..
Lil Big Man is the perfect evolution to his artistry. Last April Maxo dropped his freshman album in SMILE, which had a chill, jazzy sound to it that slowly rolled along in the lower register. The highlight of SMILE arrives when it transitions from “Gold Man” into “Nickel to a Dime,” the two track rollout combining the vocal samples and slow moving snares with bluesy riffs and his own, melodic rapping.
Lil Big Man picks up right where he left off, while tightening the screws in every conceivable way. The most noticeable of which is his lyricism; before, he was poetic. His lyrics have always been honest and genuine, but this time, he communicates more emotions, reaching into real anger and distress beyond just the feeling of heartbreak and sadness.
On “Time,” specifically, lyrics hit on depression and dealing with expectations, but still, the song shines through the darkness thanks to its lofty keys and melodic chorus. The production also shines on “In My Penny’s” and “No Love,” two standouts on the album. These songs are more layered; they’re still smooth as butter and distinctly Maxo, accentuated with stern jazz roots and a simple drum line. But these two tracks also bring synths into the foray, as well as more creative samples and vocals that were absent before. They interweave the lo-fi sound with harder hitting, more tangible samples, that give this sophomore album a more mature sound.
“Crown Heights” takes this a step further, opening with a saxophone solo before twisting the drums and cloudlike synths. He leaves just enough room for the ascendant keys to bring some sunlight into the track, another song that stays true to his form, dark lyrics that stumble around questioning in the lo fi and jazz of his beats.
It’s real California music, made for the rare days where grey skies set a more mellow mood. There is a level of authenticity and simplicity in his production that’s not found elsewhere, with the Def Jam signee playing a significant role in the production as well as the writing. It makes for an essential listen, showing a clear display of growth in the musical style Maxo intends to master. Lil Big Man puts you across the kitchen table at his house as he shares his thoughts, worries, and expectations from life, as he ponders questions such as “Can I leave with the same me I came with?” — as impressive as the soundscapes are, you’ll likely be just as curious to the answer as he is.