808Charmer and Mumblez Black Ink, collectively 808INK, met almost by chance. Charmer - the producer half of the partnership - heard his future collaborator freestyling on a video shoot, but Mumblez had already left before they could chat. Not one to let an opportunity slip, Charmer chased Mumblez down the road and shouted after him. Asked what it was that drew him to the rapper his reply is immediate and succinct: “His flow.”
The pair’s body of work draws on influences as diverse as Arctic Monkeys, James Blake and Harmony Korrine’s Gummo. As a result, their style defies easy categorisation - their sound fuses hip-hop with experimental sonics, while they put out striking videos that reflect the music’s amorphous, disruptive quality. When choosing locations, the group look for places that are not easily identifiable. Anywhere that “looks like its own kind of world,” explains Mumblez.
While they avoid the geographically-specific aesthetic of more typical UK rap videos, their approach still evokes London’s grime-tinted glamour - its uneasy juxtaposition of incredible wealth and exceptional struggle. It’s a look, says Charmer, inspired by “Murder Inc and 50 Cent - that G-Unit era. And all Busta Rhymes’ and Missy Elliot’s videos. The creativeness and - I don’t wanna say wackiness, just the edge.”
Charmer describes being a musician in the digital age as a double-edged sword: “Sometimes I do look at people in the Puff Daddy era and think, rah… if you were hot, it’s cos you were really hot. There was no Spotify. You got found by an A&R, who actually goes out to look for things. But then the advantage is that maybe a lot of us would be lost in the sauce right now. A lot of us wouldn’t be able to make a living off this, because there would be a select few.” Autonomy, then, is a major advantage of the online era 808INK find themselves in. “It’s anybody’s game now, whereas before you had to go through a real rigorous system to even be heard, let alone signed,” adds Mumblez.
Alongside their shared creative vision - one which, together, they “built from the ground up” - they’re clearly commercially savvy. Mumblez notes the fact that artists are ultimately “all brands now,” while Charmer highlights the need to keep one ear to the ground for what’s hot on the market, without letting their sound be led by other artists’ output.
So what’s next for these independent spirits? Charmer is unequivocal. “More music, more shows, more videos - more 808INK...”
WHERE: South London
WHAT: Inventive UK rap with a contemporary electronic edge
GET 3 SONGS: ‘45 With Sam’, ‘Jeep Cherokee’, ’Suede Jaw’
FACT: Charmer and Mumblez were virtually neighbours growing up in Deptford, but only met years later.
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Words: Alex McFadyen
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
Fashion: Josh Tuckley
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