Notes on Max B

max-b

Charly “Max B” Wingate didn’t become a mainstream rap superstar when he emerged from Jim Jones’ Byrd Gang in 2005. But the Harlem rapper’s subsequent avalanche of mixtapes and viral videos made him an underground icon. He’s the creator of “wavy,” a term that not only describes his idiosyncratic style, but has become part of hip-hop slang. His music isn’t easy to digest. He often warbles tunelessly and out of key to accentuate his punchy street raps. But to his legion of fans, songs like “Paperwork,” “Picture Me Rollin’,” and “Goon Musik (We Run N.Y.),” the latter which fancifully uses a sample from Sting’s “Englishman in New York” communicate raw, guttural feelings that can’t be quantified by technique. His longtime producer Dame Grease has compared his work to the blues.

Since ghostwriting Jones’ top ten hit “We Fly High,” Max B has had a peripatetic career. In and out of prison since his teens, he was charged in a robbery-and-murder conspiracy just as Jones’ “We Fly High” was scaling the pop charts. Out on bail during a three-year period – a waiting game he describes on the track “I Never Wanna Go Back” — he broke with Jones, built a movement, and found a talented acolyte in French Montana before he was convicted and sent to prison in 2009. While he continues to appeal his 75-year sentence, French Montana has kept his name alive. You can hear Max B’s voice on “Once in a While,” the opening track from French Montana’s major-label debut “Excuse My French.”

(Rhapsody – February 18, 2014)

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