the so sick story of harlem hip hop group ratking
Ratking make music that sounds like it’s spent the weekend traversing opposing coordinates of the Brooklyn-Queens metro-line, drinking cold 40s, and getting adequately blunted at squat parties that could’ve come imported direct from a Harmony Korine...
Ratking by Barbara Anastacio
They're signed to XL Recordings, and like many contemporaries that've been and gone - Dizzee Rascal, MIA, King Krule - Ratking are true cultural footsoldiers. The environment around them bleeds assonance, their records existing as a smorgasbord of soundscapes, visuals and delivery that paints out a New York that won't be found on a post-card. They've just finished putting the final pieces together on their debut So It Goes, which drops to the rest of the world this April. They've made us an exclusive mix, but before that we chopped it up for a bit over Skype. The boys were sat in their practice space, a room daubed with graffiti scrawls...
Yo how's your day been?
Wiki: We've just gone to get some photos for this, we did a few shots in our practice space, some in a weird random barber shop, and this other spot. It was cool, it came out well. How are you feeling?
I'm bare ill. What should I do to help me get to sleep?
MC Hak: Yo, you should drink a glass of peppermint tea with some honey and some ginger, yo. It's the remedy. The ginger will cure you.
Noted. So, you're putting out your new record in April. Do you think the world is more fucked now than it was when you put out the Wiki93 EP?
Wiki: I dunno, dude. I don't know what to do with the world, I'm in my own world. I'm in my own head, my world is New York and De Blasio is the mayor, so that's chill.
You're not worried about anything else that goes on outside of New York?
Nah nah, I mean, King Krule in London is doing his thing, my boys in Miami doing their thing, my boys in Angola, you know what I'm saying?
I feel you, but outside of music, what's the world saying? Is it fucked?
Wiki: Eric, what do you think about the world?
Eric: Nah, the world can't be fucked, I mean. You might be fucked, but the world is alright.
You guys are American though, and the whole NSA shit is messed up.
Wiki: Urm, honestly, I think like there's bad shit and there's good shit.
Eric: What'd you think about it?
At the end of the day, if we can do us, then it's all good. But something's happening, at least over here in the UK, people are getting angry.
Wiki: Yeah, there were some riots poppin' off over there. Someone was telling me wasn't there, like, some kid got killed by a cop?
Wiki: That's fucked.
But in Ratking's world, it's all good?
Wiki: Yeah, I don't know if the world is any more fucked now than it was five years ago. Every generation thought that their world was fucked, you know? But Ratking, we're doing alright ourselves.
MC Hak: I think we're mad blessed to, like, we don't have to face a lot of hardships.
Right, right. Our hardships are minimal compared to others.
Eric: Right, so with that opportunity, because you know other people may be suffering right now, you do the most with the time you have and if in some way you can affect the person next to you in a positive way, that's doing a lot. It's within arms reach.
If Ratking were in charge, how would you rule the world?
Eric: You'll never be in charge, nobody is ever in charge of anything. You might think you're in charge but… The quality of your reality depends on what is happening currently.
Good answer. Enough about people getting fucked, how'd you feel the progression is between the album and the EP?
Wiki: We've developed a lot. If you listen to the EP and haven't been to a live show ever, when you get inside you'll be like, damn. But in general, the whole sound has developed a lot, we've been working together for longer, we know how to do stuff. It's not just one perspective, it's all three of us together.
Is that how you've switched it up, all three of you having equal input?
Wiki: Well, when we first went in with the EP I think it was a Ratking project, but it was like, alright, what are we going to do to emphasise Wiki, because it was called Wiki93. But now it's all of us. Hak produced everything on Wiki93 but it felt like he was producing beats for me, rather than now where it's making music all together, fully.
It's a lot more collaborative?
Wiki: The live set has really helped with that because when we made the EP we hadn't been playing live, but now we have, and we have that element now which is influencing the way we make music.
Eric: It's music made for MP3 with respect to things sounding a certain way live.
How'd you do it live?
Wiki: We're playing the beats live, you know what I'm saying? It isn't Serato or some shit.
Eric: It's not an indictment on people who play with Serato, like do what you want to do.
Wiki: Yeah, there's nothing wrong with that, I'm just saying that's what's important to us.
Is there a theme to the new record?
Wiki: Yeah, there's a theme to it. I don't know, what do you think?
MC Hak: I think it touches on several, it's like a story.
Like a journey?
Wiki: Yeah, from a lot of different perspectives, though. It's not just like one persons journey, it's all time at once. It switches all around. We're taking you into our world, what we created, loosely based on New York, the history of the world, the history of our city, our country, and it's all mixed in and brought to you like a story.
MC Hak: It's called So It Goes.
The process of stitching together the elements of the area in which you inhabit is something which King Krule does, too. And you two are cool, right?
Wiki: Yeah, we fuck with his music, and he fucks with our music. We're on the same level.
MC Hak: We recorded 100 at the XL studio in London, then we met up with King Krule and worked on some music. He's on So Sick Stories which is on the album.
I feel like what you guys do for kids in New York, he does for London.
Eric: I see you on that, dude.
Wiki: When we first came up with the idea of a song, it had to be some sort of New York, rainy day shit, because that connects to London, right? But our music is also really influenced by the history of the UK. We take on those things, whether it's the sound or the stories, and give them our perspective.
What things from Britain do you like?
Wiki: Dizzee's first album is one of our favourite albums.
MC Hak: Yeah, that took me through senior year, for sure.
Wiki: We're into grime and jungle and shit.
MC Hak: I fuck with Mount Kimbie.
So the mix you've made for us, what is it?
Wiki: It's not a mini-album, it's like, us messing around. Not messing around, but playing beats, rapping over them, you know what I mean? It's like a session, you know. We recorded beats and did layers and layers of vocals and shout-outs. We had some old stuff, pre-release Wiki shit, that we put on there. We wanted to give a little taste of everything.
Any final words?
Wiki: Yo, cop that album.
MC Hak: We're trying to get out to Russia.
Wiki: We're trying to go everywhere.
Eric: Hong Kong!
Text Ryan Bassil
Photography Barbara Anastacio