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Dwele on Corktown Living, Crab Mentalities and Saxappeal

The Detroit-based singer talks to B.L.A.C. before his upcoming Max M. Fisher concert on April 27, 2013

With a career spanning more than a decade, Detroit native singer Dwele is another reputable Motor City export and testament that "when it's made in Detroit, it's made to last."

Dwele earned respect by the underground hip-hop scene early on thanks to his early collaborations with J. Dilla's Slum Village. Now 35, he has melted the hearts of neo-soul fanatics with hits like "Find A Way," and dabbled in the music of materialism with a high-profile rap stars such as Kanye West on "Flashing Lights." Dwele lends his golden voice so often in such myriad genres that even his most die-hard fans find themselves rediscovering his talents where they'd least expect.

Partnering with British-based Marsha Ambrosius and Cleveland's Conya Doss, Dwele will be one-third of a neo-soul union for Saxappeal, an urban soul-styled concert at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 27 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center. To talk concerts and community, B.L.A.C. Detroit met up with Dwele at one of his favorite neighborhood spots, the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit.

Living in Corktown, you are in the thick of Detroit development. How is the city treating you?

I love it. I love what downtown Detroit is becoming. It seems like everything is kind of spiraling out from this area (downtown) as far as the rebirth of the city. I've been here for six years.

[Dwele added, on a sunny day, he could be spotted riding his bike like the rest of metro Detroiters.]

Detroit is always excited that you are coming to the city in concert with another artist, not realizing you live here. Ever think about doing a solo showcase in Detroit?

I don't recall doing too many solo events here in Detroit. I did that early on. I may have had one or two back when I first started. But right now I am doing shows in conjunction with other artists.

Your last album was "Greater Than One." Can we anticipate another album this year?

I am still promoting that album. It is still new to me. Still moving units. It is still new to a lot of people.

We are looking at next year for the next release.

Do you have a direction in mind for your next album?

I have no idea. I never know what I am stepping into until I sit down and start creating. I have no predetermined mode or anything. I just go in there and work and whatever happens, happens.

Where do you get your inspiration for such a soulful sound?

Inspiration comes from a lot of different places. It can be from situations I have been in and situations that I want to be in.

So you have a lot of material from growing up on Detroit's west side?

Oh, yeah. [Smiling]

It seems like a lot of people put you in the category of neo-soul. Are you comfortable with that?

I understand that people have to categorize. And when I look at other artists that they categorize as neo-soul, I take it as a compliment. Of course, if it were up to me, I'd just call it soul music.

I feel like I am working with the same soul they were working with back in the day, just different toys and different instruments.

What can you say about metro Detroit supporting local artists like yourself?

It is weird. On one hand, I personally know and see a lot of support coming from the city. But in the same, I know a lot of artists, and there are certain situations where I feel like they are not getting the support like they should. There are other cities that uplift their artists and the artists help to uplift the city. Sometimes we fall into that crabs-in-a-barrel mentality. I wish we could get around that to help build our city up.

What can you tell me about the group you are performing with?

They approached me about it. I've done shows with both of them before, with Conya [Doss] as well as Marsha [Ambrosius]. I like that we are coming together here in my hometown.

What can we expect at this performance?

I've got a lot of albums to cover. So I am going to try to do something from all the albums. Plus, I have to cover the singles, the stuff that everyone knows. But I think I enjoy doing the more melodic and jazz-influenced songs. I like to get people up and moving.

On Friday, May 31 at Belle Isle Park, Dwele will perform after the first day of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix races. Visit the B.L.A.C. Detroit event calendar for more information.

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