This is part of The Shadow League’s Black Music Month In Focus series celebrating the vibrating musical excellence within our wide cultural tapestry.
Harlem is known for finesse. From its hustlers that have been notoriously cemented into pop culture from movies like American Gangster and Paid In Full to custom clothier, Dapper Dan, Uptown has long had its own unique style.
The underbelly of Harlem is always flamboyantly exposed and one its sons, Charles Wingate better known as Max B, was one of its victims turned unlikely superstars. Remember, The Diplomats? Before all the personal drama between friends Camron and Jim Jones, the two embarked on a blitzkrieg of street mixtape releases and promotional tours that solidified their movement above ground. When a young and raw Juelz Santana entered the fray with a staccato flow, the inner circle was complete and the trio became Hip Hop royalty.
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When Jones decided to start his own label, Byrd Gang Records, Max B was at the top of the roster. In a sea of similar voices that are all slight carbon copies of the leader Capo, Wingate stormed the recording booth and unleashed a ruggedly smooth sing-song flow that overshadowed his boss. He was a necessity to create the perfect vibe on hit singles like We Fly High (Ballin) and Babygirl, the lead off singles on Jones debut album Hustlers P.O.M.E. It solidified his ability to craft the perfect hook for any song and it became a trademark of both Wingate and Byrd Gang releases.
Unfortunately, as the success grew from Jones’ landmark single, We Fly High, Wingate felt that he did not receive his proper share of royalties and performance money for shows. As a result, he left the label and began creating his own name as Max Biggaveli with his own straight to the street releases. The name in itself bespoke his ambition; an amalgamation of monikers: Tupacs Makaveli, Biggie Smalls, and Jay-Zs Jigga. Even without the major label support, Max B proved to live up to his lyrical claims to his true fans who followed him into the land of independence.
MAX B AND JIM JONES TOGETHER BEFORE BEEF *UNRELEASED RARE UNRELEASED FOOTAGE OF MAX B AND JIM JONES BEFORE ANY BEEF. TOGETHER CHILLIN.
Starting with his Public Domain series which chronicles his many criminal convictions and pending indictment on conspiracy, robbery, and murder, he also, teamed with then emerging Bronx street video entrepreneur turned rapper, French Montana for the highly acclaimed Coke Wave mixtape series. The two were like a modern day street Abbott and Costello, intertwining humor with street tales laced throughout with Max Bs syrupy hooks. It was a perfect match and Montana gained the benefit of distracting the audience with Max Bs bigger personality and choruses while he learned how to rap before our very eyes.
To say that Max B is an unofficial kingmaker is an understatement. Every attempt at rhyming for Jim Jones while with Camron is forgettable until Max B appeared on his hooks and verses. French Montanas offbeat monotone was downright untenable until he partnered with the man known as The Silver Surfer. Both artists have flourished in popular culture since their tutelage from the now lesser known and purist-friendly Biggaveli, while Max B has sat in a New Jersey prison since 2009.
With a street hits resume that includes Whatchu Want From Me featuring Beanie Siegel, Never Wanna Go Back dispelling the myth of the street tough prisoner and Picture Me Rolling, his version of the Tupac post-incarceration narrative, Max B has remained a cult figure.
Maxs 75-year prison sentence recently was reduced when he took a plea deal on aggravated manslaughter charges which will have him back on the streets by 2025. With his signature slang of wavy having crossed officially into the lexicon, like C-Murder, he is the east coasts tragic story that might have a happier ending. On behalf of Harlem, the Max B faithful proudly chant Free The Wave.