Last updated: 12/12/2008
"Music is what I do and who I am," explains Dwele, multi-talented songwriter, producer and musician. "It's my release." And what a sweet, soulful release you will experience upon hearing his new album "Some Kinda."
The album's simple title underlines the artist's laid-back, elegant take on today's R&B music. Dwele's sophisticated sophomore collection is 13 tracks deep, including a few groove-infused interludes designed to maintain the record's sexy mood. Along with tapping his own songwriting and producing talents on nine tracks on "Some Kinda," he enlisted the expertise of fellow writer/producers Mike City (Bilal, Nappy Roots, Dave Hollister), Jay Dilla (of Slum Village and Common fame), as well as G-1 (R. Kelly, Raphael Saadiq), with whom he partnered on "Find A Way," the first single from his last album.
The music world has certainly transformed in two years since 26-year-old Dwele stepped to the plate with his debut album, "Subject." Entertainment Weekly raved that the album "spreads sultry, jazz-inflected R&B over subtle but muscular hip-hop grooves." Cornrows aligned symmetrically and Midwest cool in full effect, there's no denying that hte artist stays repping for the (313), his native Detroit, where he recently moved into a new space. "Changing scenery offers you a different mood and energy for creating," he admits. "If the sun is up and it's hot in the loft, I'm coming with a hype song. But once the sun starts to go down, it's a beautiful time to make music -- baby-making music."
Born Andwele (translated from Swahili, it means "God has brought me") Gardner, he's a legacy of the hip-hop generation, one who pays homage to and can recite the musical traditions of years past. A self-professed devotee of jazz & R&B, he's also been known to keep his ears pressed against speakers blaring the sounds of Miles, Marvin, Donny, Stevie, and on the next beat, he acknowledges the efforts of his contemporaries -- think Faith, Tweet, Carl Thomas, and even Mike Jones' hip-hop rumblings from deep down in the Dirty South. Dwele clearly understands that in music, as in life, change remains an inevitable force. "I like the fact that music constantly evolves," he notes, "because that's what keeps the game exciting."
Having begun piano lessons at age 6, Dwele later learned to play trumpet, guitar and bass before embarking on his journey as a hip-hop MC. He credits A Tribe Called Quest as his inspiration. Long story short: he recorded the demo "Rize" in his bedroom, sold the first 100 copies in a week's time and word soon spread among Detroit's hip underground set. While gigging at local hot spot Cafe Mahogany, hip-hop trio Slum Village caught wind of his sound and recruited him to sing the hook for their hit single "Tainted."
More gigs followed, as did a call from underground rapper Bahamadia, which resulted in two featured appearances on her album "BBQueen." Dwele also remixed tracks for Lucy Pearl and London's own New Sector Movement, and performed at the 2001 Detroit Electronic Music Festival and the Family Tree Tour, featuring Mystic, Phiife, Slum Village and Phat Kat. By then, he was well on his way to making a name for himself.
After releasing his debut album "Subject" to critical acclaim, he hit the road and got acquainted with the stage. After months spent touring throughout the States and Europe, Dwele, who took his trombone-playing baby bro' Antwon along, learned to appreciate the art of live performance. Aside from blending harmonies with Roy Ayers on the ever-classic jam, "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" at the Toronto Jazz Festival ("That was just one of those moments," he recalls), life on the road brought newfound joy to his craft. "I've grown a lot on stage," he admits. "Instead of dreading the thought of what might go wrong, I learned how to enjoy myself." He also learned that he should never stop writing and producing, becoming adept at staying in touch with his creativity and keeping the process moving forward.
All of these experiences, adding creative and spiritual affect, bring Dwele right back to the present, ready to turn a new masterpiece -- "Some Kinda" -- loose on his growing base of fans. The mid-tempo lead single "I Think I Love U," written and produced by Mike City, is an honest tale of feeling a bit too open on a certain young lady, sooner than anticipated. The ultra-cool jazzy "Flapjacts" has its own interesting back story. "'Flapjacks' was the first song I wrote and produced for this album. I wanted to try something that had a Southern-type bounce to it, but still had that Dwele feel," he remembers.
Produced by Jay Dilla and featuring Common and Slum Village, "Keep On" is a man's straightforward request of his woman to just keep doing what she does best, thus "making me sing this song." And then there's "A Pimp's Dream," a track originally slated for inclusion on a film soundtrack, but then Dwele decided to keep it for this album. And what exactly is a pimp's dream? "To live comfortably, but with a few extras."
So what does Dwele mean by "Some Kinda?" To have him tell it, the connotation of the album's title is akin to an open-ended statement, a personal testament of sorts. "At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you're leaving behind on this earth, what kind of love you've left for the people in your life," he concludes. "After my father's passing, I realized that by introducing my brother and me to music, he was sharing his 'Some Kinda' love. It's about discovering what your 'Some Kinda' is."