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The mood-setting first single from Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, “‘Til the Cops Come Knockin’,” caused a ripple in R&B/jazz circles in early ’96, but the success of “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” had folks all over the land of Top 40 sitting up and taking notice—months after the album’s release. It’s cool, though—the East Brooklyn-bred singer claims he strategically planned his gradual ascent to stardom: step on the scene with a flicker, then explode. That blast still reverberates. “Ascension” launched this nonconformist across the airwaves, and as a result, his current tune, “Sumthin’ Sumthin’,” is getting decent rotation—but not too much—and that’s how Maxwell likes it. Commercialism isn’t his thang. Amid the mass of R&B generics, this thematically unified album has the right assortment of hits to become a classic. Sisters will be delighted with this Afroed brother, whose lyrics do a refreshing 180 from the tired-ass “let me sex you better than your man can” garbage. Maxwell proves himself a soul savior in this era of oversampled “booty” music. From the groove-heavy “Welcome” to the pensive lullaby “Lonely’s the Only Company (I & II),” this shamelessly romantic blend keeps your head nodding and emotions reeling with a potent mix of earthy percussion and old-school croonings. Although the proposal ballad “Suitelady” doesn’t boast the vocal intensity displayed on the rest of the album, it is happily tolerated given the phenomenal quality of the remaining tracks. Bro’ does not front. Hang Suite molds fireside romance with bona fide spirituality, making for some reflective, get-you-in-the-mood listening. —Deborah Rouse