The Dallas native’s absence was due in large part to unexpected setbacks following the death of his friend and bandmate Scotty “Sixo” Trimble.
“There looks like there’s a gap in my musical history,” Heir MAX says. "We had at least three albums on his computer. We both invested our time and energy into these projects.”
In May 2018, Trimble, a producer and professional dirt bike rider, suffered a fatal heat stroke during a TORN cross country tournament.
In January this year, Heir MAX set out to rebuild his lost music and released a mini mixtape for fans with MAX DOOM, a three-song collection paying tribute to iconic late British-American rapper MF Doom, an artist who was influential to Heir MAX’s lyricism. Since his debut close to a decade ago, Heir MAX accumulated a large fanbase by consistently touring with the late Sixo, fellow Fake Four label mate Ceschi, West Coast rapper Myka 9 and producer Factor Chandelier.
As live shows become a way of life again, Heir MAX is making a return to stages on a self-titled tour, armed with the momentum from a buzzing new mixtape and a debut album on the way. From September to the end of 2021, he'll be performing live across the Midwest and East Coast, with dates in the South including the cities of Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin. In support of his return to live shows, the hip-hop artist released two music videos in July for the songs “Exclamation Mark” and “Today’s For Us” featuring Gentle Jones.
Born Joseph Johnson, he began his rap career after serving three years in the Marines. The stage name, Heir MAX, originates from a valuable lesson he learned during his time in service.
“It’s an acronym; MAX is 'Master Allah Unknown,' Allah being man,” he says. “When I say 'man,' I mean everyone regardless of gender. It’s about everyone, self-mastery and just mastering oneself. Learning about yourself.”
While known for his methodical conscious raps, MAX discovered his love of hip-hop in the eighth grade when he heard the 1991 classic “Jump” by Kriss Kross.
“It made me want to write my own rhymes,” he remembers. “Back then, it was really dancey, so me and my cousin would make up dance routines and perform them at Friday Night Live in Irving. Every Friday at Centerpointe Fitness, they would close down the fitness center and turn it into a preteen nightclub. We would go down there in our rayon shirts and crush it.”
As he grew past the backward clothes fad, Heir MAX — initially known as part of the group Heir J — tapped into several different regional hip-hop scenes that transformed his music into what fans would come to know and love about him today. MAX’s style evolved into storytelling thanks to the influence of rappers such as Slick Rick (“Children’s Story”) and MF Doom (“Doomsday”) and Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah (“Ice Cream”).
“The Heir MAX of today tries to have more fun in music, pick upbeat production, tell a story that’s relatable with dark undertones,” he says.
Heir MAX’s debut album, currently untitled, drops spring 2022 on Fake Four Inc. Through the album, MAX plans to address serious topics like social injustice. On a song titled “Ralph,” the father of two daughters tells the story of an out-of-control police officer whose actions lead to a demise through vigilante justice.
“I found a way to express my anger towards corrupt cops," he says of the song's concept. "I wrote a song about one.”
Watch Heir MAX's music video for “Exclamation Mark” below.