What is HOPE - An Interview
I've had a front row seat to watching Andrew Wheeler craft, cultivate, and perfect his newest album, H.O.P.E. In fact, Bracket Aims, has played a role in the release of the album because I have such a heart for this young rapper and his newest project.
The album stems from a period in Andrew's life that has been full of hard changes and a wonderful metamorphosis. When you hear the album, you're literally listening to this dramatic season of change rapped by the only person who knows the truth of how it all felt -- Andrew. Because of the depths of the album, I took some time to interview Andrew to get a better sense of what H.O.P.E. was all about. Here's the interview:
What was life like before the album?
Life was unpredictable, difficult and emotionally frustrating.
Why is that?
I think life was what it was for me, because I chose it. I didn't want to live that way. It's just what I chose. The motives behind closing that life style are a little blury for me. One could say it was because I romanticized the struggle and the underdog mentality or that it's the only world view I was able to understand at the time.
So, why an album?
It's my diary. My way of communicating my thoughts and feelings. The way I could solve a problem or at least level with the issue.
So it's a Hip Hop album -- Why Hip Hop?
The culture was attractive when I was younger. It's like someone telling you not to do something, and it automatically makes it something you want to do even more so. I saw others just like me or similar, finding something that I wanted; a release, an escape. Hip-hop had always been an example of hope to me. To see a genre of music rise from brokenness and become a platform for the masses to express themselves, inspires me constantly. Because now, hip-hop is universal.
Can you give me a story where you felt extremely lost and then found hope?
When I was smoking weed on a consistent basis, it became my crutch, my thing to do when I couldn't figure out a problem or didn't want to deal with a problem. It was a vortex of misery that loved my company. So around June 6th of 2014, my parents found out I was smoking and intervened. I always knew it would happen, but never when. So I was in this state of reliance that needed to be broken and it was something that seemed impossible to break. But over a period of 2 months, God began to step in and change my perspective, my understanding and the quantity of my hope. I found hope that life could be different and I could find solutions to life's issues with him and not a substance. It was a time thing for me, but one that helped me find the hope I have today.
What is hope to you?
Hope to me, is becoming desperate and seeing your desperation being met with unexpected grace. It is also a promise that the way life looks now, isn't how it has to look.
Ooh I really love that.
Does it make you nervous to release music?
Slightly. It's something that I enjoy doing, but it can make me unsure of the quality of my work. I've never been someone to live for people's acceptance, because I know I'll die from their rejection, but when it comes to my music, I tend to want people to like my music and I become nervous when things start off slow.
Yea. I get that. So speaking of quality, what is your writing and recording process?
I like to write on my phone in my notes app. I find waiting for the inspiration to hit you at the right moment produces great music, but also being intentional about accomplishing a song can produce wonderful content. My recording process takes place in my home studio. It's usually just me who will write, record, and engineer my music. For this project, I recording every aspect of the album sitting down. In the past, I've only ever recorded standing up. I waited till the last song was written until I recorded anything. My usual process is to write then record as soon as possible after I finish the song. But because this album is so different for me, I decided to do everything different.
So tell me more up recording while sitting down. Why was that important?
I wanted to change the recording process because I wanted a challenge and to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to embrace the idea of a complete difference from my previous work.
We've talked before about how hard this project has been. Why is that you think? How hard was this project? Why did it take so long to release?
This project was very hard because of the decisions I made with my writing/recording process and many other things. Everything from wanting it to be 14 songs, to it just being a mixtape that was less serious to many other ideas I had for the project. Deciding to make it what it is, was very hard because it was something that would be very deep, serious, taxing, and in the sequence of a book. And those are also the reasons for it taking so long to come out. That, and after I finished it, I kept pushing it back weeks and weeks and months because I was lazy and was scared to put it out. My fear was that my hard work would be for nothing.
But there were hard songs and hard experiences to put into words right? What is the hardest song on the album for you?
The hardest song on the album for me, would either be "Do The Hard Things" or "Brackets" because of the storyline behind each of them and how personal it is.
Oh yea? Why those?
Do The Hard Things is the intro to the album. It's literally me staying up one night talking with God and myself about how I'm feeling in my deep places, the places no one really sees or saw at the time. It's very dogmatic about expressing feelings of shame, loneliness, frustration, and pain. But in the end it offers two lines of hope that set the tone for the rest of the album. The title comes from something you said to me once in a conversation to "Do The Hard Things" and it stuck, it's been my catch phrase for the better part of the last 6-8 months.
Brackets is the outro to the album. It's a response letter to someone who is also very close and dear to me. But while being a response letter, it talks about all of the experiences I've gone through, through out this album creation process and where I am currently in life and it offers the hope of change and relief to the listener in a simple yet extravagant way. It's titled Brackets because it's saying that my life is now in check, I'm in control and I know who I am and where I'm going.
The actual album H.O.P.E. gets released on August 12th. Today, Andrew released the first single from the album called My Zone. You can check out the single and download it for free now on his website, andrewbwheeler.com.