Things seem to be happening fast for Toronto rap duo 88Glam. They only formed in the middle of 2017, the brainchild of Derek Wise and 88 Camino (formerly known as Drew Howard), but they’ve already released a self-titled mixtape and then, in November, the 88Glam 2 album. It all saw them nominated for “Breakthrough Group Of the Year” and “Rap Recording Of the Year” at this year’s Juno awards.
They have every reason to be utterly delighted and proud of themselves. And they are, but these artists are also perfectionists. They don’t want to settle, and they’re keen to learn. That’s the approach that they’ve taken thus far, and it’s how they aim to continue in order to grow.
“I think it’s an organic feel for ourselves and our fans,” says Wise. “We’ve been taking it really steady, taking our time with the music, evolving our sound, creating a story for our fans, whether it’s sonically or the actual background story. Just taking our time with this, and allowing everybody to see the growth that comes with being a musician in the industry.”
“I definitely think we’ve just had the opportunity to go through a lot of hardships and grow through our different experiences, molding us into the artists that we have become,” adds Camino. “Just like how we perform on stage to the time we take to make music, it’s all a part of the growth and the story.”
It’s an interesting story too; 88Glam was born out of the ashes of Toronto band Get Home Safe Crew, though the pair are not keen to revisit that period of their professional life. 88Glam, they say, is completely collaborative in a way that their previous outfit was not. Both men produced their own work, with Wise releasing a series of mixtapes tagged Glam Wave. That’s where the 88Glam name comes from.
“A year and a half, two years ago, I started a series of mixtapes called Glam Wave,” Wise says. “It was a sound that I wanted to create and give people. Pretty sounding chimes and synths but then heavy basslines. I put out three mixtapes called Glam Wave. People started identifying me with that and calling me Glam, and it became a part of identity.”
“We started calling him Glamboy after that,” continues Camino. “He was like the glam king. That became his moniker. It was a cool thing to watch from a distance when we were doing our own thing. For me, I made a song about a car I really like. I didn’t even have an Instagram and when I got one, I needed a handle. The latest model they made was in ‘87, so I thought it would be cool if they made a new model of my favorite car. Then we fused our names.”
The 88Glam 2 album dropped in November and both men feel that the process was an important learning experience, though, impressively, they both feel that they could have done better and they're not afraid to say so.
“I feel like we have high expectations,” says Wise. “Yeah, we were pleased with it at first but it’s natural as musicians to sometimes put out work that you feel like, ‘Maybe this wasn’t the one or we could have gone harder on it.’ Maybe the production wasn’t exactly what we were looking for, maybe it just wasn’t the topics we were talking about, or the overall sound. It’s out now, let’s learn from the mistakes and deliver even harder on the third one.”
Camino feels fortunate to have been able to enjoy the experience, and now he just wants to keep creating, improving.
“Now we’re just focused on making a lot more music, so we have a lot to choose from,” he says. “Not necessarily settling when we think something is done. Our new thing is when we think it’s done, let’s make 10 more songs so we can see what’s up. I feel like we learned so much from making that album and putting ourselves out there. Also, we were really outside of our comfort zone. We actually made that album in Los Angeles. We’re from Toronto, city kids, and it was just a completely different environment. It took a lot of adjusting and a lot of getting used to, but it definitely made us a lot stronger as musicians.”
The latest album was released on XO Records (The Weeknd’s label) and Republic, and Camino is delighted with the freedom they were afforded.
“They gave us complete creative control over our music,” he says. “They’re 100 percent supportive of the stuff we put out, and I feel like it’s the best opportunity you could ask for, especially as two kids coming from Toronto — to be signed to XO feels like a dream. We’re super fortunate to have that opportunity.”
Both men also feel fortunate to be creating in the current hip-hop climate where, as far as they are concerned, just about anything goes.
“I think the best word is fearless,” says Wise. “I don’t feel like hip-hop musicians are afraid to do anything anymore, whether it’s crossing into different genres, or a specific piece, do outlandish shit for publicity, it’s really fearless right now kind of like rock & roll was back in the day. It’s sitting in a really good place, and it’s also bringing people together that wouldn’t have been in the same room ten years ago.”
“Yeah, the diversity is one thing I’ve noticed in 2019,” adds Camino. “There are certain stigmas that the artists used to have to be confined to in the early 2000s or late ‘90s. You don’t have to be a gangsta rapper. You can talk about your emotions, or you can talk about absolutely nothing. I feel like there’s just so much more to choose from now.”
The guys are promising a lot of rage from their L.A. set, and then they’ll spend the rest of the year producing as much music as they can.
“Just more music, more content,” says Camino. “We have a lot of shows coming up too. We just want to keep offering more and more to the fans. We want to build our fanbase and produce more music.”
88Glam plays with D33J at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28 at The Roxy.