Maxwell Will Address 2016 Election & Police Shootings on His Upcoming 'blacksummers'NIGHT' Album
Maxwell promises he'll deliver his trilogy-ending blacksummers'NIGHT album much quicker than the seven years he took between its two predecessors. But current events -- particularly this week's U.S. presidential election and the issues it raises -- will definitely be factored in before the album is finished.
"They're in there, yeah, I have to give that up," Maxwell tells Billboard. "It's not like it's my...Well, who CAN make a What's Going On, right? I'm not saying it's my Songs In the Key of Life, but it's definitely touching on things in a way I think will be more subtle than most people would go, but the message is there. A lot of the songs are written already for NIGHT, and when these events occurred it shifted. Looking at the news every day and seeing that someone else was shot or someone shot a cop. And these are things I feel I need to address."
Maxwell falls in the Hillary Clinton camp. "She's got years of service and just working for the people, so she's got a record," he explains. But as the election is upon us he's also gained an even greater appreciation for what sitting President Barack Obama has accomplished. "He did so much to help America in ways we never imagined we needed. He did everything really well," Maxwell notes. "And with everything he faced, like the ridiculousness with the birth certificate and the disrespect that no other president ever had, and to still have this regal sense of class and the energy he has. I mean, wow, who does that?"
Maxwell began the trilogy with BLACKsummers'night, which topped the Billboard 200 in 2009 and went platinum, and followed with blackSUMMERS'night, which debuted at No. 3 in July 2016. Both albums debuted at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The final part of the trilogy should come quicker, however. "Sooner rather than later -- and sooner than you think it's gonna happen," he says. "I'm so amped by all this positive stuff that's gone on this year. This year has been an amazing year for my soul. To get [blackSUMMERS'night] out and get such positive reassurance, I've got this new... just so much more respect for what I'm involved with.
"And then when someone like Prince passes away and Muhammad Ali is gone as well, and then David Bowie is gone and Rod Temperton. You just have to look at the scope of what they've done and how many lives they've changed through their creativity. You start to feel like, 'Wow, I actually have to release more records now,' where before I didn't want people thinking, 'Oh, wow, he's so incredibly thirsty to be famous.' There's nothing worse than looking like you're gonna be there every night or whatever, like so showbiz. But now I feel really driven to get more out there."
Maxwell also has some sonic surprises in store for blacksummers'NIGHT. "It'll be a really good hybrid again," he says. "I think there's more of a live, post-electronic feel to it. I mean, I love SUMMER, but after touring and the discipline that has come behind all of that has made me want to work a lot more with people in the studio and make it a little more live, and organic." Maxwell singles out a new track called "Orphan" that was written for blackSUMMERS'night but will thematically fit better on the more topical follow-up. "I feel like in the American world we live in, we're orphans," he explains. "All of us are from other countries, all combined here. I don't want to ruin it -- you'll hear it. But I'm excited."
Maxwell is currently on break from the studio to hit the road with Mary J. Blige for the U.S. leg of their The King + Queen of Hearts tour, which began Nov. 5 in Baltimore and runs through mid December, with Ro James opening. "It's so great," Maxwell says. "Twenty years after my career started, to be able to stand next to someone like that on a tour, it's the best time on the road I've ever had in my life. She's murdering it out there [on stage] and we get to hang out. I couldn't ask for a better situation."