As soon as Max Wonders lets loose the first few words of "Pray For Blue Skies," a few things become apparent: first off, he is an incredibly talented lyricist. The verse is impressive from a technical standpoint. Second, he has a strong command of his subject matter and direction, transitioning topics into one another with ease. Last, but perhaps the most importantly, Wonders' maturity gives him an insight into the environment that raised him and his peers, and this perspective gives his storytelling an insightful, engaging quality.
After reading such a description, one would assume that this is seasoned veteran of the game, or at least an undrafted rookie who had to wait years to get picked up. However, it is exactly skillful art coupled with his young age that makes The Wonder Tape the tour de force that it is.
Only sixteen years old, Max Wonders is one of Chicago's latest shooting stars and a member of the Treated Crew. The Wonder Tape is his second full-length project, and he is clearly still developing his full sound, but he is already heading in the right direction. He is neither boasting nor bragging about the fact that he is from Chiraq, however, he isn't particularly ashamed or running away from his hometown either. Wonders stands in the middle, taking a more pragmatic, everyday man (or teenager) approach to his circumstances. Often touching on social problems with a small amount naivety, good portion of brash ambition, and a dangerous serving of enthusiastic, uncontrollable energy.
This combination can be infectious, especially on songs like "We Alright" or "I Know". Both of the tracks feature a more subdued sound, but are all breaking through obstacles and obtaining what you want regardless of any adversity. His singing could use some help, but the way it works with his passionate rapping is magical. "We Alright" in particular, has a case for the most emotionally charge moment on the mixtape. The way Wonders attempts to console and motivate those around him, living in gang-war-torn Chi, is powerful.
"Matte Black" and "Lucky Eight" demonstrate why Wonders is his surname. Lyrically, he travels all over the place. "Man these mugs want beef, man that's a first/Sixteen to your head, now that's a verse," he lets loose a barrage of braggadocio and as many slick one liners he knows. Both songs will have you abusing the rewind button to catch everything he says.
The Wonder Tape is a fun tryst into great production and youthful bombast, but at it's stronger it is a tour through the troubled mind of a young adult navigating the troubled world that he calls home. While he gains help from some big name producers, like Thelonious Martin and TokiMonsta, everything is overshadowed by the character Wonders' creates for himself in his verses. It is a great listen, one that will definitely exceed your expectations.