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Photo Credit: Horacio Hamlet.

Maxwell: "I Like to Say 'Black Excellence Without Borders.' Black Is Black Everywhere."

In an exclusive interview with Okayplayer, Maxwell talks about visiting Nigeria, the African influences on Embrya, and shouts out Tekno & Skepta.

Maxwell recently sat down with Okayplayer's music editor Ivie Ani to talk taking risks, social media's effects on fame, politics in R&B, evolution after cutting his afro, the cost of paying homage, and finding inspiration in Africa.

You can read the full article over at Okayplayer and check out select passages below:


On visiting Lagos:

"It's almost like you're going back in time a little bit. What an incredible place. I loved every minute of being there. In some ways, it's a little bit like Haiti," Maxwell explains, having spent part of his childhood living there. Maxwell is a first-generation American. "I was born in Brooklyn," he says, "but my mom was born in Haiti, and my dad was born in Puerto Rico."

On the afrobeat influence and cultural blends behind Embrya:

The 45-year-old musician, née Gerald Maxwell Rivera, intimated to these connecting cultures on his second album, 1998's Embrya, where he submerged afrobeat-adjacent horns into the lyricless groove on "Arroz Con Pollo" and sang in Spanish on "I'm You: You Are Me And We Are You (Pt. Me & You).

[youtube https://youtu.be/lOG23DUV1WM' expand=1] youtu.be

On using African models in his new video for "Shame":

On "Shame," the lead single from his upcoming album NIGHT, he sings about the daunting duality of social media and how to love under its regime of modernity and miscommunication. In the song's video, a striking majority of the male and female models are African. And, according to Maxwell, the continent's cultures and arts have served as a paramount creative source for him throughout his career.

On making Embrya and it not being well-received after the success of his first album:

"I had such a good thing going. I just wanted to kind of do my art thing—things that weren't necessarily even happening at the time. A lot of people in Africa got it, which I was blown away by. But a lot of people in the states didn't really get it."

On whether Embrya was ahead of its time:

"A lot of what I've heard recently is that it is, because when you look at [what's happening] now, afrobeats is becoming the most expansive thing to do. 'Embrya' was that, but it was too early. Maybe I should have waited 20 years later. I don't know."

On how visiting Africa helped him evolve personally and professionally:

"For me, it was going to Africa—going to the place that I have to say inspired 'Embrya' for me. In my home at the time, I had Senegalese art. I was always inspired by Africa because I knew that Africa was where everything came from, all the drums, all the beats, everything. We came to America and the adversity of that, the trauma of that, yielded soul music. And so that's why Embrya came to me and said, 'Make me.'"

He shouts out Skepta and Tekno as inspirational black artists from the diaspora:

"Black is very multifaceted to me. Marsha Ambrosius is from England, and she was black to me as anybody who's out here in the south. And when you look at like Glennis—that wonderful singer from Amsterdam who has a crazy range—she's almost like Whitney Houston to me. She's not from, Newark, New Jersey, but she sure feels like it. And those amazing [African] artists out there—Skepta and Tekno and all those people—for me, define black excellence. I like to say 'Black excellence without borders.' Black is black, everywhere. "

Read: Maxwell Talks Social Media, Making Politically Charged Music & What the Legacy of 'Embrya' is 20 Years Later

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Photo credits: Deeds Art

Tems Is Just Doing Her Thang In New Music Video 'Crazy Tings'

The Nigerian songstress is hell bent on taking over your summer playlist and it's getting harder to resist.

It has been a fantastic year for Tems. The Nigerian singer, producer, and songwriter achieved a platinum record for eternal banger Essence, her collaboration with fellow Nigerian superstar Wizkid, an MTV EMA nomination for Best African Artist, a billion worldwide video views, and over 350 million audio streams. Not to mention featuring on Canadian rapper Drake's blowout album Certified Lover Boy, the singer has also sold out every show she's booked.

The release of Tems's sophomore EP If Orange Was a Place solidified her place amongst the greats and it was received with gusto by fans and international audiences. A month after the release the Afrobeats singer has graced fans with a sultry music video to go along with equally as tantalizing lead single Crazy Tings. Conceptualized by the multitalented Tems, and directed by UAX, the music video follows a sensual Tems as she sings about needing space from a lying partner.

International audiences continue to rave over the songstress, with Tems delivering an impressive US TV debut on late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! this month. Essence continues to top international charts. While becoming the official song of the summer, the track peaked on the Billboard 100 Top 10, becoming the most Shazamed song in the United States and was remixed by Canadian musical heavyweight Justin Bieber, becoming the first song written by Nigerian artists to hit No.1 on Urban Radio.

Tems has been producing consistent hits since her debut in September 2020, and a year later, the singer's immense talent is securing her reputation as a world-class superstar.

Check out Tem's music video for single 'Crazy Tings' below

Tems - Crazy Tings (Official Video) www.youtube.com

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