Music

Soul Clap Records Presents Insides Outed, Recorded in Solitary Confinement by Incarcerated Artist WayOfLife

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, out today, embodies the constraints that system-impacted individuals face, fusing Wardlow’s thought-provoking poetry from behind bars with Soul Clap’s digital prowess. 

Buy/Stream the album  https://soulclaprecords.lnk.to/InsidesOuted

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 highly lauded 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 barsGoldstein, 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.

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 Songs

Insides Outed is a compelling compilation of nine never-before-heard songs by WayOfLife. The album name represents his duty to serve as a voice for the voiceless. “My desire is to grow in my personal development, as a father of two great sons, and in my creative works to be an effective messenger and bridge from prison to the world,” he shared. “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 powerful tracks on this debut album are: (*to be released as singles)  

  • “Cast Away”
  • “AWOL”*
  • “Wanna Be Great”* 
  • “Ears Ringing”
  • “Hole Thoughts”
  • “I would tell you how I feel…”
  • “If Black Lives Matter”
  • “Revolution”
  • “Wanna Cut Myself At Times”

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 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:

Lone Wolf 
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. 

Black Sheep 
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.

Lion
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 Falcon/Eagle
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. 

Wardlow’s touching and hauntingly honest words reverberated with listeners of the Prose of a Con radio series and all of the artists involved. Describing Wardlow’s music as “raw and real,” Goldstein said the artist is “at the beginning of his journey, but his wordplay and delivery are very refined.” 

The Network of Artist Support 

Other notable and philanthropic-minded artists who delivered Wardlow’s writings on the Prose of Con radio series hosted by Marshall Jones, included Briddy, Blackliquid, DJ E-Clyps, Mr. V, Myxzlplix, Nickodemus, Oscar P, Pontchartrain, and Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale. Many are chiming in to welcome him to a life outside of bars, either by sharing campaign details with their fans or collaborating with Soul Clap Records on the album. Together, they have formed an unofficial Russell Support Team. Mr. V. is graciously donating much-needed equipment, while Nickodemus is looking forward to making industry connections with Wardlow, and Stacey Hale is planning on remotely teaching tools of the trade—such as Music Production on Ableton— with the rising star. “While we support his musical process and artistic creations, we want to help Russell learn the ropes of our industry,” Goldstein shared. Knowing how hard it is to survive and make strides in the music industry, he stresses that “to make a career out of music, you need to be fully cognizant of the game.”

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More on Russell Wardlow/WayOfLife

Born on  October 21, 1988 in Omaha, NE, Russell Wardlow is a poet, speaker, creative, and unifier. A gifted child, he grew up in the foster system, moving many times from house to house. Despite countless hardships, Russell graduated from Bellevue West High School and went on to attend Wayne State College in Nebraska. Following college, Wardlow was arrested for a crime and sentenced to fourteen years behind bars. He has used his time away to cultivate his natural gifts.  When released from prison, his sole role will be father to his two sons. He says that “all things are from that foundation, and from that foundation, I will do a daily vlog about my transition experience from prison to society, capturing the raw truth of my dispositions and perspectives, and the outlook of the reality I just came from.” He will work on building a platform from his website and podcast featuring current and formerly incarcerated people. 

Adopting the artist name WayOfLife, Wardlow said he found the rhyme and reason in life and can’t stop rhyming about that light, explaining, “This transcends color and cultural differences, because being different is the color and culture, reaching even those free because it took prison to contemplate what had me already imprisoned.” To WayOfLife, we all just want to be free, and this is the sense and energy found in his name, music, poetry, prose, perspective, pain, and voice.