With youthful energy and twisted beats, NY rap group Ratking capture their city’s essence through a grainy lens.
New York is a city of corners. It is an angular cosmos of sidewalks that come together and form the biggest artistic playground on the planet. At a glance, it’s inflexible. Yet the cover-art for Ratking’s debut full-length, So It Goes portrays it as a looser, bodily structure; a labyrinthine network of channels that bend and twist to make an intricate and unpredictable island rather than a rigid infrastructure.
“It’s a representation of what our New York is. It’s almost like an alternate view, I wanted it to be about the history. What New York means on a deeper level rather than just ‘Oh yeah! This is some New York City shit!’. I wanted it to be the feeling of being in New York or living in New York. That world we created.” This is Wiki, the gap-toothed pied piper of the city’s rawest hip-hop export in recent years. Crack called him up to find out more about the city, the album and the future.
This record has been a long time coming, with Ratking gaining momentum off the back of their intense, high- energy live shows and becoming the second ever act to sign with XL Recordings’ offshoot Hot Charity (also home to Willis Earl Beal) back in 2012. For So It Goes, Ratking called upon the help of high-profile rap engineer Young Guru to mould the LP into shape. The group’s in-house beat-maker Sporting Life (Eric) takes the phone from Wiki to shed light on that collaborative effort. “Working with Young Guru was dope. He’s pretty quiet, but he had a lot of input on where the sounds should be placed and making sure the vocals were really audible.” While Guru might be famed for giving Jay Z his glossy uptown shimmer, he’s succeeded in smothering So It Goes with a layer of dust. While the group might hail from different areas of NYC or elsewhere, they succeed in creating a synergy that paints the city in a refreshingly undecorated light. “That’s important to New York in general”, Wiki explains. “Having different personalities in one place. It was pretty natural, we’ve been working together for a long time. Sometimes I won’t get it exactly my way, or Hak’s way or Eric’s way, but it comes out as a cohesive piece of work. Mine and Hak’s flows are very different but I feel like we are coming from the same perspective and the same level”. Hak is Wiki’s 19-year-old Harlem-raised counterpart, whose Andre 3000-esque style acts as the tonic to Wiki’s feral street- preaching. Neither play the voice of reason, but that’s what makes the record so exciting.
Their disobedience to the New York City paradigm shines through when Wiki raps about “shitting” on the kids at New York University. “I’m not, like, against kids who go to NYU, but it’s my high school angst when I’m walking around Washington Square Park. That park at one point was an ill place, and it still is, but it sometimes looks like a college campus.” This adolescent ethos is one of the many things that got heads turning in Ratking’s direction. “I’m not scared of growing up, it’s fun to be young but I’m always gonna be who I am. I’m excited to keep ruling my life and keep learning. I’m not the most angry person, but music is where you let those emotions out, so that’s where it comes into play.” For many, Ratking seem like a tripartite of contradiction – breaking rules with a plan. “My heroes are, like, Firoello La Guardia who was mayor of New York, and Goku”, says Wiki. This is the 99th mayor of New York City who reshaped the representation of Italian Americans, and the protagonist in the Manga Dragon Ball Z series by Akira Toriyama.
So It Goes isn’t revivalism, nor is it a futuristic portrayal of a tired idea. Ratking pair self-proclaiming lyricism, experimental beat-making and unapologetic attitudes to convey exactly who they are while reminding us where they came from. “Sometimes you can be nostalgic about stuff, but in the end it’s all a cycle.” However turbulent the cycle becomes, it resonates with the timeless tenor of fake IDs being swiped, trashing 40oz bottles and jumping turnstiles in the middle of the night. It reminds you that Ratking are growing up, but never growing out. “It’s always going to be our city.”
So It Goes is available now via Hot Charity