“Round here, we don’t play games.” That’s the statement that 808INK are here to make on the follow-up to their earlier release this year, When I’m About, You’ll Know.
The duo is the joining of forces between rapper Mumblez Black Ink and instrumental kingpin 808Charmer, who began their vision in a South London garage. Since 2013, 808INK have been bending genres and defying the status quo with their alternative R’n’B grooves. When I’m About, You’ll Know Pt.2 is unshakeable in its audacity to experiment; an album which 808INK see as their identity, at last, being fully realised.
Without a doubt, this album is their most aesthetically informed of their entire discography. 808INK want their tracks throbbing through your car systems: each one is focused on ferocity rather than feeling. Though their flow is unmistakably London, their instrumentals have a far more international; reach. “I Feel the Love” delves into lavish European sound with the thrill of a looped accordion: the first of an album’s worth of bold backing choices. Its successor, “Blessed Up”, is massive on trans-Atlantic proportions. It has a West Coast gloss to it: think palm trees, gold, topless cars. This track takes you higher - you can feel the sunshine on your skin.
So far, these are safe bets. Much of this record is low-risk – calculated, but low-risk. It’s hard to find a bone of contention on When I’m About, You’ll Know Pt.2; 808INK’s appeal is pretty much assured. Nevertheless, a couple of tracks earn their distinction with some transgressive choices in style. ‘Continue’ uses roaring vocals wrestling for air over shimmering beats, topped with some buzzing, analogue synth sounds for good measure. 808INK’s focus on dissonance is the greatest move on this album: the harsher to the ear it is, somehow the better it becomes; the more you’ll find yourself coming back to it. The amped-up, dynamic "Gummy Bear” is shredded with trilling trap high hats that slice through an infectious beat.
The crowning moments on When I’m About, You’ll Know Pt.2 are found in its collaborations. Poet-turned-rapper Kojey Radical brings his soulful, R’n’B raps to the funk-infused house track “Trophies”. It was a necessary choice. This one was reared under hothouse lights for commercial success. Radical is an artist: socially switched-on and debonair in his style and his sound – this new strain of visual hip-hop artists is what binds the two together on “Trophies”, earning it the merit as one of the best tracks on the album. The track featuring Sam Wise, “Sol” is a harder pill to swallow. They trade the silky sound of “Trophies” for crunching electronic beats, and a playful pace. 808INK have borrowed Sam Wise from House of Pharaohs, who were scouted out by none other than Frank Ocean, airing their track “Run with Me” on his radio show, Blonded. Sam Wise’s dynamism is the turbo on an already roaring engine on this track.
Followers of 808INK will be divided by When I’m About, You’ll Know Pt.2. It blanches in comparison to the monuments of Billy’s Home and An Artistic Piece; both were nuanced, artistically thought out albums that showcased glowing moments of 808INK’s individualism. When I’m About, You’ll Know Pt.2 sounds excellent, as far as earworms are concerned, but what this album has in style, it perhaps lacks in substance. It’s a fun record, but ultimately, it cowers in the face of the duo’s previous achievements. Though 808INK should be commended for being unafraid in the face of experimentation, their artistic and musical vision was far more potent on their previous albums. Perhaps they should think about running in the other direction with this one.