Max Farrell started rapping when he was in third grade. So nine years later, it’s not a huge shock that the now high school senior put together the biggest local hip-hop hoorah in months.
On Friday, he presents Maxximum Impact at Vino’s, a concert he’s booked, curated and promoted and at which he’ll perform along with Rockst*r, 607, 4X4 Crew, Goines and Bonafied Music.
Still, even with all that experience, how does an 18-year-old high school kid — an upper-middle-class white kid at that — pull in a handful of the city’s best rappers with only a promise of a sixth of the door cut? Hip-Hop School.
As a charter student in the after-school program, Farrell learned the history and principles of hip-hop from the ground up. Sessions led by local rappers and DJs like 607 and g-force focused on the four elements of the culture — rapping, DJing, graffiti and breakdancing — and delved into business aspects like promotions and marketing. As the culmination of the class, members recorded an album and performed several shows under the name Blockade.
Farrell, who adds an extra X to his first name when he’s rapping, opens the group’s self-titled single with “Maxx is back,” drawn out for extra drama, followed with “the crazy cracker rapper.” He’s got a deliberate delivery that’s sometimes off-kilter in a way that makes him stand out. His smart wordplay helps, too.
“He definitely had skills when he came in,” says TJ Deeter, the founder of Hip-Hop School. “But I think [Hip-Hop School] gave him extra focus and drive.”
It also gave him connections to people like SJ from the 4X4 Crew, Epiphany from Conduit and 607, all of whom Farrell turned to in planning this concert. “I compiled what works for them into a really solid game plan,” he says. “From how to pass out flyers, to how to reach different crowds to what kind of Internet tactics to use.”
Farrell says his goal is “to combine various crowds, to go beyond the same group that always goes to hip-hop shows.” He hopes to bring in high-school kids who not only don’t usually go to hip-hop shows, but don’t go to local concerts at all. (Vino’s has long been an all-ages venue.)
“It’s all about Little Rock love,” Farrell says. “And it’s a statement for the young people that we can do it professionally. Plus, it’s a chance to make conscious rap stand out. There’s a pretty big divide between the fly and flash artists and those who prefer content over snap music. I think Little Rock could really establish itself as a hip-hop hub if we continue to create meaningful music.”
Farrell doesn’t know where he’s going to college next year, but he suspects it’ll be out of state. Don’t look for him to turn his back on Little Rock, though. He says he plans on coming back to help push the scene.