Not to bite Ludacris, but the term back for the first time seems like a fitting way to phrase Maxwell’s return to music. Maxwell’s reemergence in 2009—sans his signature blowout ‘fro—is as hair-raising as his debut in 1996. Back then, the slender crooner whose demeanor was reminiscent of Marvin Gaye raised eyebrows as soul music’s “it” guy. But with Max’s extended absence, just how forgiving will an already downsizing industry be after a seven-year wait?
Fear not Urban Hanger-ons, Maxwell’s about to hold it down for three summers. This July, New York’s veteran soulman releases Black, the first installment in his Black Summer’s Night trilogy. The plan is to drop an album consecutively through 2010. To bring you up to speed with Maxwell’s moves leading up to the comeback album(s), we’ve compiled a few things you should know about the icon’s past, present, and future.
A lack of new material hasn’t actually hindered Maxwell one bit. Lest we forget, ’96 is only considered old school to the 106 & Park generation. With that in mind, Maxwell went out on the road with newcomer Jazmin Sullivan, anchoring an intimate stage show accompanied by Sweetback, the band known for backing up Sade.
WINTER 2009: SUPER-PRODUCER, THE ALCHEMIST TAPS MAXWELL FOR NEW SINGLE
The recent collaboration with L.A.’s 2nd most in-demand rapper/producer might seem a little far left, but it’s not. On Nas’ Street’s Disciple, Maxwell connected with Alchemist‘s Q.B. co-d Nas for “No One Else In The Room.” You would have had to trudge through the monotony of Nas‘ double-disc to get to the standout track, but Maxwell keeps his ties to rap fairly close by appearing on the hook of ALC’s “Smiling,” which also features Twista.
Alchemist f. Twista & Maxwell, “Smiling”
SPRING 2009: MAXWELL DEBUTS FIRST SINGLE, “PRETTY WINGS”
Sure ladies love Maxwell, but dude is the voice of a generation. It’s his talent that remains true, not his “neo-soul” look. On “Pretty Wings” Maxwell’s pipes (pause) carry the stripped down bell-chimes. It’s the first of many tear-jerking songs (“Fist Full Of Tears”, and “Playing Possum”) off his nine-track LP, but doesn’t have the live instrumentation feel of his other performance-ready songs.