Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite - Background

Background

After receiving a low-cost Casio keyboard from a friend, Brooklyn, New York-native Maxwell began composing material at age 17. Raised in the borough's East New York-section, Maxwell's previous musical experience included his beginnings as a singer in the congregation of his Baptist church, which had become an integral part of his life after the death of his father in a plane crash. Already a fan of what he described as "jheri curl soul", which was the trademark of early 1980s R&B acts such as Patrice Rushen, S.O.S. Band and Rose Royce, Maxwell began to teach himself to play a variety of instruments. According to him, the R&B of the early 1980s contained "the perfect combination of computerized instrumentation with a live feel", and that the genre's dynamics later became lost due to the influence of hip hop on R&B. Despite facing ridicule from classmates for being shy and awkward, he progressed and continued to develop his musical abilities.

At 19, Maxwell began performing throughout the New York club circuit while supporting himself by waiting tables during the day. He was able to gain access to a 24 track recording studio and started to record songs for a demo tape, which he circulated among his friends. The demo engendered interest, and his official debut concert performance at Manhattan nightclub Nell's drew a crowd. During the next two years, Maxwell wrote and recorded over three hundred songs and played frequently at small venues throughout New York City. Maxwell's performances continued to draw interest and increase the buzz about him, and he was called "the next Prince" by a writer from Vibe magazine who attended one of his shows. After earning a considerable reputation, Maxwell signed a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1994. He adopted his middle name as a moniker out of respect for his family's privacy.

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