808ink + other innercity griots

July 29, 2017

words by: Ifeanyi Awachie

“Okay, we're going to play another song, which makes sense to do because we're in an environment for song-doing," vocalist Afronaut Zu nonchalantly drawled between songs at his Design of the Diaspora performance at London’s Jazz Cafe.

The July concert’s short but electric lineup at the legendary Camden Town venue featured the North London-based, Senegalese-fronted outfit Cisse Djamba, house-inflected rap project 808INK, Zu, and DJ Edu. Billed as an evening exploring Africa’s influence on London’s diasporic music scene, A Design of the Diaspora embraced artists enamored by traditional African drumming alongside American rap. The jams took us back to long, beautiful nights at traditional Nigerian parties and underground hip hop shows. Our kind of Thursday night.

With lengths of African print slung behind the stage, DJ Edu wove afrobeats interludes between sets. Cisse Djamba’s tinkling, lightning-fast percussion made light-footed black women in the crowd move their feet, some letting out approving cries as they went to work.

His fingers loosely clutching a drink, Zu issued a sharp, seasoned growl as he and his band introduced the crowd to a sprawling fusion of old school hip hop and prog rock.

With his songs the length of Fela Kuti tracks, the vocalist has secured collaborations with the likes of British Ghanaian singer KWABS. His raw, rhythmic sound explains why:

This writer first encountered 808INK, the night’s headliners, when someone sent their undeniable banger Suede Jaw through the speakers at an after-hours kickback in Brixton. Mumblez Black Ink and 808Charmer, the rapper and producer behind the project, make a sleekly produced brand of alternative hip hop suited equally to a chill living room or pumping dancefloor. The worst thing about Suede Jaw is that it’s too short.

In two minutes and twenty-three seconds, the track captures your eardrums with a buzzing, throbbing beat, adorned with a rat-a-tat verse and slick chorus (“I’ve got / Suede in my tongue”), a delicate, soulful mumble undulating in the background. But none of that even matters - you’re too busy bobbing your head, chest, and whatever else you can move to the beat.  

Watch this space for more snapshots of London’s electric black and African music scene.

Image c/o Jake Elwin
Videos c/o Phoenix Session and 808INK

Song link c/o of Afronaut Zu