by jerome spencer
When I met with RBLE’s Max Fullard at Thank You Gallery in Norfolk, VA for this interview, he took a few minutes to go live on Instagram and talk to his followers. As he perused the gallery’s collection of books, zines and clothing, Fullard joked and laughed while he held his phone and coveted a Star Trak shirt in the collection. This was somewhat of a homecoming for Max since he relocated to LA in 2017 and he seemed happy to be home. He was quick to get down to business, though. And once we got the interview rolling, he was focused and genuine – a combination of qualities that is somewhat rare for someone who interviews musicians on a regular basis.
I’m assuming you’re already familiar with RBLE, but I’ll give you a quick refresher; Virginia-based hip hop collective came together around 2010 (don’t fact-check me, I’m going off of memory) and quickly became eminent in the 757 due to the hustle and grind they devoted to the scene. For a while, it seemed like at least one member of RBLE was performing on any given weekend and their name was on everyone’s lips. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the clique, you’re probably still well-aware of RBLE affiliates DRAM and Sunny & Gabe; the two acts have had a pretty big buzz for a minute now with momentum still building. Regardless of what impetus each member distinctly possesses, the RBLE fam stays close and diligent and Max Fullard is always in the mix; usually front and center.
Fullard has been consistently dropping tracks for the better part of a decade, most notably 2014’s A Rebel Named Max and 2016’s Nights of the Forth, but it was only in September of last year that he decided make the trek to LA. While Max’s reasons for moving to California may have seemed inconsequential at first – “Honestly, man, weather,” he tells me, “Anything drops below 70 and I feel cold” – his motivations were actually more specific and focused.
“One of the reasons I wanted to move to LA, I’m not gonna say I was depressed, but I was a little down,” he confesses, “Like everyday I’d wake up like ‘alright I gotta go to work’ and I’d spend unnecessary money trying to find happiness. That’s why I had to get some of those darker songs on Nights of the Forth out. Because I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.”
A stellar example of one of those “darker songs” is Hurt One, a somber record about feeling alone and looking for hope. But the beat is a banger and Fullard doesn’t want you to think he’s on that depressive tip. In fact, the guy is brimming with optimism and positivity.
“Not to knock anybody who ever thinks really dark thoughts,” he says, “but I was on the outside looking in at myself. I knew I was sad and I knew how to get rid of the sadness; I just wasn’t there yet. You try to put all of your emotions in one song so I was just like ‘I need to get this shit out’. When I went to LA for the first time I was happy.”
So this really becomes a story about a man searching for himself and, for Max, a change of scenery was what he needed.
“I’m not saying it was Virginia that was making me sad it was just Groundhog Day shit,” he continues, “I was like I need to get out. I need to see some other shit. I was working everyday because I was living outside of my means. I bought a drop-top convertible. I bought jewelry. I was racking up my credit cards just trying to find something that was gonna make me happy and I knew I needed to stop or I was gonna fucking fold. So when the LA thing came around I was like this is it.”
LA also found Fullard on his own for the first time. Up until then, he lived in “the RBLE house” with the other members of the crew, a situation that could be a little overwhelming in terms of creativity.
“Now that I am away I get my own solitude and I can become more of who I wanna be,” he says, “As myself instead of who I am in the crew. We have the big RBLE House so – I’m in my room making music, Gabe’s in his room making music, (Artel) Carter’s in his room making music – you’re gonna hear each other making music. So naturally you’ll bust in like ‘what’s this’ or ‘you should do this’ or ‘will you listen to this’. So now that I’m by myself I’m able to form my own identity. I’m not hearing Gabe make his beats and telling him I want it so he’s able to expand and finish his stuff with Sunny & Gabe. Sometimes I’d be like ‘yo, that shit’s fire. Let me get that’. Now, I started using more dudes that I was finding. I utilize Youtube a lot more. I like to straight up buy your beat for what it’s worth, get the stem, and get the contract. That’s it. I lot of Youtube producers give you that on the reg, you don’t gotta meet them, they don’t have to be involved. “
That creative environment also motivated Max in a different way, helping him shape who he wanted to be and what he wanted to get out of making music. “I would come home from work and I’d have a little bit of jealousy that these dudes get to sit around all day and play Madden and work on music. And Sunny & Gabe was popping off and DRAM was popping off and I’m at work, fucking waiting tables. You know, you make a song like this gonna be it and a week later it’s only at like 100 plays. But then I started appreciating 100 plays. When I wrote the song Ten Fans, I was like I have ten fans and that’s it. And those are the people that I’m gonna show my love for, those are the people that I’m gonna keep pushing for.”
Finding his identity outside of RBLE has proven very productive for Max. He released the Max EP on October 26th which showcases a clearly more ambitious and adventurous Max than we’ve ever heard before and he plans to follow that up very soon with two – yes, two – new full lengths in the near future. Max’s influences have always felt West Coast – “the 2000 Myspace West Coast vibes,” as he puts it – so LA seemed like a logical second home for him. LA also puts him geographically close to “cousin of RBLE” DRAM, a detail that isn’t lost on one as motivated as Fullard.
“He lives ten minutes away from me. I see his crib and I’m like I can get this,” he says, “When DRAM blew up I saw that it was possible. So now I go a little harder. Not even in a jealous way, but like DRAM got it I can get it. Because he has the same exact resources that I have, obviously he’s on a label now, but he had Gabe, I have Gabe. He mixed and recorded all that shit in [his sister] Sophia’s kitchen. So he showed us that it was possible with the exact same resources that we have, you know? Same foundation, same fanbase, everything he had with Cha Cha… I just need a Cha Cha, or even if I get three-1/3 of Cha Cha. I just gotta be consistent and he’s showing me that as long as you’re consistent and putting out good product and just keep pushing, it’s gonna happen.”
When Max isn’t learning from his peers, he’s learning from his mistakes. The Max EP showcases the ambitions of a vet that is ready to step into the majors.
“I was very inconsistent before I met DRAM,” he admits, “I was going thru the wrong avenues, I was paying for PR, I was trying to get on blogs. I’ve been in Billboard, I’ve been in Fader and all that shit, but if you’re not consistent it doesn’t matter. Once they see the tweet at the end of the day, you’re at the bottom. So if you’re not getting people to post about and talk about you, you’re just gonna fade out. You gotta stay consistent. Once one song takes off, they’re gonna go back and listen to everything and then I’ll be fine. So that just keeps me going.”
These are words to live by, kids. My dude Max could do a TED Talk on perseverance and following your passions. Or you could just listen to his music and support his dreams. I know he’d do the same for you because he told me as much: “If anybody’s ever feeling lonely, lost, sad or even just happy you can reach out to me – dm, Twitter, IG, email – you can talk to me.” I’d do it soon, though, before he blows up.