Album Review: Dwele - Sketches of a Man

There’s something about an R&B singer wearing ice and a fitted cap that just screams “I wanted to be a rapper but I can’t rap,” and their albums usually say the same thing. Sure, the thug crooners have a certain appeal, but it’s getting difficult to find a straight-up Soul Brotha who still wants to sing about love instead of being on parole.Don’t judge the album by its cover; Dwele is more D’Angelo than Dipset and Sketches of a Man is a true Soul album. Having left Virgin Records for Koch, Dwele has taken advantage of the additional freedom to make an album he probably intended to from the beginning. Sketches is less slick and mainstream than his previous attempts, and therefore provides a sound that isn’t easy to come by.The bulk of the writing and producing comes from Dwele himself, giving Sketches a unified sound and clear direction. With twenty tracks, the album rambles on a bit, but there are a good number of well-executed songs mixed in. The Neo-Soul sounds of Detroit and Philly support “Blow Your Mind” and “A Few Reasons” for a vibe that’s relaxed but not boring. He gets a little more Pop-ish on “If You Want To” but still remains true enough to his sound to satisfy.About a third of the tracks are musical interludes under two minutes that hint at decent songs that might have been (“You Won’t Be Lonely”), but mostly just clutter the disc as a whole. They often just seem self-indulgent and Dwele would’ve been better served extending some of these to actual songs to replace weaker parts of the album.Dwele mostly sticks to original material but does cover Bobby Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes” (also the basis for Common’s “The Light”). He adds little to the song itself, recreating the original almost down to the adlibs, but there’s no reason to tamper with what works. Some of the best covers are simply well done performances of the originals and Dwele’s effort fits into that category.While we’ve been busy debating Hip-Hop’s death, we’ve treated Soul like an old lady who dies alone in her apartment before being eaten by her many cats. Dwele isn’t likely to change that on his own, but Sketches of a Man does its job by waving a flag for the genre and trying to prove that there’s still life in the old girl yet. Check out Dwele's video for "I'm Cheatin'"