Dwele was born Andwele Gardner, his first name translating as "God has brought me" in the African language of Swahili. He was raised on the west side of Detroit. At a young age, Dwele was forced to cope with the murder of his father just outside of the family home, but not before his father had passed down a love for music to both him and his younger brother Antwon. Dwele started on piano at age 6, and later learned trumpet, guitar and bass. Growing up in the age of rap, though, he first became a hip hop MC inspired by A Tribe Called Quest. However, his ingrained respect for jazz and soul ushered him back to singing and playing.
Dwele recorded a demo called "Rize" in his bedroom that became a swift 313 area seller, catching the astute ears of local heroes Slum Village - most notably their world-renowned producer J Dilla (James Yancey). The group invited Dwele to sing the hook of the song "Tainted" for their album Trinity: Past, Present and Future (2002) which became an instant classic and led to further high profile work with Philadelphia female rapper Bahamadia, the all-star group Lucy Pearl (led by former Tony Toni Tone' member Raphael Saadiq) and London's New Sector Movement. It was his turn and next up were his two solo albums, Subject (2003) and Some Kinda (2005), followed by an even more impressive string of cameos and collabos.
Addressing his criteria for getting down with other artists, Dwele states, "I always wanted to work with Common so that was a natural. Slum Village is like ‘fam.' Boney is a great guy and I love his work. And Kanye' I respect so that had to go down. But with other artists that I'm not as familiar with, it's about hearing the work or being able to hear myself on it. But what I really look for is something that can take me in a direction that I haven't touched yet." Asked if that has happened recently, he continues, "I did a project with a DJ from Japan named DJ Mitsu. The music wasn't too outside of my element, but the experience was. He didn't have any concept for me. He just sent me the music and said 'go for it!' It was strange to just make a hook with no direction. The song is called 'Right Here.' Now when I go to Japan, people know the song and they know me." Coming up, Dwele plays hype man to Foxy Brown, writing and singing an old school chant/hook for a song from her long-awaited comeback CD.
Beyond music-making, Dwele has been expressing himself in other artistic areas. "I love to jump off into different things. Most recently I've been DJing in clubs. I play a lot of rare groove and Top 40. I'm getting my catalog up so I can do whatever I'm called for. I'm also dabbling in painting and sketching." Proof of the latter is showcased in the CD packaging of Sketches of a Man. His works are mural size done in acrylic in black and white and a few in color.
When the world calls, Dwele looks forward to hitting the road again. His shows have been getting better and better reviews as he's grown along the way and he plans to stretch himself even further this go ..round by playing more guitar and trumpet on stage in addition to singing and playing electric piano.
Wherever he may travel, Dwele's heart will always be in Detroit, the place that has provided him endless inspiration music-wise and life-wise. "Detroit is home," he says simply. "My family and friends are here. There are so many different vibes and elements I can pull from. Musically, it's big for soul, house, techno and hip hop. You can always go to a hole in the wall and see a performance in any of those genres. I play off of all of them."
Though outsiders are fed a steady stream of bleak pictures of Detroit's dwindling fortunes, Dwele sees the bigger picture. "Economically, it's not at a high right now. We have our grimy side but we also have our beautiful side. Downtown is coming up. I love it. I can find posh and grimy there as I need them."
Biography courtesy of Dwele.net