The Exchange, Bristol
Kids these days, eh? Focused, hard working and breathing new life into established genres. What’s the world coming to?
Ratking are no exception. Emerging in 2012, the NYC rap group have fleshed out their experimental sound across an album and two EPs, toured relentlessly and formed their multidisciplinary company, Letter Racer. Currently in solo project mode, two thirds of the trio have embarked on a European tour.
Producer Sporting Life goes first. A couple of songs in, he puts on a Zhu Wen-style Beijing Opera mask. His raincoat and rucksack stay on. A mangle of cheers, chants and squeaking basketball floors play backdrop, over which he constructs and dissolves tracks to weave a continuous mix. Though hip-hop at the core, dense, genre-agnostic layers of samples and twinkling breaks make for a strange, mellow sound. A sensor by his laptop acts as an invisible fader, allowing him at points to calculatedly mute the sound with a wave of his left hand.
Wiki, one the group’s two vocalists, climbs onto the stage and hangs his signature Irish-coloured Puerto Rican flag from the DJ table, before blasting through of highlights from last year’s Lil Me mixtape. He fidgets around wide-eyed, monobrow raised and gapped smile exposed, while London-based producer and sometime Wiki/Ratking collaborator Black Mack plays hypeman. Single Living With My Moms and Seedy Motherfucker are delivered with an energy that’s matched by the crowd. Sporting Life returns to the stage to perform God Bless Me, shouting-out the absent guest Skepta, whose verse is rapped by Wiki and the crowd as if he’s in the room. Old Blocks New Kidsprovides the highlight – almost completely wiping out Wiki, who takes a breather before finishing with the trippier Whole Half. Adventurous, exhilarating stuff.