Soul stylist Dwele has no problem with the "baby-making music I've been giving people" since he started releasing albums nationally in 2003. But he had a more ambitious vision for his new "W.ants. W.orld. W.omen. (W.W.W.)," which is due out on June 29.
"I felt like it's my fourth album, and I wanted to kind of do something a little different," Dwele (real name Andwele Gardner) tells Billboard.com. To that end, "W.W.W." is divided into three sections: "W.ants.," which he describes as his hedonistic, materialistic, tongue-in-cheek "alter-ego;" the socio-politically focused "W.orld.;" and "W.omen.," which is "the feel-good music for the ladies." Dwele was particularly happy to get more topical fare on the album, a path he says he'd like to delve into even deeper in the future.
"It's sort of like my audio time capsule of what we've been going through over the past few years," explains Dwele. "I feel like, as soul artists, we need to capture the climate the way Donny (Hathaway) did, the way Marvin (Gaye) did back in their day, so 15 years from now people listening to the album can know what people were feeling and what was actually going on in 2010 and the years before it."
"W.W.W." also finds Dwele -- who's cameoed with Kanye West, Common, Roy Ayers, Lucy Pearl and others -- using more guests than ever before, including fellow Motor City denizens Slum Village and Monica Blair, Raheem DeVaughn, rapper David Banner and DJ Quik. "I really kind of shied away from having guests on my previous albums," he explains, "because I really wanted people to understand who I was as an artist, and I didn't want to cloud that by bringing in so many guests the way some artists do. I feel like we really accomplished that over the past three albums and that people know who I am and know what to expect from me, and now I'm to the point where I can start bringing in different artists and...give something to everybody."
But is he worried that throwing so many curve balls on "W.W.W." might mess too much with those expectations? "I think it's a good thing and a bad thing," Dwele says. "You don't want to veer too far left and throw off your fan base...but at the same time you want to be able to stretch out. You don't want to be pigeonholed into creating the same album every time out. I think we did a really good job of stretching out but not stretching too far out to the point where we're turning people off."
Dwele has been stretching in other directions as well. His role as the voice of McDonald's McCafe coffee campaign has been "very impactful," even if "people got jokes; you say something and they say, 'I'm lovin' it!' But for the most part it's cool." He's also been venturing into music video production and hopes to makes clips for each of the songs on "W.W.W." as well as continue work on a feature film he's been pursuing for a few years.
And he's still in demand as a guest, most recently following up his appearance on West's "Flashing Lights" with a spot on his new single, "Power." "I was actually working on ('W.W.W.') when I got that call to come work with him," Dwele recalls, "and there's no way I'm gonna turn down Kanye and Hawaii. We flew out a couple days later, and it's always great working with Ye because he knows exactly what he wants. He had his concept and how he wanted it to sound, and this time around I added a few things -- a few harmonies here and there, a couple sprinkles but nothing overbearing. We really wanted to keep it natural and kind of minimal."