Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. In 2020, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned last March as an online festival. We programmed a virtual “stage” of Tiny Desk (home) concerts in 2021 in a series called Tiny Desk Meets SXSW. This year we return again, virtually, with another round of Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.
“I ain’t about to be on all that preaching s***, but Imma tell you this,” Maxo Kream says during his Tiny Desk (home) concert. “I came from nothing! The mud. Anything you wanna do, put your mind to it.” The sentiment isn’t groundbreaking, but if you’ve made it to the point in the video at which he says this, it’s impossible not to feel the passion of these words. His set is one of the first times we’ve seen the Houston native play with a band. They set up shop in an H-Town performance space, and the stripped-down aesthetic brings things that could be easily lost in his album recordings. The rawness of his voice cuts straight through the live instrumentation.
Maxo Kream’s Tiny Desk (home) concert exemplifies the importance of storytelling in hip-hop music. His discography deals in-depth with the family struggle. It’s also a reminder for all of us to listen to the whole story. Otherwise, you inevitably miss a crucial piece of the incredibly complex puzzle of his life: poverty, gang culture, his complicated relationship with his parents as an immigrant son. He’s named after his father, Emekwanem Ogugua Biosah Sr., who immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria. While the setlist veers heavily toward the trauma Maxo has endured throughout his life with songs like “Roaches,” “MAMA’S PURSE” and “FRFR,” he triumphantly contrasts the performance with insight between songs that indicate that much of what he raps about is now in his rearview.
- “THEY SAY”
- “MAMA’S PURSE”
- Maxo Kream: vocals
- Oscar Santander: arrangements, piano, guitar
- Nicco Martinez: guitar, piano
- Tony Bautista: bass
- Ian McGilber: drums
- Video: Screenville Films
- Audio: Alfredo De la Garza, Gabriel Medina
TINY DESK TEAM
- Producer: Bobby Carter
- Video Producer: Joshua Bryant
- Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
- Tiny Production Team: Bob Boilen, Kara Frame, Maia Stern, Ashley Pointer
- Executive Producer: Keith Jenkins
- Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann