As much as the path to stardom from a life in the streets is a frequent theme within rap, 88Glam’s self-titled debut album explores this axiom with an intoxicating flair.
Comprised of XO affiliates Drew Howard aka 88 Camino and Derek Wise, 88Glam chronicles the ups and downs associated with abandoning the stresses of hustling on the block for greener, more legitimate pastures in commercial hip-hop success.
Although Wise’s verses have a darker side than Camino’s light, auto-tuned hooks and hooks, they find balance amidst their contrasting styles. With a production team to provide the Toronto trap sound filled with airy melodies and infectious bass lines, 88Glam achieves cohesiveness with this body of work.
From the album’s beginning to end, 88Glam draws on how their lives before the fame not only fueled their come-up, but also how its effects have a lasting influence on their navigating all that comes with chasing fame and stability.
The tape’s lead single, “12,” serves as Wise and Howard’s starting point of ascent in which they offer imagery into the lifestyle that’s as dangerous as it is addicting. While Wise describes eluding police to avoid jail sentences for dope dealing, an occurrence that’s become a thrill at this point, Howard details a general mistrust in everyone but himself that illustrates the fragile uncertainties they face.
But the circumstances associated with their past lives don’t occur within a vacuum. Rap money may be coming in and drug dealing is no longer a necessity, however, deceit lies at every corner and 88Glam is just trying to stay on top for as long as they can.
Between “12” and the album’s closing track, “Marina,” 88Glam revisits the themes explored in “12” throughout as a way of showing the lack of change despite achieving success. Their success marks a turning point for Wise and Howard, but the people around them are just as much of a threat than they were before.
In an attempt to enjoy the fruits of their labor, 88Glam keeps an eye out for those trying to thrive off a come-up they played no role in. Old friends look for handouts, while their former enemies dress in sheep’s skin to step into 88Glam’s limelight.
“All my enemies come back and ask for favors/An all my ex’s come around when they see paper,” Wise states on “Kyrie,” an instance of outsiders trying to ride the duo’s coattails.
And in this light, avoiding the distractions and downfalls of the rap game is comparable to navigating the streets in their eyes. As Howard alludes to this notion in “Big Tymers,” he states, “Broke up with with the old me/yeah I had to glow up,” addressing the fact that 88Glams’ reaching their new status was only a matter of switching up their trade, not their mindset.
But the question of whether or not Howard and Wise are playing to win or playing not to lose reverberates throughout the album. Never going broke again thematically unites all rappers, it just seems that the duo is more cognizant and fearing of this concept than others.
Each track is an effort to not only appreciate and celebrate their progress, but acknowledge the aspects of their dark pasts that follow. While coming up was hard, staying on top is no different and poses its own challenges.
Although it may have taken a collaborative effort for Howard and Wise to best paint this picture, 88Glam is a commanding yet melodic proclamation.
They haven’t forgotten where they’ve come from, but they’re letting everyone know that they’ll do just about whatever it takes to climb higher and never go back to rougher chapters of their lives, even if they know they never can shake off their residual effects.