Where's 88GLAM been? Fans of the gauzy Toronto rap duo have been wondering this—and anxiety spiraling over it—for a minute. Derek Wise and 88 Camino were all set to drop Close to Heaven Far From God, the highly anticipated follow-up to their sophomore LP 88GLAM2, back in April. There was a lead single for it and everything! But it never came, and the boys went semi-MIA.
Naturally, fans started losing their shit. A subreddit dedicated to the group ran wild with speculation that 88GLAM had split up. ("Absolutely tragic," wrote one crestfallen Redditor.) Some wondered if they'd been dropped from their label XO/Republic Records. The duo, they noticed, was replaced by Black Atlass as the opener on labelmate The Weeknd's European summer tour. The last few months, GLAM stans have resorted to going full Zapruder, microanalyzing every unfollow and vague comment by the relevant parties on Instagram.
Well, the conspiracy theories end today. 88GLAM are back with New Mania, a surprise mixtape featuring 18 songs and some wrestling-themed artwork. The Undertaker-worthy sneak return (Bah gawd, that's 88GLAM's music!) comes with an announcement: the duo is now independent. Wise and Camino say they felt it necessary to take full control of their music, though they're choosing not to go into the specifics of the situation just yet.
For now, they come bearing some fire tracks. A mix of new songs and ones recorded pre-pandemic, New Mania finds 88GLAM in rare form, Wise and Camino effortlessly exchanging energy and confident, canorous bars—equal parts seedy and sincere—over bouncy, trap-tinged beats that never let up. (We also hear a more vocally daring Wise, singing in a higher-than-usual register on tracks like "Fiend.") From the guitar-flecked grind of "One Call Away" to the 8-bit flex of "Dance For Me," it's a double chokeslam of high-octane, hard-dripping narco-rap—and all the evidence we need that 88GLAM are going to keep on eating, label or not.
"I can't even lie, a fan tweeted me and said, 'Yo, what the fuck? 88GLAM you haven't dropped an album in 580-something days,'" Wise tells Complex. "That shit hurt my heart."
"I literally started feeling bad," Camino concurs. "This is our offering to them. It's like an appreciation tape, and it's 18 songs long, so like, niggas cannot be going crazy telling us to drop next week. That should be good for the next little while."
We caught up with 88GLAM over the phone to talk about the new tape, their departure from XO, their love of Jake Gyllenhaal, and what's next.
I like that the first track on New Mania is "Gucci Snake." Your fans have been waiting on that one for a long time.
88 Camino: Yeah, we've been teasing the fuck out of that record for so long. They've been like, 'Yo when is this shit gonna drop?' They've also been asking for "Barry Bonds," but they were calling it "Cartier." A lot of the songs were like fan-named, too, which we found super cool. "When are you guys gonna drop 'Cartier?'" It's like, ah shit, they even named this shit for us?
Derek Wise: It's crazy. I feel like fans just naturally do like, overextended research on music that they don't have access to, you know what I mean?
Camino: It's crazy too 'cause some of the songs, I was like, "Fuck man, we gotta put this shit out" 'cause these guys started pages where they were selling 88GLAM leaks. I was like, "Oh hell nah, these niggas not about to make money off of us." I'm like, yo, we got to put this out, bro. But it's a good problem to have—like, our fans are so dedicated to us, wanting new music. Like, they literally get mad at us. My DMs right now are just insane. They're like, "Bro you let us down."
Talk about that. Because, you know, for the last few months, your fans have been kinda worried about you guys. They were expecting Close to Heaven Far From God to drop, and then it didn't. So they've been freaking out, like, "Oh shit, did 88GLAM break up?" Tell 'em, what's been going on?
Wise: I feel like fans always come up with crazy ideas and overanalyze situations and the momentum change—they kind of put their own narrative behind it. But it's like, we just literally had a situation that we felt like we needed to go independent, and like, really take our shit, like full control, full throttle, and try to see what direction that can take us. I feel like fans took it as like, "Oh, you guys are breaking up!" It was just a huge transitioning point for us.
Camino: I think we can even just classify it as like, we just ran into some unforeseen circumstances. I feel like that's the way we should even word it, if we want to discuss it. It's just like, things are circumstantial and you never know when something can occur. Like, plans do change over time. So right now, we're just adapting to a change in plans for 88GLAM as a whole. I think with that being said, like, things are changing on our end and we're just trying to adjust to it, so that everybody could be happy.
OK, so then, you guys have parted ways with XO. Was this a business decision or what?
Camino: I mean, like, we don't even really want to disclose that information right now. Like, we're not even trying to go too in-depth with our relationship with like, the label and XO. I feel like that is something we'd be more open to discussing in time, because I just feel like everybody wants to know so badly, but we don't want to step on anybody's toes and we just want to keep our relationship good with all of our business partners, because they are a huge reason as to why we're even in the position we are today. So out of respect for the people that really put us on and stuff, I think it's just better that we don't go too in-depth with that conversation for people yet.
That's fair, man. At the very least, it sounds like there's no bad blood there.
Wise: No, no, no.
Camino: Hell no.
Wise: Those are like the big bros right there, you know what I mean? I was talking to La Mar [Taylor, XO's creative director] the other day. There's definitely no bad blood, there's no tensions, nothing like that. It's like literally family.
Camino: Literally, dawg.
OK, I respect that. Well then, tell me about being independent. How does it feel? Are you looking forward to it?
Camino: I would say it definitely brings you back to approaching the industry with more of that grassroots approach, like before we actually signed to a major label. So it's like, really just stepping up and assuming the role of every position that was filled for you when you signed to a major label. You're almost like spoonfed from these labels, right? They have all the networks, they have all the connects. So this really forces you play a way more imperative role. You have to be more than an artist, you have to be a businessman. You have to really be going out there and making opportunities for yourself, and that's something that I sort fell back on. But I'm really excited to do that again, and it's not even something you should really lose when you get signed to a major label. That's a piece of advice I would offer to any artist coming up in the industry: never lose ambition.
"The only people we can really blame now for something not happening is ourselves. So we're really being put to the test, like, moving on an independent flex."
Wise: I just feel like really just taking things back in, like, our hands. Because when we dropped our first album we were independent. It was cool to even be really hands-on and involved with the rollout the way that we were, and the ideas behind it. And I just feel like you do lose a bit of that. I can't speak for every artist, but I know for the majority, you do lose a bit of that essence when you have a label that can handle your designs and handle this and that. I mean, it kind of puts you in an area where you're not as creative as you naturally would be. So I'm really excited to really take these next few steps forward, with us just being very involved in every aspect of everything.
Camino: Exactly. And there's nobody to point the finger at anymore if something doesn't happen. We have to assume responsibility. Like, the only people we can really blame now for something not happening is ourselves. So we're really being put to the test, like, moving on an independent flex, you know what I'm saying?
Well, you guys actually had a very DIY, organic come-up before even joining XO.
Camino: Yeah, and I think that's something they respected us for. I think that's why they started rocking with us in the beginning. They were just like, 'We see that these guys are doing their thing.' When we signed with them at first, they were like, "Yo man, this is sick. You guys just keep doing your thing. We want to support you guys." So it was just really all love from the beginning, you know? And it still is.
Let's talk about this tape. What does the title New Mania mean to you?
Wise: Honestly, like for me, I'm a huge wrestling fan. So hearing New Mania just sounded like some WrestleMania shit from back in the day. I just remember playing like, even the WCW video games, like the Nitro shit and all that stuff. It just brought back those memories. I just feel like this tape is really high-energy. It has its ups and downs, but for the most part it's a lot of energy. It's very fun.
Camino: And everybody's always compared us to the Hardy Bros when we dropped, so we just feel like that was also a perk of calling our tape New Mania. You know, I think we might try to run with that for a while. We're the unstoppable duoooo! [Hogan voice.]
Wise: Bring out the ladders. Our shows look like a ladder match.
I love it. I have never heard anyone compare you guys to the Hardy Boyz! That's interesting.
Camino: Yeah, it was also kinda self-titled. I remember Derek was like, "Hey man, we gotta post this pic [of the Hardy Boyz] on the 'gram." And so we kinda gave it to ourselves, but I think it's pretty, it's pretty accurate.
Which one of you is Jeff? Who's Matt?
Wise: Mino is Jeff for sure. For sure. If you been to our shows, you've seen this guy do like the Twist of Fate off the stage.
Camino: [Laughs.] I'm Jeff Hardy, bro.
Wise: I'm definitely not jumping into the crowd like that. Mino got that.
Oh shit. He's the high-flyer.
Camino: I go kind of crazy. I kind of lose it at the live shows sometimes, man. We can't wait to go back on the road too, man. Obviously, COVID has created an unforeseen circumstance, but that was probably like my favorite thing about making the music and stuff. Definitely live performance. So I'm kind of bummed about not being able to do that right now.
I know! I'm bummed about not being able to just attend a show right now. Would you guys consider doing a drive-in concert?
Camino: That would be kinda... sick.
Wise: I haven't thought of that. Is that a thing? Are people doing that right now?
Apparently, yeah. There's like rock bands doing them. I know that Canadian band July Talk has one planned.
Wise: I mean, that's pretty genius. A drive-in performance. A lot of our fans are like little kids, though, so it's like damn. That might [get complicated]. You got 12-year-olds pulling up in the whole carpool. Mom and dad's up in the front seat.
Camino: They're like, "What'd you say these guys' names were again? They're pretty good!"
I caught that Jake Gyllenhaal reference in your track "Nightcrawler." You guys a big fan of that movie?
Camino: That's actually where I came up with the concept for that song. That's like my favorite movie, like that's top three. His performance in that movie as an actor was like, that's something I was taken aback by. Like damn, he really plays this role. And I felt so many emotions watching it. Like, how are you gonna do your nigga like that?! Literally, he was your main homie and you finessed him to run up all these plays for you, for like a crazy cheap percentage. Like, damn, this guy was the first to every crime scene. This dude is a savage. I mean, it's not something I'm trying to do, like, in real life. But it kind of just made me feel like, how can I project this eerie feeling through the music? And I was like, yeah, I did drop out of high school. I got distracted by the common things that you get distracted by, growing up and shit. So I just wanted to draw that comparison to how you can get lost in this fucked up world. Jake Gyllenhaal kinda hard, too. Like damn, he really killed that. So shout out to Jake Gyllenhaal, man. Hit me up.
You guys should collab. He should do a feature!
Camino: Tell Jake Gyllenhaal to holla at me, nigga. You gon' star in my video.
Wise: That'd be tight. That'd be crazy. He gotta be driving that same car that he be driving in that movie, too.
Camino: Yeah, bro. He's going dumb. Is he driving a Demon in that movie?
Wise: It was definitely an American, like, muscle car.
Camino: Yo Derek, what's that movie you used to reference a lot? What's that niggas name? He was like mad popular in his high school.
Wise: Oh shoot! The Virgin Suicides. Trip Fontaine.
Camino: Trip Fontaine! That song was trying to channel that same kind of energy. I was just imagining myself back in high school and I was like, man, fuck this shit. Like, I'm too greezy to be here. There's nothing really for me here. That's literally how I felt. I'm too cool to be here. Like, I'm already grown. Obviously I wasn't grown at the time, but it's just these emotions that you feel when you're young. I'm like, something's off about this. I'm already doing things that a 25-year-old would be doing. Like, yo, I've got to go into the world and explore and figure myself out in a different way.
"People love us for our old shit and that's cool, but there's a new, refreshing pop to what we're doing right now. We're playing with different sounds, being more hands-on with the producers."
So you were channeling Josh Hartnett, too. [Laughs.] Tell me about your upcoming album. What's the plan for it? Is it still Close to Heaven Far from God or something else?
Wise: Yeah, it's still Close to Heaven Far from God. We're putting it out. It's definitely coming out very, very, very, very soon. We just had to, like, deal with a few little interior underlying issues with it, just to make sure it's perfect. We didn't wanna not deliver this time around for our fans. There was just so much we put into it. Like, we almost overstepped in the beginning, because we put too much into it and didn't realize, like, shit, OK, now we've got to perfect all this, you know what I mean? We just wanted to get it really perfect for our fans and deliver it as a whole package. It's coming, man.
Camino: We're just trying to get some stuff cleared as well. So it's going to take a little bit of time but it's definitely on the way.
I hear Malice Studios is planning to drop some special New Mania merch. Camino, that's your fashion label, right?
Camino: Yeah, I'm the creative director at Malice. You're definitely gonna be hearing a lot more from us soon. But all of my people in 88GLAM support my vision for that and just thought it would be cool to create a collaborative thing, for both brands to be seen on a larger scale. So we felt like it would be something special to really invest our time in and put our hands on the products. We're seeing how we can make a higher-end product for our fans, because once again, this is an appreciation tape. So with everything involved with it, we're just trying to add more care. You will see a wrestling inspiration, too, but not in a literal sense. Definitely people who are die-hard fans of wrestling, they will notice the references. But it's more just like curated, very nicely well-thought-out pieces of clothing that are extremely wearable. It's not your average merch these artists have been putting out.
Obviously, the Toronto sound has really developed in the last decade, and you guys have contributed to that. We know all the tropes—it's very dark, moody, brooding—but talk about how you see it evolving. Where do you guys want to take that sound next?
Wise: I feel like now, especially the younger artists that are coming up, they're listening to all the right music. They're really listening to what's really current and you can hear it now. Like, you still have that Toronto sound where you hear it and it's a specific cadence to every bar and shit, but now it's a bit more Americanized. Whereas before, you would hear a Toronto artist and you can't even compare it to any sort of American music or mainstream music that's in the market right now. So that's definitely just progressive, that's the right direction for us as Canadians, because we have our own sound, but we're also tapped into a market that's audible worldwide. It's cool.
But for us, what we're trying to bring is honestly just this new sound. People love us for our old shit and that's cool, but there's a new, refreshing pop to what we're doing right now. We're playing with different sounds, being more hands-on with the producers. We're taking the extra time and extra steps to really bring our cadence and our style to the new sounds we want to curate for everybody.
Camino: There's no boundaries to this shit anymore. I think people feel less restricted to fit some sort of archetype as an artist. I feel like people really don't care anymore. People are a lot more open and receptive. That's the entire narrative of 2020: it's less judgment on people and freedom of self-expression, you know? Everybody's kind of just doing whatever they really want in terms of, like, how they express themselves. And I think that's making a crossover into music as well.