Either Detroit-based R&B dude Dwele likes old standbys, or he's one lazy bastard. Subject -- his major-label "debut" album -- is a revamped version of his actual debut, a self-produced, self-distributed 1998 release, Rize.
Having the older songs re-sequenced and spread out robs Subject of the erotic, stream-of-consciousness flow of Rize, but still, the Rize songs never lose their enticing impact. "Lady at Mahogany" finds Dwele the studly hero waxing humorously regretful over a night on the town, one in which he finds his attempt to pick up a hobo poet at a cafe cock blocked by a former conquest. ("Why is it that my ex-girl's all up in my grill?/Must be the new Colgate."). "Kick Out of You" is the sickest track on the album, a jazz excursion into mellowness highlighted by Dwele's dulcet, coy vocals. If this track ever becomes a single, it's a sure-fire baby-maker classic.
The additives, on the other hand, feel too polished, as though Dwele felt obligated to use all the fancy toys a big budget can bring. While the Rize tracks sound like Hennessy-fueled jams, the Subject tracks are nothing better (or worse) than familiar, MOR adult soul. They are neither mainstream nor underground, which isn't to say they're all lame. "Hold On" has a flourishing finesse, and the party furniture-mover "Sho Ya Right" subtly reveals Dwele's musical mission: "Just know that you've got to move to/This neo-house and soul."
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Sure, you could call Dwele another D'Angelo rip-off, just as many of you said the same of Remy Shand last year and Bilal the year before. But if you're looking for a quick neo-soul fix to tide you over until D'Angelo finally releases another album -- which will probably be in the coming, um, decade -- you won't go wrong copping this.