If I shut my eyes tightly, I can recall the moment when I first heard Dwele’s “Find a Way.” It takes me back to the early 2000s, where neo-soul dominated the airwaves and donning oversized two-piece Levi jean outfits was a fashion must. Amidst the cultural blend of a futuristic ‘70s vibe and the laid-back demeanor, this song emerged. It was a tune that embodied the essence of Detroit’s ballroom culture while oozing a sense of sophistication and allure. “Find a Way” had captivated us all and instilled anticipation for Dwele’s debut album, which was well-deserved.
On May 20, 2003, “Subject” was unveiled to the world. With the album’s serene neo-soul harmonies and soul-stirring lyrics, “Subject” immediately became a classic in its genre and thrust Dwele into the forefront of the music industry. Its themes ranged from navigating the complexities of one’s early 20s to dealing with the ebb and flow of love and loss, and searching for deeper meanings in life.
“Subject” features Dwele’s signature sound, a blend of jazz, R&B and hip-hop, which he honed while growing up in Detroit. Dwele took charge of the majority of the production for “Subject,” with additional assistance from G-1, Dwayne Bastiany, Jake and the Phatman, Pete Kuzma, Joint Custody and Ronald “Ron E.” Estill, who also collaborated with Timothy Maynor as the executive producer. Slum Village made a guest appearance on the album.
A critical and commercial success, “Subject” earned Dwele a legion of fans and praise from music critics. The album peaked at number 108 on the Billboard 200 chart and earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for the song “Find a Way.”
Born and raised on the west side of Detroit, Dwele is a multi-talented artist who has made a name for himself as a singer, songwriter, rapper, producer and DJ. His childhood was infused with music as his father taught him how to play the piano, and he later expanded his repertoire to include the trumpet, guitar and bass.
After the passing of his father, Dwele channeled his grief into his music, which he referred to as “Therapy.” His passion for music was evident in the emotional depth and introspection of his work. Although “Subject” is his debut studio album, Dwele’s first project was a demo tiled the “Rize” which he sold out of the truck of his car.
In a candid interview, Dwele revealed a surprising anecdote about his early days in the music business. When he first pressed 100 copies of his work, he was elated and thought that was a considerable feat. However, to his astonishment, he sold out in just one week! This unexpected success was a game-changer for Dwele, and it signaled that he was destined for greatness.
As word of Dwele’s talent began to spread, it eventually reached the ears of Detroit hip-hop heavyweights Slum Village and J Dilla. They recognized his potential and invited him to collaborate on several projects, including the unforgettable single “Tainted.” Dwele’s soulful vocals added a layer of depth and emotion to the song, making it an instant classic and further elevating his status in the music industry.
Thanks to his unique sound and undeniable talent, Dwele quickly became a rising star in the music world. His collaborations with Slum Village and J Dilla not only solidified his connection to the Detroit hip-hop scene, but also paved the way for his future success.
Dwele’s undeniable talent was once again on display when he was featured on Kanye West’s hit single “Flashing Lights.” This collaboration catapulted him onto bigger stages and into the spotlight, where he received widespread recognition for his incredible vocals and unique style.
With “Flashing Lights,” Dwele proved that he was more than just a local sensation, but a true force to be reckoned with in the music industry. His contribution to the song helped elevate it to new heights, and his undeniable talent shone through with each note he sang.
Thanks to this collaboration with West, Dwele gained a whole new level of exposure and solidified his position as one of the most exciting and talented artists of his generation. He continued to push boundaries and explore new creative avenues, establishing himself as a true icon of neo-soul and R&B music.
Following the success of “Subject,” Dwele went on to release four more studio albums, solidifying his place in the music industry and gaining a loyal fanbase that continues to support his music, tours and collaborations with other artists.
One of the standout elements of his projects is Dwele’s smooth and soulful vocals, which are perfectly complemented by live instrumentation. The use of horns, guitar and piano throughout the album adds a warm and organic element to the music that sets it apart from other R&B albums giving his project individuality, which often relied heavily on electronic beats and production.
Dwele’s musical versatility shines throughout his discography, including his album “Some Kinda,” where he effortlessly navigates between songs like “Weekend Love” and “My Lova.” From the upbeat and catchy “I’m Cheatin'” to the introspective and emotional “Open Your Eyes,” Dwele proves that he can handle a variety of topics and styles with ease.
However, it is clear that the foundation of his success can be traced back to his debut album, “Subject.” Songs like “Hold On” and “A.N.G.E.L.” showcase Dwele’s ability to craft soul-stirring ballads with powerful lyrics that resonate with listeners.
Twenty years later, “Subject” remains a beloved album among neo-soul fans and a testament to Dwele’s talent as a singer, songwriter and musician. Its timeless sound and relatable lyrics continue to inspire new generations of fans and serve as a reminder of the power of music to connect us all.