By Pat Gunther
The hip-hop scene of New York has been deeply rooted in the history and origin of the genre that is now as much a part of mainstream society as rock n’ roll once was. Some of hip-hop’s most prolific MCs have risen from the concrete jungle, and gone on to achieve immense fame for their respected craft. In 2014, a revival of the New York City MC is well underway thanks to the A$AP Mob, Pro-Era and various other new-age lyricists.
One of the most unique acts in this rap renaissance is the up-and-coming Brooklyn by Manhattan based trio RATKING. Led by Wiki and Hak, Sporting Life’s production sets the scene for the duo of energetic, reckless MCs who detail growing up in the City about as well as anyone could.
Their debut EP Wiki93 was released in 2012, stirring much buzz from those both inside and outside of the hip-hop community. The fast-spitting, bombastic wordplay of Patrick Morales, better known as Wiki, has drawn comparisons to a younger Eminem. However, Wiki’s subject matter is not as dark and sadistic as Mathers’, but rather focuses on painting a vivid picture about life in New York City.
His rapping other-half, Hakeem Lewis aka Hak, provides incredibly catchy, smooth hooks and rapidly-delivered verses of his own on Ratking’s debut album So It Goes, an homage to Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. The album, though not without it’s share of flaws, takes on a unique perspective seldom donned by the East Coast rhymers of today.
Coming from a place of relative privilege, both Wiki and Hak focus on creating a vibrant and robust landscape for their listener on So It Goes, giving a deep, and honest look into the lives of the two. With Sporting Life, the oldest member of the 3, behind the boards, Wiki and Hak are able to roam free on the wide-ranging sounds that allow them to create impressive inter-syllabic matchups and flows of varying speed and tone.
Standout tracks such as “Snow Beach” create a lively portrayal of life as a native New York youth, all while luring listeners in with a punk-influenced refrain yelled by Wiki as Hak lays an incredibly smooth foundation complimented by a nice sax loop.
Moreover, the complimenting styles of Wiki and Hak work very well together on the track “Eat” which details Wiki’s stint fighting drug addiction with Hak singing a hazy, enchanting hook to kick things off. In attracting young talent like British crooner King Krule, and veteran Jay-Z production protégé Young Guru, Ratking’s So It Goes serves as a beacon of hope for New York hip-hop’s youth.
Though there are moments of repetition and mild-immaturity splattered throughout, one must remember that though incredibly talented, the 20-year-old MC’s only have room to improve. In a city known for the Empire State Building and towering skyscrapers, Ratking’s trajectory will surely follow the direction of those landmarks.