Dwele (born Andwele Gardner) has been an underground favorite ever since he dropped his Rize demo a few years ago. After Rize, the Detroit native has garnered him instant respect with Slum Village, BBC DJ Giles Peterson, and the ever-so critical Okayplayer crowd.
When his debut album, Subject, dropped in 2003, it was a welcome change from a neo-soul genre that was getting stoic and complacent. Although Subject had the same laid back sound of, say, D'Angelo, something about the album was different. It was obvious that Dwele used the “concrete jungle” aspects of Detroit as his inspiration.
After the months of worldwide touring and the critical and somewhat commercial success of Subject, Dwele returns with Some Kinda…, his sophomore effort and first major label release. Instantly, his underground fanbase questioned his status after learning that he was picked up by major label. Even before the album was released, people on the message boards and in the media were already starting to throw around the term “sophomore slump.”
In fact, I read so many message board post by the naysayers that I personally came into this review not knowing what to think about Dwele's sophomore debut.
After listening to Some Kinda… numerous times, I don't see a “sophomore slump” at all. I see an artist evolving his craft. Yes, when you make the jump to the majors, you have to make an album with more “pop” sensibilities, but with Some Kinda…, that doesn???t diminish Dwele's music.
Dwele has still distanced himself from most of the ho-hum R&B that is being produced today. The album starts out with “Holla,” which is the most obvious throwback to Subject. Songs like “I Think I Love You,” and “Flap Jacks” (he's not talking about pancakes here, people) still have the signature Dwele sound, but could also qualify as a club banger.
The standout track on the album is “Wake the Baby,” a jazz collaboration with Boney James. It???s a slight departure for Dwele, but satisfying indeed.
Is Some Kinda??? as good as Subject? Since most of you know that I'm more partial to underground music, I would usually say no. But this album is different. This 26 year old musician has been able to combine the underground sounds that got him to where he is with the mainstream accessibility required for a major label release.
Some Kinda… is in stores now.