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Real Life Stories
By: Angela Douglas
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He's got SOUL. Getting our groove on with a soul brother who undresses a diva with just his voice

Dwele is crème de la crème of soul. Oozing sensuality, his poetry is thick and sweet like molasses intertwined with hip-hop, jazz, soul beats which touch your spirit. If that isn’t enough, this Detroit homeboy can now boast he has his own set of McDonald’s commercials. With four albums behind him, the Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist returned to his second home and favourite intimate spot to promote W.ants, W.orld, W.omen (W.W.W.) to ravenous divas.

 

How does it feel to be back in London?
I love London and enjoy the Jazz Café I love that it’s an intimate spot, and the crowd are always great there. 
 
 
I had the pleasure of seeing you during your 2003 “Subject” era and I was impressed by your energy, personality and ability to draw your audience into your sensuality leaving them feeling warm, satisfied but wanting a tiny bit more! 
Word! Nice. Performing is a lot of fun [Divas it’s definitely worth taking a peek next time he’s in town].

 
You have a very unusual name, Andwele, and it’s Swahili for “God has brought me.” How and why did your parents choose an African name for you?
My mother actually said that I chose my own name. When she was pregnant with me she was looking through an African name book and every time she said, “Andwele” out loud I started kicking. 
 
 
Do you think it’s shaped you as a man? 
I do. I definitely think we take on the meaning of our names. I believe in the power of speak, so whatever you speak into reality that’s what’s gonna happen. If people call you by your name you take on the shape of that name, because other people speak that as reality.
 
 
Why did you shorten it for your stage name, Dwele?
When I got signed I didn’t really have a lot of time to think about what I wanted to name myself. I just went back to what everybody called me for short, which was Dwele. That’s what my mother and fam(ily) call me. Prior to that - I went through a lot of different names when I was rhyming. They were pretty funny but after a while they all sounded a little silly, so I decided to stick with what was naturally me.    
 
 
You’ve been quoted as saying, “Music is your medicine.” Do you think your pains and traumas have helped you create deeper/ emotional music?
Out of all the emotions - unfortunately pain is one of the strongest so a lot of creativity, not just music, but the best work comes from pain. I definitely think it plays a part in the creative process.
 
 
Can you reveal any of those traumas?
I’d say one that really kind of pushed me into music and creating was my Fathers passing. It was sudden, no one saw it coming and it was at a time in my life when I was really young. I did have people I could speak to but I was too young to know it at the time, so I turned to music and I learnt how to put my emotions into music. 
 
 
While researching I found you have remixed songs for UK rapper TY and Lucy Pearl, collaborated with Kanye West, Drake and of cause Slum Village. How do you feel knowing your material is available on YouTube and other sites for easy access to illegally download? 
It’ just part of the game (laughs), so you have to embrace it. Nothing is gonna change. There’s no way to keep it from being on YouTube, so you kind of look at it like once it’s out in the world YouTube will have a hold of it and it will be available to everybody. I don’t personally like it, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
 
 
I also discovered your down-right SEXY, CREAMY, SOPHISTICATED, STEAMY McDonalds Commercials. Oh my gosh! 
That’s so funny (laughs).
 
 
Oh it touched me darling, it touched me!
Laughs. 
 
 
You’ve said, “I think it was the sexiest damn commercial ever created in the history of McDonalds Commercials,” and I TOTALLY agree [Now, Divettes if you haven’t seen it your missing a spine tickling experience that the ladies in the office couldn’t get enough of].
Yeah, that’s something. I appreciate it. 
 
 
The UK McDonald’s ads are nothing like that. Have you seen any UK McD ads?
No, I might have to come get a little work in over in the UK. Definitely!
 
 
How did it feel being the “voice” of such a huge brand?
I think it was good; it was actually one of my goals. I’ve always wanted to do a commercial. I didn’t necessarily know it was gonna be McDonalds but when the opportunity came I definitely jumped at it. And like I said, I set out to make the coolest McDonalds commercial ever made. I said if I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it my way, and do it right. I ended up doing 3 or 4 TV and radio ads. A few people didn’t agree. They didn’t like it as they said I’d, “Sold out,” ‘cause I did a commercial for coffee.
I don’t know… it seems like when you’re a soul artist you should stay in your box. You know, I don’t think people would have had a problem if it was Chris Brown or Usher but the fact that it was Dwele, and I’m underground, they had a problem with that. I saw a lot of posts where people were saying, “Dwele’s killing people,” you know what I’m saying, as it’s McDonalds. But I’m looking at it saying, it’s just a coffee! (laughs).  You’re probably drinking a coffee while you’re writing this blog - you know what I’m saying!
 
 
 
It would only be a sell out if you actually hated coffee.  
Exactly, exactly! I enjoy coffee. But it tripped me out as a lot of people and artists are getting a lot of money for speaking about liquor in their songs. Nobody is patrolling when they are putting Hennessy in their song, but I get knocked for doing coffee. I knew I was gonna get that from the jump, but overall, I think it was a good turnout.
 
 
You enjoy photography, video and drawing. I remember you taking a pic on your cell phone of the audience. It made us laugh and also made us realise you were as excited as we were to see you. How big is your audience picture collection?
(Laughs) Argh, I’ve stopped doing that after a while, as it got to a point when I was on stage and people would call during performances (laughs) so I got to thinking it wasn’t the best idea to perform with a cell phone. But, before I stopped I did get a few audiences during my European tour and the States tour, but after the first tour it was over.   
 
 
What other kind of photography do you enjoy? 
A lot of friends call me to take pictures for them as they know I can get the job done. I do people and a lot of still life, but I shoot pretty much what I feel at the time. Lately, I’ve been more into videography. 
 
 
Would you ever host an exhibition or publish a book?
I would like to one day with the photography and the sketches. That would be a lot of fun. I actually wanted to do that for the last album, “Sketches of A Man”.  I intended to create sketches and do a showing of the sketched art to fit the performance, but unfortunately the schedule got too busy and I didn’t have time to create the sketches. 
 
 
The “W.orld” section from “W.W.W” addresses the current economic climate and you make a few digs at US President Obama. How do you think the US has changed under a black man? – As you mention job cuts, less money, gas price rises, prejudice, etc.
Actually that song “Our People” was more geared toward Bush (President) when he was under control. The song I wrote relating to Obama was “How I Deal.” I definitely think that Obama is doing a good job as the first black President. Changes are slow but a change is happening. You can see that the economy is on the up. It’s gonna take a lot longer than 4 or 8 years to get it back to what it used to be, but it’s defiantly on the up.  
 
 
I thought you didn’t like Obama!
No, no I definitely dig Obama.   
 
 
Which Dwele do you prefer? Sexy Soulster (Subject), Jazz Cool Cat (Some Kinda), Hip Hop Homeboy (Sketches of a Man) or Social Commentator (W.W.W.)?
(Laughs) I prefer all of them because one of them is nothing without all of them (laughs). I think it varies from day to day I have a lot of different personalities in me (laughs) not in the crazy way but I’m made up of a lot of different layers. 
 
 
Has being Dwele ‘the artist’ exceeded your expectations or are there things you are still yet to achieve or obtain – e.g., The Aston Martin you mention in “I Wish”?
Yeah (laughs), I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. You know, putting music out, I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do. I do have a lot of goals and comforts that I aspire for. That’s really what keeps me working, ‘cause once you’ve made it to point Z there’s nothing else to do. So I always want to strive.
 
 
Check out:www.dwele.com

 

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