Neo-soul pioneer Maxwell will be giving — and receiving — some hometown love when his “50 Intimate Nights” tour hits Beacon Theatre on Sunday. The Brooklyn-born, Manhattan-based crooner (full name: Gerald Maxwell Rivera) also has an album, “NIGHT,” due early next year that will complete the trilogy that began with 2009’s “BLACKsummers’night.”
Here, the 45-year-old bachelor shares his thoughts on getting political, honoring black women and why he still gets stage fright.
You got more political this year on your single “We Never Saw It Coming.” What do you think of an artist’s responsibility in taking a stand in these times?
I think it can be important to do it if you’re woke enough and aware and at a state in your life where you feel the responsibility. I personally don’t frown upon artists who don’t feel like they need to do it at a certain time. My big concern is speaking for the moment that I am in, the mindset that I’m in. As a 45-year-old man, I care about my fellow man, I care about the kids that are coming after me. I want to create a foundation that allows them to be as free as they wanna be, to create whatever they want to do in a world that is not facing the threat of nuclear disaster.
You participated in a Washington, DC, concert in October protesting Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination because of the sexual-misconduct allegations against him. What moved you to do that?
I was on the road, and I got a call about it, and of course it meant a lot to me to be involved as someone who could not even have the career that I have were it not for women. Women have supported me musically and creatively throughout the years when none of it made sense to anybody [else].
Your new “Shame” video salutes black women, and you’ve always had a very special connection with them.
I came from the darkest and loveliest woman in the world: my mother. She’s from Haiti. “Shame” speaks to colorism in a very specific way. It’s a celebration of black beauty and how it’s not necessarily what we deem to be the epitome of beauty, even though it is. A lot of colorism goes on in our industry . . . when it comes to dark-skinned women. Their beauty is undervalued at times.
You were a big part of the neo-soul movement with your 1996 debut, “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite.” What do you think of that emergence looking back on that today?
“Urban Hang Suite” sat on the shelf for a year. What people thought black people were at the time was hip-hop, bubble jackets, gold chains . . . Neo-soul is a label, but soul is soul. We’re all just borrowing from a [tradition] that began so long ago, even as far back as Africa.
Is there more pressure playing in front of the hometown crowd?
Man, I’m always scared! When you’re nervous, it means you care. Before I even get onstage, there’s a process of stage fright that I can’t even describe in words. But I know that I am amongst family.
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