DanteWuzHere, a Union City-based musician, is making waves with his debut song, “Heaven Help Us.” It’s the first release he’s had as a solo artist under the DanteWuzHere moniker.
The song is a flurry of genres near and dear to his heart, Dante said. Gigantic bass swells, electronic percussion and string sections provide an anthemic backdrop to distorted guitars.
Dante’s vocals are the centerpiece in his written works. His lifelong discipline shines through in the emotional transpositions, melodies, and harmonies. He’s obsessed with production and pushes his voice to its limits.
“Heaven Help Us” will be included on an EP titled “Paradiso.” Dante promises a flurry of soul, hip hop, R&B, rock, and pop in a collage of soundscapes.
To say he’s meticulous would be an understatement. He conceived of “Heaven Help Us” eight years ago, collaborating with writers who were even greater perfectionists than he is.
As an independent musician, he said that the creative freedom allowed by the lack of labels was well worth it but created its own set of challenges.
“I don’t have a machine behind me to do the promotion, so I have to find my own resources,” Dante said. “I put so much of myself into this.”
He said that the song is a plea for something better, and a reaction to his own experiences watching certain segments of society fail vulnerable people.
“It’s my viewpoint of the things I’ve seen around me, and what I think a lot of people see,” he said. “I worked in schools as a mentor, and saw how the education system might be failing kids. We’re all watching politics happen, involving issues of race, sexuality, and religion. It’s important to speak on issues. I took influence from John Lennon’s ‘Imagine,’ Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, and some of the issues touched upon by Michael Jackson and Prince.”
The music video, recorded in St. Paul and St. Andrew’s Church in Manhattan, was released shortly after the single. It featured the works of film students and fashion designers Dopetavio and Anthony Manfredonia.
“I wanted to have crazy visuals, and look like something straight out of Mad Max just to throw people off,” Dante said. “I wanted to look like an angelic warrior that fell from the sky and was ready to fight, and soon enough, people in the fashion world actually reached out saying ‘we need you to wear my clothes.’” He said that an invite to this year’s New York Fashion Week came shortly after he debuted the bombastic look for the video.
The song was mixed and mastered by Chris Gehringer, a producer who’s worked with the likes of Rihanna, Drake, and Ariana Grande.
“Watching him do his thing was crazy. I had to try hard not to show how giddy I was on the inside,” Dante said.
Taking the plunge
Now in his 30s, Dante weathered trials and tribulations that gave him the skills and determination to emerge as the indie musician he is today.
Devoted to his art, Dante’s experienced promises, letdowns, chance encounters, travels, and once-in-a-lifetime collaborations.
He was born in Bradenton, Florida, but moved to Atlanta during his childhood, which served as a springboard for his music career. He wrote his first song at age seven, and joined an unofficial glee club in high school, before founding a boy band amid the city’s explosive music scene.
“Atlanta’s scene was booming,” Dante said. “LaFace Records just started, so TLC, Usher, and OutKast were there. Jermaine Dupri just started So So Def Records. All of these artists were really accessible back then. I would introduce myself to them whenever I caught them walking through the mall.”
While the first band he was in never took off, LaFace Records’ Debra Killings taught them how to compose backing vocal arrangements.
Eventually, he met with a scout who would become his future manager. In the early 2000s, that scout told him to book a flight to New York City for a surprise, an impromptu meeting with the heads of RCA Records, where he struck a demo deal.
The meeting spurred him to quit his job and move out of Atlanta to pursue the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I did a showcase for the entire RCA staff with three other dancers in this tiny little space,” Dante said. “After I finished, the president of the label, Bob Jameson, shook my hand and pulled me in close to say ‘welcome to RCA Records,’ and I was crying.”
Shortly thereafter, RCA Records laid off several artists, an album Dante recorded called “Inferno” never saw an official release, as he couldn’t find a another label.
Dante found another manager at Elektra Records, who was soon fired, which resulted in all his clients getting the axe as well.
He then struck a deal with a label called Jive Records, which went belly up a year later.
“I couldn’t catch a break, and started writing for other musicians after that,” Dante said. “People respected my vocal arrangements.”
Through connections with a mutual friend, Dante joined a Japanese band called The Lost Ctrl as a guest vocalist on an album called “Electric Mayhem,” which saw success in Japan and allowed him to tour big venues.
He was also a ghost writer for Canadian artist Iskwé, on a track called “Disturbed,” and was nominated for a 2017 Juno award for “Indigenous Music Album of the Year.” Writing for other artists became a passion for him as a student of Prince, who wrote singles under a variety of names for the Bangles, Sinead O’Connor, and others.
After being put through the wringer by major labels, Dante had everything he needed to do it himself.
He named the new EP “Paradiso” in light of his own ascent from personal “layers of hell,” into a freer version of himself as an independent artist, collaborating with scores of songwriters and performers.
“As a guy from Brighton, Florida, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined being in all the places I’ve been, despite going what I had to go through. I want to keep meeting positive people. This life isn’t guaranteed, that’s something even more real to me now. I just want to create great music and talk to other great musicians, and use my platform for a greater good.”
Dante has high praise for Union City and its local arts scene.
“I might just end up buying a house here,” he said. “I love the sense of community. There are so many places in Hudson County to hang out that are just beautiful to me. And there’s so much talent around here. I’ve met amazing rappers, singers, and producers. There’s an art movement right here in Union City where they’re all lifting each other up, and I want to try my best to be a part of that because this ain’t easy. It requires a lot of sleepless nights.”
Check out “Heaven Help Us” by DanteWuzHere on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqbsqRJhRJg
He’s also active on Facebook, Spotify, Instagram, and dantewuzhere.com.