Maxwell began working with songwriter Leon Ware and noted guitarist Wah Wah Watson to record his debut Maxwell's Urban Hang Suitein the early 1990s. When the album was finished Columbia had doubts about its potential and shelved it for two years. The album was finally issued in 1996.
Heavily inspired by the sound of classic soul music, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suitedid not catch on with audiences until the release of its second single, "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)," which became a hit. BET's groundbreaking show, In Your Ear would introduce him to more than 58 million homes and Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite would go on to sell over 2,000,000 copies, earning 2X platinum status, and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
On October 1996, Maxwell contributed the song "Segurança (Security)" to the AIDS-Benefit Album Red Hot + Rio produced by the Red Hot Organization.
On June 15, 1997, Maxwell taped an episode of the MTV concert series MTV Unplugged in New York City, performing his own songs as well as covers of songs by Kate Bush ("This Woman's Work") and Nine Inch Nails ("Closer"). Maxwell clashed with his label about the release of an album of his unplugged session, resulting in the release of an EP instead containing seven songs.
Maxwell's second studio album, Embrya, was released in 1998. The following year, Maxwell released "Fortunate", a single written by R. Kelly and featured on the soundtrack for the 1999 film Life. The single peaked at number one on Billboard magazine's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks chart. To date, "Fortunate" is Maxwell's most successful single and was Billboard'snumber one R&B single of 1999.
Now, Maxwell's third album, was released in 2001, becoming his first No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 album chart and Billboard's R&B album chart. It featured the hit singles "Lifetime" and a studio version of "This Woman's Work", the Kate Bush song Maxwell covered during his 1997 MTV Unpluggedset.
Maxwell appeared on the 2008 BET Awards, where he performed the song "Simply Beautiful" in a tribute to Al Green.
After taking several years off, Maxwell released his latest album BLACKsummers'night on July 7, 2009. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard Albums Top 200 chart, his second album to receive that ranking. Maxwell said his reason for leaving the music industry for such a long period was "to just take time off. The music industry has so much competition and there was no rush for me." He performed his hit single "Pretty Wings" at the 2009 BET Awards. An audio clip of the song "Pretty Wings" from BLACKwas featured on Maxwell's Myspace page in spring 2008. The full single made its world premier on the Tom Joyner Morning Show on April 28, 2009, after the New School/Old School Remix by Steve "Silk" Hurley. "Pretty Wings" is also sold as a digital download on iTunes. In October 2009 — to coincide with Maxwell's autumn European tour, which included dates in Amsterdam, London and Manchester — "Bad Habits" became the album's first UK single.
Maxwell received six nominations for the 2010 Grammy Awards, winning "Best R&B Album" for BLACKsummers'nightand "Best Male R&B Vocal Performance" for "Pretty Wings." "Pretty Wings" was nominated for the "Song of the Year" which was written by Maxwell under his publishing moniker Musze.
The follow-up to BLACKsummers'night and the second installment in a planned trilogy, blackSUMMERS'night, is set to be released late 2012 but the exact date is unknown.
Maxwell's hit song "Pretty Wings" was sung on the memorial tribute to Michael Jackson.
On April 17, 2012, Maxwell announced that he and his 11 piece band will embark on a 6 day tour, MaxwellTwoNight -M2N tour 2012 - two nights in three cities, scheduled for the cities of Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center, (July 20 and July 21); Atlanta, GA - Phillips Arena (July 27 and July 28) and Newark, NJ at the Prudential Center (August 3 and August 4). Maxwell will perform his discography in its entirety. The first day of the tour Maxwell will perform songs from his first album "Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite" and second album "Embrya". The second day of the tour Maxwell will perform from his third and fourth albums "Now" and "BLACKsummer'snight" respectively. Maxwell will be debuting never performed songs from his BLACKsummer'snight trilogy. lt was also announced that proceeds from the M2N tour merchandise will support the "Obama-Biden 2012" re-election campaign.
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