Chicago area producer Max Julian assembled an all-star team of emcees to assist him with his latest album, “One Shot One Kill.” One Shot One Kill is not only the title, but also the theme of the 14-track release. Each emcee is given roughly two minutes to spit verses over Max’s menacing production.
One Shot One Kill features appearances by Vic Spencer, ALO, Wrds, DreamTek, Kasz, N.O.A.H., WateRR, Red Inf, IAMGAWD, Defcee, Robust, Dosage Hinojosa, Ransom, and Planet Asia.
The Real Hip-Hop chatted with Max Julian about how he started making beats, his ADHD approach to music, and his new album, One Shot One Kill.
TRHH: Why’d you call the album One Shot One Kill?
Max Julian: Originally, I was going to just have like one verse. I’m an ADHD type of dude, man, so I like those short songs, those short bursts. So, I was just gonna do one verse for each emcee and there’s a couple with two people on there, but it’s really not that deep. Like you hear a song and you’re like, “Man, I wish that song was longer.” I wanted to do a whole album like that, so that’s where the One Shot One Kill name kind of came up.
TRHH: So, did you have the emcees in mind first?
Max Julian: Yeah, it kind of started with the Vic Spencer joint “Atlas Theme Music.” It was during the pandemic, I just got laid off from work, I was bored, I was in the house. It’s like, man, I gotta stay busy. So, I reached out and it just kind of just spiraled from there. Just having nothing to do, that’s where the whole album came from. Just being stir crazy and trying to stay busy.
TRHH: How long did it take you to make One Shot One Kill?
Max Julian: It took a little bit longer than I would have liked. But I kind of went back and forth. I worked on it here, and I worked on it there, I had this song here. So, I kind of just put it together mostly in 2021 and 2020 and then I just was like, “Man, I gotta finish this shit.” So, 2022 I had it mastered and I just loaded it up in my bandcamp and I let it live there for months and months. One day I’m like, “Man, I’m just dropping this shit!” One day I just hit publish and the rest of the history. Just out of nowhere, that’s kind of like my style, drop shit randomly, not big rollouts, long winded “It’s coming in six months!” It’s like, here it is.
TRHH: I saw you post on social media that you lost a lot of beats and had computer crashes; how’d you deal with that and what are you doing differently now to save your songs?
Max Julian: Man, so I’m using a super old MacBook. I run the MPC software off like a 2012 MacBook. Again, horrible. I’m bad at just backing shit up, but I got a guy fixing it this weekend so we’ll be back up and running. Data’s safe, I just need some parts. I’m gonna upgrade the hard drive and all that shit, back my shit up properly and hopefully we can be smooth sailing from there, but we’ll see.
TRHH: Which MPC do you use and what else is in your production workstation?
Max Julian: For that project I used that MPC One. My setup is basic, man. Less is more to me. I could knock shit out really quick with my setup. I have a little like Arturia Keylab keyboard so I can play complete struggle baselines, and that’s basically it. Some records. There’s not much going on. My setup, I can like move it around. I got kids so I can move my shit out if I need to move it out of the room or something and put it like in my bedroom on a desk.
So, I tried to catalogue samples. I’ll go through a day or a week of listening to shit, just sampling, not even making beats. Just putting shit into the computer and then I can just pull it up and get to work and kind of have the workflow set up that way, so there’s not a lot of having to listen to the record. It’s all there for me right then and there. I kind of make the beats ahead of time. I know producers say, “Well, I got the beat in my head,” well I kind of just have an idea and I’ll just load everything up and I’ll come back to it so I can just bang it out.
TRHH: You said struggle basslines?
Max Julian: I’m not a musician. I took some piano lessons a few years back and didn’t really do much. It’s a complete struggle. So, I’ll find the key of whatever I’m sampling and then I’ll just find the notes that go with that key and I’ll just tap out whatever sounds good. It’s just kind of like stream of consciousness type of shit.
TRHH: How did you initially get into production?
Max Julian: Man, dude. I became a rap fan when I was like 8 or 9. The beats were always just kind of like we’re a mystery to me. Back in like 92-93-94, I’m old — I’m almost 40, but just listening to Dre’s shit, I had no idea what the fucking MPC was, what a sample was, I didn’t know any of that shit. It always intrigued me like, “Man, how is he doing this?” You just start going down the rabbit hole once you get the right information, so I just got into production because I like music. I like instruments and just the sound of it. I tried rapping and nope, that doesn’t work for me. I got a dork voice, I don’t have anything cool to say, my life’s not that interesting, so I didn’t really feel like I can carry myself as a rapper or an emcee.
Being in the background, being the canvas for the emcee was more or less kind of being the conductor — just being able to drive the song. I got into production, had a little crew, everybody rapped, of course like fucking everybody raps everywhere. It was no different where I was from. I grew up in Elgin and a lot of my boys rapped from middle school and high school. So, I was just like, man, we don’t have beats, we weren’t in a big city, we didn’t have access to production or studios, so I just did all the shit from my living room on my family’s computer. I got like Acid 1.0 which was originally what I started making beats on. They sucked, I had to buy loop packs and just learn about sequencing that way.
My dad was a collector, he had tons of records. He had brown suitcases full of tapes, like tons and tons, like stacks of them in our basement. I eventually inherited them from his collection and I would sample through a microphone into my computer, so I put the tape in the tape player, take the microphone and sample it that way as like an audio track. That was how I originally started sampling. It was the most ass backwards roundabout way. I didn’t have a turntable at the time, I was like 15. So, that’s kind of where it all stemmed from — just being a fan of the music.
TRHH: One Shot One Kill has a sinister sound; how would you describe the Max Julian sound?
Max Julian: That’s pretty accurate, man. Having an album called “One Shot One Kill” you can’t come in with a bunch of happy go lucky soul sounding shit. Just kind of touching on the album, I wanted that one song you might hear and be like, “Man, that shit is fucking hard! I wish that artist did more of that.” I wanted to have like a whole album of that, just like not very much of a structure, I wanted it to feel almost like a mixtape. You put on the fucking mixtape and you just play the songs, they’re short, they’re ADHD, you want more. I just wanted it to be aggressive ‘cause the albums that I’ve done with IAMGAWD, that I did with Ton3 Sk33, those records were high powered.
I just wanted it to be a continuation of those projects just with my spin on it. I didn’t change up the format. I’m of the belief that if you’re a jack of all trades you’re a master of none, so just do what you do best and that’s kind of where I’m at. I just wanted to keep that sound going because it’s what I like. I make music that I like — it’s selfish but I can’t do it any other way. If I’m not happy with the product at the end I don’t even want to put it out, so I just wanted to make some shit that I could listen to.
TRHH: The remix to “Superior Linen” has some crazy sounds. Without snitching, what genre did the violins and vocal sample come from?
Max Julian: I will snitch, because I want to give credit where credit is due. There’s a dude, he’s a composer his name is Moonbyrd. I don’t even know where he’s from. He’s not even really like an acquaintance, he’s just a dude who makes insane compositions. They feel like records. I put that song out as a one off. I dismantled the album. I was bored and I was just throwing some shit out there. On occasion if I felt like dropping a song, I’d drop a song. Potions Music out of New York City – Meaty Ogre, who’s actually from here, he’s done a lot of shit out here. He’s a record collector, he’s very, very knowledgeable, he used to slang records and shit. He had a ton of records and I would go over there and buy them on occasion. He hit me up to drop a 45 he wanted to drop of that song, so he dropped the Superior Linen original and the instrumental.
The 45 is gone, you can’t get it, sold out. So, I wanted to just kind of revisit it for the project. I don’t even think that’s what you asked me, but that’s part of the story. I was literally sitting in my kitchen one day, I had my laptop on the kitchen counter, I was just making a beat and I threw those acapellas over it. I programmed the drums on my computer keyboard in one take. There was no going back and fixing shit. I did it in one shot — not to be corny about the One Shot One Kill thing. I played the drums, threw the acapellas on there, sounded right to me and gave it a whole completely different majestic royal feel. So, I’m like, fuck it, I’m using this for the album.” People seem to like that one. I think people like that one more. Statik played that shit on his show, so it was cool.
TRHH: Who spit your favorite verse on One Shot One Kill?
Max Julian: Man, you know what I like, my favorite shit is the first one I did for it, which was the Vic Spencer “Atlas Theme Music” ‘cause Vic is just different with the words. It’s not like just standard rap in the pocket. He’s kind of all over the place. He will fall off and catch up, but it works. So, just the way he ended it and the cuts come in, I really liked that joint. It just gave it the energy to kick the whole shit off. That’s probably my favorite. I think everybody killed it though, and that’s like a politically correct answer, but no, Vic’s song I think is my favorite still to this day. But I don’t listen to the album. I don’t listen to my own shit. Once it’s done I don’t wanna hear it anymore, I hate it. I hate it because I’ve spent so much time. I make the damn beats, I get the rappers.
I was in the studio for a lot of the shit with people. I was sitting there with Vic, like, he wrote that shit right there in the studio. Doc Da Mindbenda, he’s Vic’s main engineer, he does a lot of shit for a lot of people though. He’s the dude I went to for the album. I just wanted to be in the studio. I don’t wanna do this fucking e-mail. Obviously if they lived in New York or Jersey or California I wasn’t gonna be there. But just being in there seeing him write, he wrote it quick, it was hilarious, we laughed, talked shit, that’s what I like about the music. Once I do that, it’s mixed, and then I gotta listen to it, then I gotta listen to the masters, and then I gotta make sure that the shit sounds right and it’s sequenced, and then I’m done, bro. I don’t wanna hear it again. I despise everything about it at that point.
TRHH: Who is the One Shot One Kill album made for?
Max Julian: It’s made for everybody, man. It’s made for anybody that wants to listen. I wouldn’t recommend putting it on during a romantic candlelight dinner with your lady. But yeah, anybody who just enjoys hard rap music, lyrics. The visuals are cool. My guy Jash, I wanted to work with him for a long time. He’s done a lot of art work for a lot of people. So, just people that like rap, man. It’s a very simple, basic, rap album. I didn’t try to go too far off the deep end. So, anybody is the short answer, just not date night, just not date night. It’s not Jodeci. If the situation calls for Jodeci, do not put on the One Shot One Kill album!
TRHH: That’s good advice.
Max Julian: That’s great advice [laughs]. Do not ruin your chances with a lovely lady by putting on One Shot One Kill.
TRHH: What’s the term they use? You’re scaring the hoes?
Max Julian: [Laughs] You can’t put on a Jedi Mind Tricks and try to serenade a lady. No, don’t do that.
Purchase: Max Julian – One Shot One Kill