An R&B auteur with a supple voice, Maxwell has been one of the leading lights of neo-soul music since his mid-’90s emergence. Born Gerald Maxwell Rivera in 1973, the Brooklyn native grew up on the slick pop-soul of the early ’80s as he taught himself music’s ins and outs. He wrote and gigged around New York constantly and was signed to a record deal in 1994; two years later, his debut, Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, came out, becoming a commercial success thanks to singles like the swooning “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder).” The next year, he released MTV Unplugged, which showcased his musicianship and wide-ranging tastes on revamped versions of his own songs as well as Nine Inch Nails and Kate Bush covers. Embrya, issued in 1998, was a high-concept, meticulously arranged foray into progressive soul; its follow-up, Now, included his reimagining of Bush’s “This Woman’s Work,” which quickly became one of his signature tracks. After a years-long hiatus, Maxwell released BLACKsummers’night, the first album in a proposed trilogy, to widespread acclaim and commercial success in 2009; with tracks like the stunning “Pretty Wings” and the simmering “Bad Habits,” it re-established Maxwell as one of R&B’s leading songwriters. The second piece in the trilogy, blackSUMMERS’night, came out in 2016, with the gleaming “1990X” and the flinty “III” further showcasing his musical and compositional swagger. Maxwell is an artist who works at his own pace, but patience has always paid off.
HOMETOWNNew York, NY [Brooklyn]
BORNMay 23, 1973