Maxo Kream Credit: courtesy of the Paradigm Talent Agency

Few rappers sound as comfortable with introspection as Houston’s Emekwanem Ogugua Biosah Jr., aka Maxo Kream. Even the title of his recent second album, Brandon Banks (RCA/Big Persona/88 Classic), references his troubled past: his father, Emekwanem Ogugua Biosah Sr., ran scams under that name and spent much of Maxo’s childhood serving time on fraud charges. On “Bissonnet,” the 29-year-old rapper focuses on the effects this had on his adolescence, squeezing enough emotions to fill several chapters of a memoir into a couple of lucid, unflinching lines: “Police kickin’ in my door, threw my momma on the floor / HPD took my pops, I bought a heat, hit the block.” Throughout Brandon Banks, Maxo’s rapping combines youthful vigor with the clarity of someone wise beyond his years—he unloads dense blocks of insightful autobiography with the adrenalized flair of a skateboarder pulling off every conceivable flip in an abandoned pool. Even when he raps about feeling adrift in the streets as a kid, Maxo sounds like he’s got a better grip on his future than most of his peers have on theirs.   v