Power of Soul

R&B artist Dwele sings hooks for Kanye, releases new album.

By Craig D. Lindsey
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 9, 2008

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So Kanye West makes not one, not two, but three videos for his single "Flashing Lights," including a Spike Jonze-directed clip in which he fulfills a lot of his detractors' wishes and has a voluptuous, half-naked woman bludgeon him to death with a shovel as he's bound and gagged in the trunk of a car. But here's the truly shocking part: Dwele--the R&B singer who sang the hook on the song--is nowhere to be found in any of them.

Has the Louis Vuitton Don gotten so vain and big-headed that the people who guest on his songs can't even appear in the accompanying videos?

The hook singer himself says that's not the case. "From what I understand, he shot 'em all at the same time," Dwele says over the phone from his Detroit homebase. "But when we got the call about the video, I was in Japan. I was doing a residency at the Blue Note. It was impossible for me to leave and shoot the video with him."

If you're looking for the 30-year-old singer to spout words of hate for Ye, you're outta luck. He and West have had quite the productive working relationship. It began when West remixed one of the songs from Dwele's debut 2003 album Subject. West also called on the crooner to do hook work on a single from Common's last album, the Kanye-produced Finding Forever.

It seems Dwele (real name: Andwele Gardner) has been the go-to soul man for hip-hoppers ever since he did the hook on Slum Village's 2002 breakout single "Tainted" (one of the most underrated hip-hop singles of the past 10 years).

He's also quite indiscriminate when it comes to whom he loans his vocals. Whether it's big dogs like Kanye or Common, or an up-and-coming MC like Youngstown, Ohio, rapper Pryslezz (whose video for "More Than a Love Song," the song they did together, Dwele appears in), Dwele, a former MC himself, is always willing to add some harmony to a hip-hop track.

But enough about Dwele's contributions to other people's work--dude's got his own new album to promote. His third album Sketches of a Man came out a couple weeks ago, and it once again has the performer dispensing mellow, seductive tunes of jazz/soul/funk hybridity. It also showcases his more illustrative work.

"I called it Sketches of a Man because I felt like the album was a collection of songs that kind of made up who I am," Dwele says. "At the same time it kinda allowed me a way to get some of my artwork out there, which is something I've always wanted to do. I always wanted to incorporate my painting and my sketching with my musical artwork."

Dwele decided to release Sketches on independent label Koch. His previous two albums, Subject and 2005's Some Kinda ... , were products of major label Virgin. "I had a two-album deal with Virgin, and the two albums were up," he says. "We didn't break on any bad terms or anything like that. It was time to move on."

Dwele has already found working with an independent means more creative input for him. "I have input on the actual artwork of the album, and a little bit more creativity musically," he says. "So that's a plus already."

Dwele is continuing his mission to make sure people remember his music not only now but in the years to come. This summer fans and neophytes can catch Dwele live, as he's one of many rotating nu-soul performers doing shows around the country as part of the Heineken Red Star Soul concert series. (A show is scheduled here in September, but Raheem DeVaughn and Estelle are the headliners.)

"At the end of the day, I want people to say I produced the soundtrack of their life at this point in time," he says. "That's what I want my music to be for people."

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