Baton Rouge, LA – All good things must come to an end. For Max Minelli, 2019 was the right time to conclude his rap career.
After writing his first rhyme at the age of 10, Minelli dedicated the past 30 years to rapping. Over the past two decades, he paved the way for Baton Rouge-based artists such as Boosie Badazz, Kevin Gates and YoungBoy Never Broke Again to become mainstream stars.
However, Minelli never attained the widespread recognition his loyal fans felt he deserved. Despite being a legend in his city, he’s come to terms with his status as a perennially underappreciated artist and decided to begin the next chapter of his life.
To wrap things up, the veteran MC released one last album titled Say Goodbye. It’s a clear example that his skills haven’t diminished.
Following the album’s release, HipHopDX caught up with Minelli to discuss his decision to retire and much more.
DX: What went into the decision to make Say Goodbye your last album?
Max Minelli: It was a lot of different things. I turned 40 earlier this month. There are dudes who live in the studio right now like I used to do 20 years ago. I don’t have that same drive or will to just live in the studio right now. So, I feel like I’d rather just fall to the back, let shit takes its natural course.
I also have another situation in the works. I’m not gonna really speak on it until it’s the right time, but I’m gonna be taking a position with a label. I’ll basically do some executive work.
So, when I do shit, I wanna do it 100 percent. I don’t wanna be like, “Oh, I’ll still do my album,” while I’m trying to work with this artist and that artist. I don’t wanna spread myself out like that. I wanna give it the best that I can. So, when I start focusing on helping other artists, I wanna focus on helping those artists all the way.
DX: When you began working on this album, had you already made the decision to retire or did you start working on this and it just developed into your swan song?
Max Minelli: I had a couple of songs that I had done before I came up with the decision that this is gonna be my last album. I had maybe one or two songs. But then pretty quickly, I started recording with the frame of mind that this was gonna be the last album.
DX: A lot of your longtime collaborators are involved in this — Happy Perez and Q Red On The Track come to mind. Was it important for you to have these guys that have been so pivotal in your career involved in this last LP?
Max Minelli: Definitely. A lot of the people that I worked with on this are people that I worked with at some point or another in my career. [It’s] people that I love. I wanted them to represent in some kind of way on this project. And a lot of them young producers, I was one of the first artists to ever work with them and believe in them.
And they all appreciated it and were down with it. Everybody came through, put their best foot forward and gave me their best work.
Reno is my cousin, but he’s also one of the artists I brought to the table years ago. I always felt like he could have been so much bigger than he was, but certain circumstances didn’t let that happened. I called him over, “Man, you wanna represent on this last shit with me?” He was like, “Yeah.” So, he came through. I also wanted to do a song with J-Von, C-Loc and Young Bleed on it, but it just didn’t happen. So, I just left it alone.
DX: Obviously this is the last album, but you’ve said you’d still do features. If an opportunity came up where you could do something with Von, Loc and Bleed liked you planned, would that be something you’d wanna do?
Max Minelli: If it was the right situation, yeah. But, it would have to be the right situation. It would have to be represented in the right way. It would have to mean what it’s supposed to mean.
DX: Listening to Say Goodbye, the one word that comes to mind is authentic. In your mind, is this some of your best work? How do you view it now that it’s out?
Max Minelli: I took a different approach with this album. I would do songs, and I would leave those songs at the studio. I didn’t take a copy of them to listen. I wanted it to be as fresh as possible to me, as well as everybody else. So, even the closest people to me who I would usually ask for feedback, I didn’t do that this time. Everybody who heard the album when it dropped heard it for the first time.
I was really anxious to hear everybody’s response. I feel like you can’t listen to something one or two times. You’ve gotta really be with it for a little while and be able to draw your conclusion from it.
To get back to your question, ranking it as far as my best work … I think [2009’s] Pain Medicine was my best work, but I definitely think Say Goodbye’s probably my second-best work.
DX: It felt like you were able to be very true to yourself.
Max Minelli: It was the creative freedom. A lot of people’s first album is always their best album because they’re making it at a time in their life when they’re having the most fun doing music. It’s not a business yet.
Once it becomes a business, once music becomes the way you pay your bills and take care of your family, [you] come to look at it a different way, as with anything else. A lot of times, it’s not good to put yourself in a creative box like that. It’s always best to create with as free a mind as you can.
DX: Definitely. I know a lot of fans were shocked to see you retire. Can you tell me about some of the reactions you’ve gotten since you first announced it and how the album’s been received?
Max Minelli: Man, it’s definitely overwhelming. The amount of love that people have shown, I really feel like this is the most love I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t know if this has something to do with it the fact that people feel like they’re not gonna have me no more.
But yeah, it’s been an overwhelming groundswell of love people have been showing me. Every day, people hit me on social media, DMs, email and all kind of different ways to let me know how much my music played a part in their life. [They tell me] how much my music has helped them through different situations and how much I meant to them. It’s crazy. Everybody’s coming out the woodworks right now showing that love, and I appreciate it.
I appreciate the fact that I was here to see it ’cause a lot of times, everybody shows you love when you’re dead. It’s too late for you to see it, but I feel like I was able to see that love the way it was meant for me to be seen while I was here. And I feel like I’m so at peace with it because I feel like I did it my way. I did it the way that I wanted to do it.
When you start making music, of course, your goal is to sell a million records. But, this whole situation has allowed me to step back and really live in the moment and say, “OK, maybe it wasn’t for me to sell a million records.’ It was just for me to touch certain people. It’s worth more than selling a million records.
If I touched people’s lives in the way that I have and my music has meant so much to people, that’s worth more than selling a million records. I’m doing my job. I feel like that feedback is God’s way of showing me that I used my gift in the right way.
DX: Absolutely. You’ve been such a pivotal part of Baton Rouge Hip Hop for decades now. When you made this decision, did you spend any time reflecting on your legacy or looking back at what you accomplished?
Max Minelli: Definitely. Slowly but surely, as the days go by, I keep feeling it a little more. I’m living in the moment and really being able to see the appreciation, the benefits of all the work that I put in. I’m really seeing what it actually has meant to people and how people actually have been touched by just little ‘ol me. I’m just little ‘ol me. I make a song and put it out, man, and it touched people the way it has. That’s a blessing.
It’s a blessing because this was my dream: to be heard. I wrote a goodbye letter that my daughter read at the beginning of the album. In it, the first thing I say is I just wanted to be heard. When I first started doing this, I wanted to be heard. Mission accomplished ’cause I feel like people have heard me loud and clear.
I’ve been a humble person, and I try not to come off as cocky or arrogant or anything like that. But, yeah, I really respect the fact that I have done a lot. I do mean a lot. I paid dues and laid a foundation for a lot of people right now.
There are a lot of people that’ll never know the licks that we had to take, the bumps and the bruises, and all the trials and tribulations that we had to go through to do what so many people just wake up out of their sleep and just do now. People can do it so easily now. People can make music and become a rapper overnight. There’s no effort being put into it. And I feel like we were some of the ones that made that possible.
DX: Recently, a really cool thing for Baton Rouge Hip Hop happened when you and Young Bleed reunited to create a new video for “Better Than Last Time.” What it was like reconnecting with him after all these years?
Max Minelli: It was dope. When I was young, I started rapping when I was living in California. I lived in California for three years and that’s where I actually wrote my first rap and picked up the whole music bug. So, when I moved back to Louisiana in like 1990, there wasn’t no rappers in Louisiana like there is now.
All the rappers was from New York or L.A. And I felt like, ‘Damn, I just left where all those rappers was.’ So, there’s no way I’m gonna be able to live this dream now. I’m out of it.
So, fast forward to me meeting Bleed through some of my older cousins. To meet somebody else down here who actually did the same thing I did and had the same dream that I had, it was big at that time. If you’re a kid, to know that somebody else had the same dream as you, you’re not by yourself out here. That’s how we bonded and connected. We went on to do things and create classic music.
I feel like “Better Than Last Time” was my first classic song. ‘Cause it was really my song at first. Anybody who’s familiar with it, I have the first three verses on it and the hook, and Bleed raps the last verse. When we were doing [Bleed’s My Balls & My Word LP], we are bonded together to help him finish this album. And we had that song that everybody knew was special. So, it was like, “Man, let’s just put Bleed on it and put it on his album.” I was all good with it because I knew the look that it would get. And lo and behold, man, it’s a lot of people’s favorite song off that album.
We went through differences or whatever and went our separate ways over the years. But then my partner Matt from South Coast Coalition, he put us on a song together. I mean, we had talked before then and reconnected, but Matt put us on a song together for a compilation that he’s doing and we shot a video for that. And while we were shooting a video for that, we was just talking. We was like, “Man, you know it would be dope if we shot a video for ‘Better Than Last Time.’ It would be crazy.”
Who shoots a video for a song that’s 20 years old? Nobody does that. So, we just came up with the concept. I was like, “Man, I wanna make it look like it’s 1997.” We got together, did it and put it out. And just like we thought, everybody appreciated it the way we thought they would. So, it was big. It was a good look.
DX: That’s great. Now, I gotta ask this because rap retirements never seem to last very long.
Max Minelli: Right, right, right.
DX: You’ve come to this decision to retire, but do you see a situation where five years from now you’ve changed your mind or there’s some kind of development that inspires you to make another album? Or do you feel like you’ve begun the next chapter of your life?
Max Minelli: Unless it was a big situation that was just some next level type thing, then as far as I’m concerned, that’s it. I feel like I didn’t hang around too long. I’m still good at what I do. I still feel like my craft gets better every time. I’m still sharp. I feel like I went out with a class piece of work. It is what it is. I’m at peace with it, above all else.
So, once I became at peace with that situation, with that decision, I’ve been riding with it. But I’ll never tell you, ‘Nah, I would never do it.’ Because I don’t know. I don’t know what might happen tomorrow, what tomorrow might bring.
DX: Got it. And you previously said that you’d still pop up on features and do shows. You won’t be gone.
Max Minelli: Yeah, exactly.
DX: I know you didn’t wanna get into it too much ’cause it’s not announced yet, but can you just give us an idea of what is next for you? You’re getting into label work. Is there anything else that you’re doing?
Max Minelli: Other than that, I plan on transitioning to the executive side of music business. Helping artists, develop artists, helping them write … just working with a lot of young artists. Also, we have a documentary, Diamonds in the Dirt, that’s completed. We’re working on getting a distribution deal for it.
I like documentaries, and I like telling stories that I feel need to be told. So, I could see more documentary work in my future depending on how everything goes with Diamonds in the Dirt. I’m open to filmmaking and directing.
Max Minelli’s Say Goodbye is available now on all digital platforms.