TSU Alum Makes Moves In Hip Hop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Dwane “Key Wane” Weir II still smiles when he recalls his mother buying him a keyboard for Christmas when he was 13 years old. Over a decade later, the Grammy-nominated producer and Tennessee State University alumnus who has worked with everyone from Beyoncé and Jazmine Sullivan to Drake and Meek Mill, still credits his mother for being his biggest inspiration.

“My mom taught me how to go out and really ‘get it-get it.’ I didn’t want to ask my mom for much,” he said. “If I were to ask her for something, she would be like, ‘You’d better figure out a way to get it.’ I think that’s dope because I didn’t grow up lazy.”

Weir, who spent most of his time at TSU as a music major with an emphasis in commercial music, changed his major to Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) during his final year so he could graduate early and focus on his music career.

Dwane “Key Wane” Weir

“On campus, I really didn’t get out a lot because I was making beats. I got signed when I was a sophomore or a junior, so I was always in and out of school,” he said.  “I did my work, but I was barely there.  I was only there for midterms and finals and whatever type of important assignments that were due. Outside of that, I was in the dorm making records, five to 10 beats a day.  I would go to the café just to get some food, take the tray back to the room, get back to it, send my e-mails and prepare my flights.”

Mark Crawford, TSU associate professor of Music and coordinator of the Commercial Music Program, said what impressed him most about Weir was his dedication and his musicality.

“He was really into it. He was about the music.  He breathes music.  He exudes music, and he’s just a very creative young man,” said Crawford.  “He has been fortunate enough to find an avenue where he could find reward for that. So he was a good student, but I think he was a better producer.”

As Weir’s advisor, Crawford said he noticed that while the producer was diligent, because of his competing demands, he was often the last one to make it to class.

Dr. Mark Crawford

“Sometimes he was late.  Well, when I talked to him about this, about his attendance and everything, he began to tell me about all the activities he was involved with outside of the class.    You know making his tracks and making his beats, trying to return phone calls, trying to make deadlines and all this kind of thing, and that’s when I first became aware of what he was into,” Crawford said.

“Big Sean was one artist he had an early connection with, and he would tell me about that connection. His senior year he began to get some really good placements.  He had a placement, I believe, with a Beyonce’ project,” Crawford recalled.  “I want to say his first year out or his second year out, the project he was involved with was nominated for a Grammy.  And then subsequently, he’s been nominated two more times.”

According to Weir, taking his mother to the Grammy Awards has been the highlight of his career.

“I’ve been nominated year after year which is a blessing, “ Weir said. “I remember I brought my mom when ‘Let It Burn’ got nominated, which is the Jazmine Sullivan joint I did, and I was like,  ‘Mom, you want to come with me to the Grammys?  She was like, ‘Yeah!’  I think that was like the coolest thing because I remember when she and I both had nothing, and she bought me that keyboard, and that changed everything.”

Beyonce’s “Partition”, Drake’s “All Me”, Meek Mill’s “Amen” and Jazmine Sullivan’s “Let It Burn” are just a few of the chart-topping songs with grooves produced by Dwane “Key Wane” Weir.

In spite of his success. the Detroit native remains humble.

“I remember what it was like before everything came.  I don’t want to go back to work,” he said, referring to a time when he worked at a car wash.  “I would be at work and would miss out on things because I would still have like five cars to wax.”

Two years ago he paid a surprise visit to the music department to show his appreciation to TSU, according to Dr. Robert Elliot, head of the Department of Music.

“Dwane, Dr. Crawford and I were all in my office, just the three of us, and Dwane said, ‘I’d like to thank you all.’ And we said, ‘Well, we appreciate that.  We are glad you are doing well.’  He said, ‘No.  You don’t understand.  I really want to thank you.’ And he handed me the check for $10,000. He said, ‘Now, help somebody else.’

Weir said the only thing that has really changed in his life since his days as a student is that he has developed a closer relationship with God.  Weir said he prays before he creates music, and he keeps a positive mindset.

“Everything still feels new to me.  I still make beats in my mama’s basement so really nothing has ever changed,” he said. “I go back home to my mom every now and then, and it just feels the same. It’s a blessing. I don’t want to get comfortable.  I don’t want to feel like I’ve made it because I haven’t.   I definitely still have a lot of work to do.”

For Weir that could mean earning another degree from his alma mater. Weir said he plans to eventually get a masters degree at TSU, and teach a course in the music department.


Department of Media Relations

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With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.