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Along with fellow founders D'Angelo and Erykah Badu, Maxwell was enormously important in defining and shaping the neo-soul movement that rose to prominence over the latter half of the '90s. Drawing his greatest inspiration from the concept of the R&B auteur (looking to artists like Prince, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, etc.), Maxwell recorded some of the most ambitious R&B of his time, becoming wildly popular and often earning critical raves in the process. What was more, his recurring theme of romantic monogamy set him apart from the vast majority of his bump'n'grind lover-man contemporaries. Maxwell was born May 23, 1973, in Brooklyn, NY; he adopted his middle name as his stage moniker, keeping his real identity a closely guarded secret out of concern for his family's privacy. Born of Puerto Rican and black Caribbean stock, Maxwell suffered the loss of his father (in a plane crash) when he was just three years old. The experience made him a deeply religious child, and he first began singing in his Baptist church. Still, he didn't really get serious about music until age 17, when he began writing his own songs using a cheap Casio keyboard given to him by a friend. Initially influenced by early-'80s urban R&B, he progressed rapidly, and by 1991 he was performing on the New York club scene, despite ridicule from classmates who couldn't imagine the shy, awkward teenager doing anything of the sort. After making a name for himself, he signed a recording contract with Columbia in 1994. Maxwell recorded his debut album Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite that year, working extensively with several collaborators: songwriter Leon Ware (who'd co-written much of the material on Marvin Gaye's I Want You album in 1976), guitarist Wah Wah Watson (who'd also worked with Gaye), and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Matthewman (a longtime cohort of Sade). Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite was a romantic concept album in the vein of Gaye's greatest '70s work, with a more modern flavor courtesy of Prince's influence; inspired by a brief but intense affair, the record's giddy celebration of committed monogamy could have come off as old-fashioned as its classic influences, given the marketplace dominance of hip-hop soul at the time. Partly for those fears, it wasn't released right away, although a series of shake-ups in Columbia's management played a bigger role in the delay. It wasn't until the spring of 1996 that Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite finally appeared. Sales were slow to take off at first, even though Maxwell scored some airplay with "...Til the Cops Come Knockin'." The gold-selling second single "Ascension (Never Wonder)" lit the fuse, however, and Urban Hang Suite went platinum before a year had passed, also earning a Grammy nomination. Now elevated to sex-symbol status, Maxwell capitalized on his breakthrough with the MTV Unplugged EP, taken from his live MTV performance. It attracted attention and acclaim outside the R&B community with the left-field cover choices "This Woman's Work" (by art rocker Kate Bush) and "Closer" (the Nine Inch Nails hit). Additionally, the Unplugged version of "Whenever, Wherever, Whatever" earned him another Grammy nomination (for Best Male Pop Vocal). Anticipation for his second full-length album was high, and when Embrya was released in 1998, it entered the charts at number three. Reviews were more mixed this time around, with some critics charging that Maxwell's ambition had crossed the line into indulgence; still, the record duplicated its predecessor's platinum sales. In 1999, Maxwell scored his biggest hit to date with the single "Fortunate," an R. Kelly composition he recorded for the soundtrack of the film Life; it was a mammoth success, ranking as the number one R&B hit of the year in Billboard magazine. Later that year, he also cut two songs for the soundtrack of The Best Man. In August 2001, Maxwell returned with his third full-length album, Now, which was touted as a return to the more straightforwardly romantic atmosphere of his debut. It entered the album charts at number one and quickly launched a hit single in "Lifetime." Maxwell didn't resurface until 2008, when he performed Al Green's "Simply Beautiful" as part of the 2008 BET Awards. A handful of intimate performances prefaced his fourth studio album, BLACKsummers'night (the first installment in a promised trilogy of albums), released in July 2009. "Pretty Wings," its lead single, was in the Top 20 of the R&B/Hip-Hop chart within three weeks of its May release. ~ Steve Huey
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Stations Featuring

    R&B Smooth Jams

    R&B Smooth Jams
    5 songs

    New R&B First

    New R&B First
    1 song


    19 songs

    Smooth Jazz

    Smooth Jazz
    3 songs

    New Smooth Jazz

    3 songs

    '90s R&B

    8 songs

    '00s R&B

    4 songs

    R&B and Soul Mix

    7 songs

    Late Night Mix

    1 song

    Coffeehouse Corner

    1 song

    Top Jams [Clean]

    1 song

Albums by

Top Songs by

  1.   Song
  2.   Pretty Wings
  3.   Bad Habits
  4.   Sumthin' Sumthin'
  5.   Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)
  6.   Fistful of Tears
  7.   Lake by the Ocean
  8.   This Woman's Work
  9.   Lifetime
  10.   Till The Cops Come Knockin'
  11.   Suitelady (The Proposal Jam)
  12.   Get to Know Ya
  13.   Whenever Wherever Whatever
  14.   Reunion
  15.   For Lovers Only
  16.   Temporary Nite
  17.   Urban Theme
  18.   Segurança
  19.   Sumthin' Sumthin': Mellosmoothe
  20.   Submerge: Til We Become the Sun
  21.   Matrimony: Maybe You
  22.   Changed
  23.   Lonely's the Only Company, Pt. 1 & 2
  24.   I'm You: You Are Me and We Are You (Pt Me & You)
  25.   Welcome
  26.   Symptom Unknown
  27.   No One
  28.   Help Somebody
  29.   Luxury: Cococure
  30.   Stop the World
  31.   Suite Theme
  32.   Lonely's The Only Company
  33.   W/As My Girl
  34.   Fortunate
  35.   Let's Not Play the Game
  36.   5 Days of Black
  37.   Mello: Sumthin (The Hush)
  38.   Matrimony: Mabye You (Callout Hook #1)
  39.   Dancewitme
  40.   As My Girl
  41.   Everwanting: To Want You to Want
  42.   Know These Things: Shouldn't You
  43.   The Tribute
  44.   Gravity: Pushing to Pull
  45.   Matrimony
  46.   Eachhoureachsecondeachminuteeachday: Of My Life
  47.   Ascention
  48.   Matrimony: Mabye You (Callout Hook #2)
  49.   Ascension No One's Gonna Love You, So Don't Ever Wonder
  50.   Ascension (No One's Gonna Love You, So Don't Ever Wonder) The Tribute
  51.   Playing Possum
  52.   Love You
  53.   Silently
  54.   Fortunate (Callout Hook #1)
  55.   The Lady Suite
  56.   Dub Ever Wonder (Ascension)
  57.   Uncut
  58.   Gestation: Mythos
  59.   Moonboots
  60.   Intro
  61.   Cold
  62.   Get to Know You
  63.   Mellow Sumthin the Hush
  64.   [Untitled Track]
  65.   Unsung
  66.   Lock You up N' Love Fa Days
  67.   Gotta Get: Closer
  68.   Luxury: Cococure (Callout Hook #1)
  69.   Luxury: Cococure (Callout Hook #2)
  70.   Drowndeep: Hula
  71.   Arroz con Pollo
  72.   Embrya
  73.   Fortunate (Callout Hook #2)
  74.   Cut
  75.   Now/At the Party
  76.   No Love
  77.   [Untitled]
  78.   Phoenix Rise
  79.   Justsung
  80.   We Live to Party
  81.   Brass Band by D. Imman
  82.   Primeval Flowers
  83.   Flock
  84.   Mesmerizing
  85.   Naif Scent
  86.   Skin of a City
  87.   Kayleigh
  88.   Diversion
  89.   Running from Fear