Album Review: Max Haben & Teddy Roxpin “THE MIND IS INFINITE”
Written by Mike Dreams (Michael A. Hannah)
Overall, I actually think its safe to say that this might be one of the best debuts to come out of Minnesota in in a while. Max Haben, a fresh St. Paul, Minnesota hip hop M.C, Max Haben is coming with K.O punches in the ring of rap contenders out of the Twin Cities. Aside from the possible lack of diverse content and subject matter among the album, with a mixture of confidence (or cockiness) for that matter and clever wordplays, humorous antidotes, a sincere regular-joe appeal and the underground, eclectic production by Newton, Massachusetts producer Teddy Roxpin, these LP is sure to immediately put him in the mouths of anyone in the Cities who knows anything about good hip hop.
Usually, I don’t review introduction tracks, so I really won’t rate this one. I will say though that it set the tone, real chill, opening up with a humorous voice message from a fellow emcee that was also featured on the CD. It’s been done plenty times in the past by artists and was a comfortable and safe idea as an intro for a debut for the first time ever
2. You Can Call Me That
Off top, Max wants to let the haters know “Go ahead and hate”. In foresight of future criticism of his skills by people, he’s letting them know already that it’s not happening. After this track is finished, there should be no question that the punch lines and confidence are right on the money and that he’s not just another toss away M.C
3. The Mind is Infinite feat. Praverb the Wyse
This joint catches your attention immediately as the bass booming beat drops in from Teddy Roxpin. The introduction verse by Max is rhythmically presented as he characterizes the attributes of his mind to the idea of driving in a car, with references such as “my ears are like 24 inch rims spinning” and “thinking too fast, I got pulled over by the cops….rhymer’s license and I got that proof”. The change of tone and flow by Praverb the Wyse on the second verse creates a great phonic contrast. Praverb’s old school flow reminds you possibly that of a Rakim featuring on a track as it comes straight forward and sincere. With the ending verse, Max goes ahead and gets the Nas “Rewind” on for the first few bars, and then goes ahead and gives two quick jabs to the game with some concluding punch lines, including a possible controversial one regarding Rosa Parks, but not used in the same context…yet, being offended will be something for the listener to decide. Myself personally regarded it as a clever line with acknowledgment that there was nothing further behind it.
4. I Bet If I Write
This is most likely my favorite track on the album. It’s a “take you away” type joint where you basically leave reality. The repetitive refrain in the chorus makes you very much able to essentially listen to the song forever. Max’s lyricism basically surrounds a lot of philosophy of his own mind mixed with a few clever lines. Some may right the song’s lyrics off as just intelligent noise, meaning it sounds good and interesting, but making no sense. I would say you would have to listen to the song a couple times before you yourself can derive and understand what he’s even talking about or if he’s even talking about something significant at all. The music playoff after the hook for about 4 bars instead of going straight into the next verse sort of makes the energy in the song drop from the suspense it has built up from the previous verse and hook. Overall, it’s one of those songs you love and don’t know why, and is also one of those trance type joints that artists such as Atmosphere or Immortal Technique are known for, especially when they let the instrumental at the end kind of take over the song to just have you in a certain mode for a period of time, just letting things soak in
Sounding like something straight out of a Rhymesayer’s production archive, Max exploits his history with alcohol. This is wear the idea of the “regular joe” appeal comes in, because the story is simply a straightforward refrain that most college students and frat boys could connect with. The approach is direct and basically, though at times distorted, talking about the negative effects of alcohol. Though this was done through comical humor and wittiness, at the end of the song, you can derive a good message and point from the song that is somewhat very serious concerning more than casual drinkers who turn into worthless drunks.
6. I’m An MC!
This is the hypest track on the album! The sample makes the song self-explanatory and Max comes straight in with the cocky flow and lines shown in “You Can Call Me That”, just a little faster on the tempo and a variation of his flow style. There was really no expansion of content of the song other than the ongoing trend throughout the CD that Max is great and anyone else needs to catch up. Style wise and tonally, the third verse feature of Twin Cities, MN rap emcee Slink Proper was the highlight of the track, with his Papoose-esque type grimy intelli-gangsta flow. Individually, the song is a hit, collectively in the album, you can notice that trend of the same subject matter among the songs.
7. Check the Strategy
Punchlines continue with left and right hooks on this well produced joint with a nice east coast feel to it. Max presents you his “strategy” with the same notion of not having tolerance for “sucka emcees”. He basically lets you know that this is nonchalant rhyming here, it’s easy, nothing to it, and it’s still better than your best effort. Expect some “over the head” lines that you might not get until your third or fourth time listening.
8. The Menace
This joint comes in as a breath of fresh air for the CD as the feeling is changed up a bit. The lack luster, jumbled intro keeps you interested for the fact it seems a tad off. The scratches are perfection and you would, just for a sec, wonder how in the world did this up and coming artist pull Primo for a track! The scratches actually turn out to be east coast disc jockey, DJ Hevan and really sets the tone for the tracks. Max comes very sincere on this track, taking a break from most of the cockiness of the rest of the album (for the most part) and comes direct with the notion that he really is putting his heart and soul into these lyrics and it’s really him, no phony personas or aliases, a lyrical presentation for the fact that he simply goes by Max Haben. Max Haben the man is the same as Max Haben the rapper.
9. 1st One 2 Show Up
This song comes in with the same jumbled lack luster as the previous track, but not as hype when it comes in. The flow on this joint came off to me sort of boring. The lyrics and clever lines made up for the monotone feel to the first verse and beginning of the second verse. By the third verse, the flow tempo and lines are both on the same page and it all picks up. He shows some variations in the flow style throughout the verse. The subject matter is the pretty much the same as about 90% of the rest of the album’s songs.
10. Kids Are Jealous of the Props
A decent outro track. The flow and production was real 1997 for me, which was good thing. This is Max’s last time to spit to the people and leave a lasting impression. This track had a correct balance of cocky sincere lyrics from Max. He vented a bit about the local Twin Cities scene and the people who are not on his level that he is ready to annihilate lyrically.
While not being too fond of the lack of subject matter content variation, there is no denying that Max Haben of the Twin Cities has major skills and will fit in nicely with some of the city’s already heavy hitters, especially those such as Slug and Brother Ali. I say a few months….give it a few months and let somebody from the Rhymesayers get a hold of this joint and you’ll be looking at it’s newest member, Max Haben.
Rating Out of 5 Stars: 3.5