SLUM VILLAGE with DWELE performing as part of the TORONTO URBAN MUSIC FESTIVAL with D-Sisive, Brassmunk, Graph Nobel, Butta Babies, Eye + Eye, Masia One, Arcee and others, at the CNE Bandshell (Exhibition Place), Sunday (August 25). Noon. Free. www.tumf.net
When soulful upstart Dwele steps forward on the CNE Bandshell stage to sing his part on the current Slum Village single, Tainted, the Detroit hiphop crew will likely have a good idea what was going through Little Richard's mind the night his then unknown guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, took his first (and last) extended solo.
You can bet that as soon as Dwele starts crooning, the absence of Slum Village's production ace, JayDee, won't seem like such a big concern. Despite the fact that Dwele is still largely unknown outside of Michigan, the singer/songwriter is clearly a star, and it's just a matter of time before the depth of his talent becomes common knowledge. It's no coincidence that the popular Tainted single, one of only two joints on Slum Village's Trinity (Capitol) disc featuring Dwele, happens to be the standout track.
"Slum Village is a great group, and they're making really good music," says Andwele "Dwele" Gardner over the phone from his downtown Toronto hotel room.
"They've got a hot album on their hands and a breaking single in Tainted that would've been just as hot even if I wasn't on it. I'm just thankful they chose me to be on the single and a part of their show. I'm not trying to take anybody's shine. We're all just doing what we can to make Detroit blow up."
Although Dwele has been creating his own music at home since the fifth grade and performing R&B and hiphop since his early teens, the multi-talented producer/composer -- who met Slum Village at Detroit's Mahogany Café while he was playing Fender Rhodes in Planet Pluto -- has only been singing seriously for the last five years.
"Most of the music I'd record on my own was hiphop, but then I started doing some groove tracks and singing over them. When I gave tapes of the songs I'd been working on to people I knew, they'd always tell me they liked the singing joints best.
"So I put together a cassette of mostly vocal-based tracks -- just to see how people would take to it -- which became my Rize tape. I had 100 copies made, and they sold out in a week. That was back in 98, so it's pretty crazy that people are still discussing that tape on the Internet."
The songs on Dwele's self-produced Rize tape will be the basis of his forthcoming solo debut, which Virgin plans to release early next year. Thanks to the Slum Village connection, there's already a buzz.
"I tried to bring in a more soulful vibe, but like the Rize tape, there'll still be a strong hiphop component. For a while we were looking for a single. We took a couple of trips out of town and I worked with people in L.A. and I think we've got it now. We just have to mix.
"It's been a long process with, you know, the typical label hold-ups, but it's also been a really good learning experience."