In the crowded reception room of a New York recording studio, Dwele recently previewed Greater Than One, his upcoming solo album. Large windows overlooked the neighborhoods of Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, giving the night a distinctive penthouse atmosphere. The hoards of swanky socialites, gallons of free Vodka Red Bulls, and moody, dimmed lighting didn’t hurt either. It wasn’t a listening session, it was clearly a listening party.
Arriving well past the gathering’s appointed beginning, on what a fellow bystander deemed “hip-hop time”, Dwele wore a shirt with rolled up sleeves and a slightly undone skinny tie. He was distinctly casual, almost entirely unaffected by the near-release of his own album and the party thrown for it. He was relaxed and cordial, but noticeably blasé. At one point he said, “we’re about three-quarters of the way through the album and I’m about three-quarters of the way through my drink.” His tone did not change.
The album, originally entitled Greater than One, Less than Three, fit the mood of the event properly with smooth, sexy, well-crafted R&B. One song, called “It Takes Two to Tango”, was described by the artist as being about “dancing horizontally”. Everybody groaned in response. Another song was apparently dubbed by a radio DJ to be a musical version of 50 Shades of Grey. The rest of the album pretty much followed suit.
Like most of Dwele’s music, the album had a subtle touch of Detriot underground hip-hop. The production was often uneasy, off-kilter, or slightly aggressive, incorporating strange, unnatural sounds and awkward beats. The bass was loud and almost always present. From these sounds Dwele built an album full of tension and release. I might call the music adventurous if it wasn’t so damn smooth. At times, Dwele showed a welcome willingness to step back and let the instrumentals take over. Towards the beginning of the album’s presentation, Dwele expressed that he intended it to have a nostalgic feel. In the ‘80s, he explained, songs had solos. Greater Than One’s tracks were fully equipped in this regard. Overall, the album had a Stevie-Wonder-inspired vibe, with plenty of layered vocals, well-placed lyrics, and creative composition. It was nothing that you wouldn’t expect from Dwele already, but by no means was it formulaic.