Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What Happened to Maxwell?

Just the other day my sister broke out in a soft voice and sang the following words:

Away from me

To see clearly

The way that love can be,

when you are not with me

I had to lead

I had to let

I had to leave

I had to live

It's kind of crazy to think that a snippet of a highly anticipated song can still retain it's splendor after almost a year. Pretty Wings is Maxwell's one minute and thirty-eight second version of Jay-Z's Encore.; except nobody's yellin' to get the brother back on stage. 

The protests come in the form of people pressing Ctrl+F5 to refresh their browser when on his myspace page. 

About a month or so ago, Brother Spotless sent Lightness and me an e-mail with the word "Random" in its subject. It read as follows:

first: it seems like a ridiculous thought (at least to me), but Maxwell hasn't produced an album in seven years. 

second: everyone who considers themselves a sophisticated black music lover claims "Urban Hang Suite" as an album in heavy rotation.[...D]oes Maxwell possess a particularly important place in our...[lives]?

First, apologies for putting your e-mail on blast Spotless, but I think it's a discussion worth sharing. 

It's true, Maxwell has almost disappeared from the face of the planet. No appearances at awards shows or demeaning photos on Crunktastical.

I decided to do some investigative work and hit up my trusted google search engine.

Maxwell is dropping Part 1 of a three part album titled Black Summers' Night. Now, if I'm not mistaken, this was supposed to be released last Valentine's Day. Much to many's chagrin, it never happened and we've all been left to wonder if we're ever going to find peace.

I'm actually glad to hear the brother again after such a long hiatus, even if he has only given us a snippet.

Few artist understand the beauty of keeping the market hungry for your product.

On on extreme you the R. Kelly R&B singer prototype. Let's face it, the man can make a hell of album. It was R. Kelly, in fact, who wrote what is arguably Maxwell's most popular song, Ascension. While popularity has never been a determinant of Maxwell's modus operandi, Ascension's financial success speaks to R.Kelly's knowledge of what the people want.

Then you've got your Sade and Seal of the game. Note how I didn't make that plural (i.e. Sades and Seals of the game) because both them are on an entirely different level. 

They don't flood the market with their product. You hear from them every few years and they give you something timeless. As bizarre as this may sound, they managed to remain underground. 

If you ask any teenager who Sade you'll be surprised to have your inquiry met with a curious stare and the word, "Who?"

So what's impressive about Maxwell is how well he's been able to play the cut. I couldn't even find the dude's birth name.

More impressive, however, has been the fact that the people are still hungry for his product. I think this is a testament to the greatness of his previous work.

I, for one, look forward to whatever he's got whenever it's coming out. And if the below track is any indication of what's in store for us, I have full confidence that his music will be as pivotal to the newest generation as it was for my generation.

Pretty Wings.mp...


Brother Spotless said...

I'm just shocked you remember the email...

I for one view (and, more importantly listen to) music as important to language in terms of shaping culture. The Neo-Soul sound has, for better or for worse, done a great deal to shape the black middle class. It gave black folks who looked down at the rough and agressive lyrics of rap a smooth alternative that also provided a comfortable cloak of blackness. The Neo-Soul sound also gave black men a peek into the realm of black love. I believe Maxwell was at the forefront of the sound, and therefore enjoys a special place within Black America. Buppy's owe a lot to this man.

1969 said...

I consider myself a Maxwell stalker and I approve this post.

Maxwell is a true artist. He refuses to compromise on his vision. He won't rush the release if he feels it isn' right. In addition, when the record label (Sony) fired all of the folks in charge of working with him through the project and then hired "young" up and coming rappers to push his promotion.....he felt a greater need to step in and make sure that he had his hands in every aspect of he release. Hence the delays for the triple cd.

More artists should be as concerned with their product and their image. As you stated, the fact that his fan base is willing to wait patiently for his music is a testament that he's doing something right.

Not to mention that he has continued to blog about the behind the scenes of the cd release on his blog and update his fans on the process.

I'll take a delayed Maxwell release over the latest Neo/TPain/Souljah Boy/insert wack rapper here anyday.

One slight correction, R.Kelly wrote Fortunate not Ascension :)

Anonymous said...

I for one can say i'm a big big and I could go on for ever about being a big fan of Maxwell.....i would wait another 7 years , when we talk about a man who has touch so many souls you can not rush perfection and lets be honest here i don't think Sony know what they truely have with M .....if i have to wait another 7 years to get Maxwell's new album so be it , in the mean time these young kats your neyo's and chris browns need to learn from this neo-soul artist who knows what he is doing i don't care what people say he is number 1 in my book.