Maxwell Is Above Social Media Facades And Drama: "I'm Trying To Be Music, That's All"
The singer-songwriter wants black people—especially women—to feel proud and not ashamed of their blackness.
Maxwell doesn't have anything to prove. For more than 20 years, the singer-songwriter has crafted songs that articulate the in-between emotions, lyrically and sonically, that we couldn't quite explain but knew were real because we felt them. And now Maxwell has returned to deliver the third installment, night, in the BLACKsummers’night trilogy.
Dialing in from Orlando, Maxwell was in an especially chatty mood, which is surprising since he completed show number 14 of his 50 Intimate Nights tour. (We were only supposed to speak for 15 minutes but the brother had some things to get off his chest and we talked for a half hour.) Returning to historic theaters with his supporters who were with him from his Urban Hang Suite days, Maxwell is honored those fans, once college kids, are now adults with children of their own.
The first video from Maxwell's latest installment is "Shame." Shot in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York Maxwell wanted to pay tribute to women who look like his mother. Models such Maria Borges and more walked the streets of BK in high fashion unashamed of their blackness.
But when you get past the stunning visual provided by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, you'll hear Maxwell is over it. He's done with social media and the lack of nuance. He's tired of the complications it causes in relationships and the lack of authenticity running rampant.
Maxwell had some things to get off his chest and for 30 minutes, VIBE just let him vent. Check out the video and interview below.
VIBE: Why did you decide to shoot the video in New York?
Maxwell: Well, I’m from Brooklyn and night is the conclusion to the BLACKsummers’night trilogy and I wanted to take it back to where I’m from. I wanted the places where I remember growing up to be featured in the video. The train stations where I used to have to take to go to high school and to get around, that was very important to me. Not to mention to celebrate black beauty. Black beauty to me is my mom and my mom is that. And I find that black beauty is seldom celebrated in high fashion and we were very specific on doing that.
I watched the video five times and that’s the first thing I noticed that all the women are either brown or dark-skinned. It seemed very intentional.
Yeah, it was. My mother is just as dark if not darker. That’s what I grew up seeing as beautiful. For me, apart from my own upbringing, I think it’s very important for women to understand that beauty’s beauty. The video is about black women not feeling shame about their black features, or having short hair or long hair or whatever kind of hair or whatever you want to do. Your beauty is amazing and you should celebrate it and feel no shame within that beauty.
Is there any symbolism behind you being fully clothed in the tub? Or was that just a dope shot?
I just didn’t want to be naked. [Laughs] I’m 45-years-old. I don’t need to do that anymore and the directors felt I could be in the tub that way, so I went with it. Thankfully, if I wanted to get into a birthday suit situation, I'd be in the gym. [Laughs] I can do that but I don’t necessarily feel like I should promote that to sell a song. As you can see from all the women, none of them were scantily clad. It wasn’t about that. It was about the mystery behind what you can’t see and that’s what makes it sexy, I think.
Let's talk about this bar in the song. You unlock my phone you look through all my messages/You lurking at my life from a distance/You were checking out the comments I was lovin/Add letters subtracting numbers jumping to conclusion.
This doesn’t connect to the video. This is the song. Good visuals do not copy the lyrics letter by letter. The song exists by itself because when you’re on the radio you’re not seeing the video. I feel like the best visuals are playing off of the song but creating a new narrative and the best songs just exist alone. Would you like me to explain the song?
Yes. Please do.
I feel like in this age of social media it’s difficult to keep a relationship going because there's always someone to like or dislike a photo. There’s no nuance in social media. At all. And at the same time, someone's social media account is easily hackable as we can see with a particular thing that occurred in America. And I’ll say no more about that. Do you understand what I mean?
Are you referring to Russia’s interference with the election?
Exactly. So it’s a parallel universe basically where a lot of people can exist and pretend it’s real. If you see a tweet by someone, how do you know that person wasn’t hacked before WorldStar and TheShadeRoom start blowing your a** up? How do you know? It’s all an illusion and the other illusion is visual and how women look. When we’re looking at women taking the best photos from the best angles with the best filters in the world what happens is the youth they’re lost because they don’t realize what they’re looking at isn’t real. That it’s the person at the best. It’s the person with the best filter. I remember a time where you could move on to another chapter in your life and no disrespect to the people of the past but you’re not there anymore. I’m not in kindergarten anymore.
Right, but you can block people.
When you’re someone who’s in my situation, I can’t afford to create a private account because someone will create another account and pretend to me. This is something I’ve been dealing with for the last three years. I’ve had people make fake pages and solicit fans for money, for fake VIP greetings and all of a sudden I’m looking like I’m the one who did this to you. I look like the one who wrote something crazy on Twitter and before these publications pick up the phone and call a publicist or call you, they run with the story. Then you’ve got 100,000 people throwing you hate and believing that this is who you are.
Then they have you looking crazy out here.
In my opinion, they got themselves out here looking crazy.
They do look crazy because they’ve gone to such an extent to create a fake page and impersonate you, but it does kind of leave a sour taste in certain fans’ mouths.
Not to mention there are sites built on the problems of celebrities and the problems of people. My verified account has been hacked at least 300 times. And this is what "Shame" the song is about. “Add letters subtracting numbers jumping to conclusion."
I noticed you’re letting your hair be free. Will you be returning to your Afro days or are you just seeing where it goes?
I’m going to do what feels right because at the end of the day I’m not trying to be a hairstyle or cut or a look. I’m trying to be music. That’s all I’m trying to be. That’s all image and image fades but the songs last forever. I am not interested in being a trend. I do not want to be a labeled artist who does this type of music because as soon as you do that you play yourself out, another wave comes, and you’re gone and you’re chasing that wave. I don’t like to chase waves.