Small office meets SXSW: Maxo Kream

Each year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW Music Festival, whether it’s hosting a stage or simply attending the hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, TX. In 2020, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but returned last March as an online festival. We have scheduled 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 Tiny Desk Meets SXSW tour: four videos shot in various locations, all full of surprises.

“I’m not about to be on all that preaching shit, but I’ll tell you this,” Maxo Kream said during his Tiny Desk (home) gig. “I’m from nothing! Mud. Whatever you want to do, put your mind to it.” The sentiment isn’t groundbreaking, but if you’ve gotten to the point in the video where he says that, it’s impossible not to feel the passion of those words. His set is one of the first times we’ve seen the Houston native perform with a band. They’ve set up shop in an H-Town performance space, and the stripped-down aesthetic brings in things that could easily be lost in his album recordings. The brutality of his voice pierces the live instrumentation.

Maxo Kream’s Tiny Desk (house) concert illustrates 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: the poverty, the gang culture, his complicated relationship with his parents as the son of an immigrant. He is named after his father, Emekwanem Ogugua Biosah Sr., who immigrated to the United States from Nigeria. As the setlist veers heavily towards the trauma Maxo has endured throughout his life with songs like “Roaches,” “MAMA’S PURSE,” and “FRFR,” he triumphantly contrasts the performance with a glimpse between songs that indicate that Much of what he raps is now in his rearview mirror.


  • “THEY SAY”
  • “Cockroaches”
  • “F RFR”

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  • 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


  • Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Video Producer: Joshua Bryant
  • Audio mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Small production team: Bob Boilen, Kara Frame, Maia Stern, Ashley Pointer
  • Executive Producer: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior Vice President, Programming: Anya Grundmann

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