"You have a pre-paid call. You will not be charged for this call. This call is from…” “Poet.” “An inmate at a federal prison. Hang up to decline the call, or to accept, dial 5 now.”
Beep. And suddenly, there’s a man on the other end delivering 48-straight bars of rapid-fire punches of rap face-jabs, delivered over a payphone from this Arizona penitentiary.
It’s how Wildcard, aka Phil Andrade, and his incarcerated best friend, Dead Poet, write new songs these days. They have to — the rap duo was split up in the winter of 2007 when Dead Poet was arrested for bank robbery. And now, states apart, they have to talk on the phone every week to continue writing songs.
This week, Andrade releases The Odyssey, his latest effort, one he wrote without his friend, but which heavily features Dead Poet — sometimes rapping over simple, crackly phone calls.
But it’s an album that shows Andrade’s sheer power as an artist, and the breadth of his talent. Seconds into the first track, a weeping piano intermingles with blues guitar riffs — and, suddenly, shotgun blasts of brutally honest, hilariously explicit lyrics from this very motivated, very angry and very reflective rapper.
Last week, The Inlander got on the phone with Andrade to talk about how you write songs with a guy in prison, and how he’s unexpectedly become a big brother to his fanbase.
INLANDER: Tell me about your new album.
It took five years to complete it. My last one was in 2007 with a partner of mine, Dead Poet. He was arrested for bank robbery and sent away. There’s one song in particular where he talks about the robbery. Just for journalists right there, that’s like juicy, right?
Of course! How have you changed, as an artist, since he went away?
I just keep going. He’s grown as well — we’ve just grown in different environments. I’ve been able to do shows and stay true to myself and exist in the regular world. And he’s able to still exist in the world he’s in, too. He’s my best friend, I still talk to him once a week.
There’s a song on the album where he raps — how do you record songs with someone who is in prison?
He calls my cell phone, just like anyone would call and it says, ‘You have a call from a person in prison.’ He says, ‘Hey, what up?’ He’s just rapping to me, and I happen to be in a studio near a microphone.
There’s a big message on the album about sobriety.
On the second album I did when it was me and Poet together, we had a song called ‘Intervention.’ I used to run around a lot back in the day, but I’m a little more controlled and focused on the music and sober and trying to hang onto it all. And he wasn’t. We thought we’d battle on a track about it. Now people hear that and see what has happened to him, and it’s more of a powerful track now. He was promoting the dark, and I wasn’t. There’s a line in there, ‘I’ll always have your back, even though my intervention didn’t work.’
And fans have responded to that.
Well, I’ve never tried to impose my views, but I’m able to be a big brother if they needed that — like I needed when I was running amok. There’s the ego and the pride, but if people are in pain, I want them to be able to reach out. I’ve known a lot of people who have OD’d, girls who have drank too much and drowned, people who’ve hung themselves. If I have a way to help anyone through this talent…
Wildcard’s The Odyssey release party featuring Beauflexx, Rod Mac, Jaeda, K. Clifton, Freetime Synthetic and Lilac Linguistics • Sat, Jan. 28, at 9 pm • The Hop! • $5-$10 • 368-4077