BROOKSVILLE — If Brandon Maxwell is truly seeking a path to hip-hop stardom, he certainly has chosen a road less traveled.
Maxwell has opted to make music that moves churches, not clubs, and he's trying to get his start in Hernando County, a place not noted for a thriving hip-hop scene. He seems especially driven by the possibility of being a pioneer.
"It's a blessing to know that I'm different," said Maxwell, 23, from Spring Lake. "I can do everything that God says I can do. I can do more than what anyone else has ever done."
Maxwell will embark on his off-the-beaten-path approach as one of several featured acts at tonight's concert at the Hernando County Fairgrounds. The show starts at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center and features other local artists including the Cutti Boiz, Omee-Z, Cappo di Cappi and Juice City.
The concert has received a fair amount of local buzz in no small part because of the involvement of Maxwell and the place where he works during the day, Brother's Barbershop at 626 Jefferson St. in Brooksville.
Ismail Rasheed, who opened the shop about two years ago after moving from New York, has helped with the planning and promotion of the show, hoping that it becomes the first of a regular series of concerts.
"The barbershop is a big promotional base," Rasheed said. "And this is a big thing for this community. I feel like we have a responsibility to make this something really positive. And next time, we want it to be even bigger."
Having also promoted shows in a major hip-hop hub like New York, Rasheed has come to appreciate the folksier appeal of putting on concerts in rural Hernando.
"People here are more open to doing things together, seeing other people succeed … and that goes a long way," Rasheed said. "I think Brooksville needs to have someone come out of here, out of the hood, and make it big. If that happens, you're really going to see things take off."
Maybe that could be someone like Maxwell, who plays the drums, produces music tracks for himself and other local artists and has only recently started to think of himself as a rapper.
Maxwell said he grew up in a musical family, with a father who plays the drums, a mother who sings in church, an uncle who played guitar and a grandfather who was proficient in so many instruments that he was dubbed "Maestro."
Like most other hip-hop fans, Maxwell grew up admiring the talents of bigger names like Jay-Z, Nas and Common. But gradually, as Maxwell started to rededicate himself to his Christian roots, he started to question the substance of the lyrics — theirs and his own.
"Some of these guys, they were saying some foul things," Maxwell said. "I can't — won't — judge anyone. That's not me. But I started thinking about how I can do this for God's grace."
Now, Maxwell hopes to reach people with thoughtful lyrics and music influences that run the gamut from old-school R&B, jazz and gospel. He dreams of someday making heads nod and feet tap in church.
To that end, after leaving the barbershop for the day, Maxwell spends about three to four hours a night working on his first full-length album. He plans to call it "Positive Note."
Some of the music from that album will be part of his three-track set tonight at the fairgrounds.
"I don't really know what's going to happen," Maxwell said. "You may nod your head a little bit. But I just want people to listen and get in contact with the word. Hopefully, we'll all have a good time."
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.