Dig Baton Rouge

Album in Review

By Justin Ivey

Max Minelli is the embodiment of Baton Rouge hip-hop. His pedigree is unmatched, as he earned his stripes in The Camp, the city’s legendary rap collective founded by C-Loc. He’s made some of the most iconic songs in the history of Baton Rouge hip-hop and worked alongside countless big names in the industry. But one thing that has eluded Max is a big break.

Max Minelli hopes to change that with his latest creation, the Dopeboy Chad series. Since debuting it in February 2014, Max has released every new project under the Dopeboy Chad banner. The third edition in the series, the God’s Gift EP, is the best one yet.

God’s Gift sees Max Minelli going back to his roots as he teams up with longtime collaborator Happy Perez. Perez was the producer for much of Max’s early work and crafted many classic cuts for The Camp in its heyday.

The tone of the EP is established quickly on the aptly titled “FURY.” Happy Perez’s slow build on the production sets an ominous mood before Max Minelli takes control and unleashes some menacing rhymes.

While he’s beloved by ardent hip-hop fans in Baton Rouge and its surrounding areas, Max Minelli has yet to become a household name. He’s watched the likes of Lil’ Boosie and Kevin Gates go on to widespread recognition. Clearly this weighs on his mind and he addresses it on “FURY.”

“You think them n—-s on TV are the sickest in my city / All these n—-s my children, ain’t nothing f—king with me / Check my resume, you know what I done done / Man, y’all too f—king dumb to be not on one,” Max raps.

“Quiet Riot” follows a similar formula with its thunderous production as the canvas for Max Minelli to paint his picture with words. At times in his career, it felt like Max was forcing himself to dumb it down on songs aimed for club play. But on God’s Gift, Max is able to harness that bombastic sound and deftly construct his verses without sacrificing skill.

Max Minelli keeps the guest appearances light on the 7-track EP, but leans heavily on the city of Houston when he does get some assistance. Latino rappers GT Garza and Low-G join Max for the ride on “Cesar Chavez BLVD.”

The Houston influence permeates “Diamond Boy$” with Happy Perez employing a screwed vocal on the hook. Max also uses some Texas flavor in his rhymes while veteran rapper Paul Wall and Jet Life member LE$ lend a hand to complete the Houston vibe of the song.

Where Max Minelli truly shines is the final two tracks on God’s Gift. “When I Was Lil” and “I Gotta Make It” find Max presenting a level of honesty and vulnerability that has endeared him to fans for years. This type of content that affectionately earned him the nickname of “Max Pain” is what sets him apart from the rest.

“When I Was Lil” takes you through the gamut of emotions that Max Minelli experiences each day. The song is a detailed look at not only what frustrates him, but also what he aspires to do. The last verse is particularly poignant in addressing his most devout audience and their questions regarding choices made in his career.

“Why that n—a switched it up man, he done that bad / We want that Max Pain, f—k that n—a Dopeboy Chad / When I gave them some substance wasn’t nobody reacting / I said b—h get out yo feelings, got the club acting / Don’t be so simple minded, n—a this about stacking / I got children to feed, s—t I gotta go platinum,” Max raps.

“I Gotta Make It” is a stylistic change for Max Minelli, but the subject matter stays right in his wheelhouse. “So many people depend on me / I gotta make it, I gotta make it / If I don’t hustle, how we ‘gon eat / I gotta make it, I gotta make it,” Max declares on the chorus. In his verses, Max focuses on his dreams for providing for his family and giving them a better life. It’s a fitting way to end the EP as it sums up Max Minelli’s mission perfectly.

God’s Gift is the most impressive installment in the Dopeboy Chad series and one of the finer works in Max Minelli’s career. Max’s strengths are on full display, bolstered by his chemistry with producer Happy Perez. God’s Gift is a gratifying listen for Max Minelli diehards, but can also serve as a quality introduction for listeners unfamiliar with his back catalog. It might be early in the year, but God’s Gift has locked up a spot as one of Baton Rouge’s best hip-hop releases of 2015.

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