Soul Clap Records and Give a Beat present:
an album recorded entirely from solitary confinement by WayOfLife, aka Russell Wardlow.
“There are stories behind these walls the world needs to hear; until that can happen, I will have my ‘insides outed’ to create that insight of the strife of those inside.”RUSSELL WARDLOW
Electronic music powerhouse Soul Clap Records, led by Eli Goldstein of the celebrated DJ and producer duo Soul Clap, is proud to announce the launch of an album recorded entirely from solitary confinement by WayOfLife (a.k.a. Russell Wardlow), resident #78756 of Nebraska State Penitentiary. The nine-track album entitled Insides Outed embodies the constraints that system-impacted individuals face, fusing Wardlow’s thought-provoking poetry from behind bars with Soul Clap’s digital prowess.
INSIDES OUTED IS A COMPELLING COMPILATION OF NINE NEVER-BEFORE-HEARD SONGS BY WAYOFLIFE (RUSSELL WARDLOW)
Insides Outed represents Russell’s commitment to serve as a voice for the voiceless. In Russell’s own words, “There are stories behind these walls the world needs to hear; until that can happen, I will have my ‘insides outed’ to create that insight of the strife of those inside. Because we, like most people in the world, are just suffering from broken relationships and emotional turmoil, which takes form in a plethora of forms that ours have the great fortune of earning the highest scorn.”
THE MAKING OF THE ALBUM:
An artist and father himself, Goldstein was drawn to Wardlow, who has two sons and an undeniable talent for insightful songwriting. Locked up ten years ago, Wardlow began his literary journey by helping other incarcerated individuals express themselves through words for their families. A creative spark flew, igniting a flurry of poetry, passionate essays, and lines of rhymes that empowered and built confidence in Wardlow. His high school friend Katie Cox shared his writings—what he refers to as “floetry”—on social media and Wardlow’s own website, Prose of a Con. Support and love for Wardlow’s prolific music grew.
In 2019, the non-profit organization Give a Beat linked Wardlow with established music artists who recited his prose on-air during a six-part radio series. The broadcast gave him a much wider audience to share his expressions of systemic racial injustices as observed from behind bars.
Goldstein, a long-time supporter of Give a Beat, was one of many well-known artists who recited Wardlow’s poignant prose on air. Give a Beat’s mission is to use the power of music as a pathway to healing and opportunity for those impacted by the criminal justice system, while inspiring communities to take action. Through music education and mentoring programs in juvenile halls, prisons, and schools, such as its Prison Electronic Music Program and On a New Track, a reentry mentoring program, as well as its newly launched Give a Beat Records, Give a Beat engages the industry to help widen the pathways for people to thrive, reduce recidivism, encourage empathy, and unite to contribute to the larger transformation of the criminal justice system.
In Wardlow’s attempt to capture his vocals, background disruptions and prison cell noise lead to poor audio recordings and often unusable material. However, when Wardlow’s prison facility faced a COVID outbreak at the end of 2021, Wardlow and his peers were forced to stay in solitary confinement. Making the most out of this undesirable situation, he used the total silence of his cell to capture his artistry. With permission, he manually recorded his writings, poetry, and raps on the phone to Christie Ninerell of Give a Beat. Wardlow then found free melodies and guitar beats on YouTube and added his vocals to them, accumulating a wealth of music and adopting the moniker WayOfLife.
Upon receiving the music Goldstein admitted, “At first, I had only briefly looked over his tracks —as I would any demo—and they were really rough beats, so I didn’t think much of it and moved on. Then, one day I took time to really listen to the songs back to back and got goosebumps; it was emotional, moving, and made me tear up,” he expressed. Taking the acapellas and aligning the free beats himself on Ableton, Goldstein could see the potential of the music. “It gave you that palpable feeling of being so close and intimate as if you were face-to-face in the room with him, and I knew we needed to do something with this.” He then enlisted the help of frequent collaborator Taylor Bense to clean up the rough audio recorded over the phone & recreate/re-envision the original beats while still maintaining their essence.
I took time to really listen to the songs back to back and got goosebumps; it was emotional, moving, and made me tear up… It gave you that palpable feeling of being so close and intimate as if you were face-to-face in the room with him, and I knew we needed to do something with this.”ELI GOLDSTEIN
WayOfLife’s goal is to reunite with his family and earn a living in the music business and Soul Clap Records is committed to help with the latter. “It’s about empowering Russell, helping him build a platform, make a living through his music, and lifting up other artists that have faced similar adversities,” Goldstein explained. A crowdfunding campaign accompanying the debut release has been launched to help support Wardlow’s reentry to society. The full album is now available for streaming, preceded by two singles on November 4th and 25th respectively. For more information, please visit Rusell’s Reentry Project Page on Give Beat. way-of-life.bandcamp.com.
Additionally, this September the non-profit music and social justice organization Give a Beat, launched Give a Beat Records to support people after incarceration, helping them produce, distribute, and market original music for global release, giving our artists access to a platform to share their voices with the world. To learn more, please visit, giveabeat.org.
THE SYMBOLIC ALBUM COVER:
The detailed album art depicts Wardlow among an assemblage of distinct animals. Based on Wardlow’s vision, it was created by an artist named William B. Livingston Ⅲ. Incarcerated at a prison facility in Oklahoma, Livingston worked with Wardlow through Justice Arts Coalition to actualize an ideal representation of Insides Outed. Livingston’s story, art, and artbook, “Live from the Cell Block,” can be found on his website, https://prisonartok.com.
Every element of the album cover was personal to Wardlow, as he describes below:
“I identified as this pack animal that sought solitude for space to decompress, vent, and purge in my howls at the moon at night when the yard would close, so I could cleanse my soul of everything I undertook: the weight, emotions, thoughts, and intuitions that alienated me from others’ sense, or lack thereof, of me. I connected with the divine feminine aspect of life, found inspiration through my pain, resentment, and refuge within abstract expressions of art in music and poetry.”
“A born weight, being, and inclination, I embodied being my mother’s child, whose mother killed his father while still in the womb. She was in an overly masculinized military and killed another army man in self-defense. The life she’d go to live from that imprinted upon me being born a bastard and walking this earth as a foster child, never fitting in, being troubled but amazingly gifted and couldn’t reconcile with any gift because I never found fit. So it became an attitude, demeanor, and a feeling of willingness to be comfortable being uncomfortable, wanting others to see me as different but ultimately having no power to change their views. I fight to become and use every slight and direct it into my gifts and speak to those that feel and live as me.”
“I first externalized my understanding of a lion, being a forced and ferocious king, but later identified as a Rasta and, through my studies, I understood the Lion of Judah. To be meek meant to either be a lion, or as a lion, and to lie amongst the sheep or allow the sheep to lie amongst you. The lion is king. It doesn’t need to prove that; it just is. It doesn’t need to move for anything or anyone unless it feels the need to, and it does what is necessary without emotion, and its compassion is shown in not overexerting.”
“The ‘Ba’ in ancient Kemet (Egypt) was depicted as a falcon with a man’s head. The falcon hates the earth, it seeks to live in the sky. The soul seeks and always inclines upwards towards heavenly things. The eagle was the basis for most shamanistic cultures, meaning the same things, astral travel, soul travel, communing with the gods once developing wings to fly up.
I had to develop wings and fly beyond my limits and lower inclinations I had become known as and for. To dream I fly; I had to fly to survive internally. I often depict myself flirting with the edge, jumping from it, hoping it accelerates the development of my wings, but if not, it is what it is; it’s not a far fall being born and living on rock bottom; the far fall is the perception of others. The risks and sacrifices I make and take are flirtations with suicide, culturally and in identity, shape-shifting to not fit in but evolve once adapted to experiences in as many situations as I can.”