Persona is Maxo Kream's way of honoring his late brother, Mmadu Biosah (aka Money-Du Kream), who was shot and killed in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles this past March. It was originally a side project that the brothers would use to produce small runs of products like T-shirts and hoodies, but now the Brandon Banks rapper is saying that he envisions Persona as much more than just some merch for his fans, comparing it to how Rocawear was treated as Jay-Z's brand and not just his merch back in the aughts. He refers to it as his "chapter two" (chapter one being the music) and says he wants to "make streetwear street again."
"It shows what a visionary Maxo is. He's thinking like a new entrepreneur launching his brand, and he's seeing that the music space is just one lane for his brand," Don C tells Complex. "I love how young brothers like that take their brand from something regional to a global entity."
Earlier this month, the Houston rapper released Persona's first major collaboration with streetwear heavyweight Don C's Just Don. It consisted of vintage-inspired T-shirts and a powder blue pair of Don C's signature basketball shorts with "Persona" embroidered across the front. Each item gives a clear nod to the teams colors of Houston's professional sports teams from the '80s and '90s like the now-defunct NFL franchise, the Houston Oilers. They quickly sold out. Maxo's manager and Don C's close friend Daniel Smith acted as the initial connector between the two, but before there was the official Persona x Just Don collab, Maxo was just a fan of streetwear.
"He was an artist that I saw naturally supporting my brand. He was buying the shorts. I never met him and he was supporting it. So to me, that was an organic thing," says Don C. "He represents pillars of things that I represent. He's all about aspiring to be the best he can be, reppin' where he's from, family, and I like his style."
Check out our full interview with Maxo Kream discussing Persona's latest collab, Houston's signature style, and what we can expect from him next, below.
Tell me a little bit about Persona. It's in honor of your brother, right?
Yes. So the Persona brand came about because I was doing merch and plus one of my dreams besides rapping was to own a sneaker store. I wanted to do kind of like a sneaker pawn shop where you could bring in sneakers and get money for them. And I was good at restoring sneakers and fixing sneakers. So I wanted to do that, consignment, Flight Club type stuff. So yeah, that was always in my dreams. I was very heavy on all streetwear, Ian Connor had me model for Bape one time. I was very heavy with the Supreme, so I was always into brands. So around 2015, me and my brother came up with Persona but like we never really started pushing it until two years ago. And then recently this year he passed away. One of the things he told me before he passed away was to get the Persona brand going, that's all he wanted. In honor of him, I'm keeping it alive.
Persona is the lifestyle, everything that we're about is what I put into the clothing. We grew up on the Cool Kids. We grew up on Tisa snapbacks, Bape, Supreme, Evisu, Red Monkey, hockey jerseys, stuff like that. That was already the foundation before any of this, our lifestyle, because me and my brother are twins. We've always been sneakerheads, Jordan heads, sneaker collectors, fly dudes. And then it was getting to the point where streetwear started dying out because all the high fashion brands is really biting streetwear right now. So when that started dying out we needed something that can keep the cool, cool. Everything don't have to be Louis, Gucci, Fendi, Balenciaga for it to be cool. That's what Persona is.
So for this drop you collaborated with Don C. What is your relationship with Don and how did that collaboration come about?
Yeah, man. I've been a big fan of Don C. Everything he's been doing since the hats, since the shorts. I actually own so much Don C it's ridiculous. So when me and Don hooked up, he already seen the vision, he's seen where I come from, he sees my past mistakes. He gets it because he do the same thing, so it was only right. Shoutout to Don because I got to collab at a very early stage. I'm glad that he's seen my vision and was able to help me bring my vision to the light.
You kind of mentioned this, but you rock Bape a lot. Even going back to the #Maxo187 cover, you have the Supreme headband on. You've always been someone that's been tapped into streetwear and fashion. So when did you feel like it made sense to move forward with the brand and create your own?
Just seeing how much I was rocking Supreme, how much I did for Supreme. I was putting people onto Supreme. I'm just a trendsetter. I'm just seeing a lot of people bite my trends, a lot of famous people. I just don't speak up because when you are trendsetter that’s what you are out here to do. So I might as well capitalize off my art. Fashion to me is more than clothes, it's an art. I'm painting a picture. Putting on clothes is an expression of how you feel for today. Whether you want Doernbecher 6s or you're going to go with the Dior Runners with the Amiri jeans or the Chrome Hearts jeans. You might go back to the Evisu. It is all different expressions. It's really a reflection of your persona.
I've heard you say before in a couple of interviews how you've wanted to build an empire beyond just the music. Do you see Persona as your first step of that empire?
Most definitely. I feel like its chapter two, chapter one is the music. The music is still not done. I'm still pushing with that, but Persona is a chapter. Back in the day, you look at Jay-Z, he had Rocawear clothing but you weren't looking at Rocawear like it's Jay-Z merch. You looked at it as was one of the hottest clothing brands of the decade, of that time period. I want to bring that back with Persona, just how back in the day Fubu was high fashion streetwear. Everyone was rocking Fubu. I want to make streetwear street again, because streetwear is not for streets no more but it comes from the streets. They bite our whole culture, our sound, our artists, all that. I wanna keep it for the streets.
For this recent collaboration, the items are clearly inspired by throwback Houston sports. Did you immediately know that you wanted to highlight that for this first drop?
Everything about me is Houston, Texas. Everything. Like what's going on right now in Houston is Maxo Kream, so I just want to get back to the city that always held me down. Houston always held me down. So of course, it would only make sense for me to do the Houston Oilers or the Rockets, do that for the culture.
How does your creative process with clothing differ from your process for creating music?
My name Maxo Kream. My brother was Money-Du Kream. We always had a palette for fashion, to be a Kream member. So basically we take that palette, and take our ideas, and all the nostalgic brands from back in the day, and put it in pot, like a big melting gumbo pot. You might've seen some influences from The Hundreds. Then from there you might see hat influences from 40 Oz. Van and Taz Arnold’s Tisa mixed with what we got goin because these kids don't know about that. That was 10 years ago. But I feel like that's a big piece of time, a big piece of history that we need to bring back, back when streetwear was proper.
You've worked with Don C already for this last project. Are there any other designers or brands that you'd love to collaborate with for a project?
I talked to Joe Freshgoods about doing a collaboration on a hat. I like what Joe Freshgoods has got goin’ on. I'd like to work with Bape, Off-White, but then still bounce back and work with FTP or Warren Lotas. Brands like FTP, Warren Lotas, and Joe Fresh, I like them because they don't go by the rules. Chinatown Market, they don’t play by the rules. I feel like that's what streetwear is evolving to. But then I also I'd like to have a Supreme collab and an Off-White collab. But like if they come, they come. I ain't kissing ass. Persona is going to do what it do regardless. I'm just showing the world our persona, me and my brother's persona through the clothes. It's like another way of art, it's just like going in there and recording an album.
Growing up in Houston, do you remember how you first became interested in fashion and streetwear?
I was born in it, I wasn't sworn in it. I really get it from my mom. She was very into retail, a shopaholic. She had us in the Guess, she had us in all the retro Jordans. She always kept us fresh. There was all the Fubu, even the Platinum Fubu. So that's always been a part of me.
How would you describe Houston’s signature style?
It's very country. Like we grew up very country. Tall tees, braids, South Side Bay. So I still incorporate, being a country Houston n***a into my fashion but I just do it better. Me and my whole crew was known for dressing better. I ain't saying dressing better than anybody in the city, but making the way we dress the style for the city. Everybody caught on and started dressing like us. The southwest side of Houston, between Alief and Missouri City, is like Harlem. You know how Harlem is like the fashion capital of New York? Alief is like the fashion capital of Houston, and it just goes to show even with the artists. Alief got me and Don Toliver. Missouri City got Travis Scott. So if you are from the city, you know. If you don't, you don't, but you have the opportunity to know.
It's obvious that you have a lot of pride in the city. How do you feel like Persona represents Houston?
The traditional Houston style, we come from that, it's embedded in us, period. But the city different. 30 years ago, the city changed. On my side is a lot of young n****s getting money. They not really riding slabs and old school cars. They are driving Hellcats and coppin’ Lambos. So like that's our persona right now, that's how we coming. Everybody think we so slow and country and throwed out down here. But we really have it, we really have something to show. It's a whole nother Houston, especially being from Alief. So I'm just going to give them that side Houston.
It's been over a year since your last project Brandon Banks released. What you've been working on musically? What can fans can expect next from you?
Expect the album really soon. That's all I'll tell you. Real soon. I mean I've been working man.
You have said that before your major record deal it was like you playing story mode in Grand Theft Auto and once you signed the deal, that was you playing online. Has having that major record deal changed the way that you approach albums?
It really ain't changed nothing. It just put more fuel on the bar. Nothing has changed. Even going into the deal I told them, they already knew I'm going to work the same, I'm going to move the same. If it ain't broke, why try to fix it? Trying to fix something that's fixed, you might break it.
Are there any albums you've had on repeat or artists that you've been listening to during quarantine, that you want to get into the studio with next?
I really just be listening to myself, I'm listening to my project and then KCG Josh, I'm jamming him. I've been jamming Guapo. Guapo is an artist out of Houston. I've been jamming him. And there's a female artist popping up. She goes by the name of Kennedy Rae, she's really dope.
What can we expect next from Persona?
As far as 2020 we just wrapping up the Don C collaborations. I got one more colorway to drop. Right now I'm working on 2021 Spring/Summer. Yeah, we’re trying to get that shit crackin’. We're doing a Persona tour where we're going to pop up in each city. I know it’s wintertime. But we selling the shorts in the winter. That's one thing about us. We going against the grain. So East Coast we are coming with your shorts, have your hoodies on, your Timbs on, all that. West Coast, we coming. Down South, Atlanta, everywhere.