|Album Rating: B+|
Now, I wouldn’t go as so far to say that Ratking’s debut is a New York revival album, though with the recent reissue of Nas’ Illmatic there’s a case to be made that a movement is in the pipeline, but rather channels the essence and steely lipped bite that New York rappers have been sparring with since the emergence of the Wu-Tang Clan. Instead of blowing breeze about molly and pseudo-thuggery, Ratking play the role of philosophical vagabonds with an over-active awareness while still indulging in the self-induced solitude of being shrunken and young in a cold dead metropolis.
Since single ‘Canal’ first dropped, ringleader and prodigy Wiki has been married to comparisons of Eminem, demonstrating effortless visuality, helter-skelter melodies and coherent flows to his rhymes. Complimented by the syncopated whirrs from Virginia producer Sporting Life, who creates some wild and untethered platforms for MC duo Wiki and Hak to lay verbal pipe into; despite occasionally fabricating beats so complex they superpose destructively with Ratking’s machine-gun verses.
At the top end of the record is ‘Snow Beach’, a track I think should have been Ratking’s first showcase, and sees the trio spit icy and sharp cynicism while retaining a frustration and heavy-headed uncertainty only authentic to the curb-sitters and coming of agers. The production of this track is the most dense and hectic I’ve heard on a Hip-Hop record this year. Channeling influence from golden era jazz with the celestial crunch of Suicide wrapped up in a vintage 90s beat, a jigsaw of influences that when pieced together reveals the image of a raised middle finger.
Latest single and King Krule collaborative track ‘So Sick Stories’ highlights the blatant similarities that have spurred on young MC’s to verbally denounce one another in the form of UK Grime or US Hip-Hop. In spite of differences in intonation, the visuality remains the same. Derelict warehouse and clap-trap graffiti connoting the lethargy of jading in an urban tundra. ‘The way the grey controls
the souls / that go to sleep to sink and dissolve’. Spitting rhymes as brittle as the concrete that has shaped them.
Since Hak and Wiki both come from Manhattan origins you’d think they’d have an equal measure of potential but So It Goes sees Hak cast in constant shadow. Not to say he has weak lines but the incendiary hunger that Wiki spits as showcased on the soulful title track ‘So It Goes’ sees Hak painted in pale light when it’s his turn to step up to the mic.
Representative of New York culture, Ratking’s debut is a pallet of immigrated influences and styles, a tapestry of the colourful fading into the grey. Though I get the feeling that Ratking are still stuck somewhere between a snarling disinterested in acceptance and instinctual hunger for attention, they still pound cracks in the pavement with some really innovative ideas both in terms of production and rhyme that could spur on a New York revival if one’s not already in motion. With split knuckles and roaring bitterness, Ratking are rearing to shatter the competition, just give them some time.
3) Snow Beach
4) So Sick Stories
5) Remove Ya
7) So It Goes
8) Peuto Rican Judo
10) Bug Fights