Ratking, the trio of Wiki, Hak, and producer Sporting Life released their debut album, So It Goes earlier this year. The trio has been picking up steam ever since Wiki was labeled one of the young rappers to watch by Complex in 2011. So It Goes has been on the radar as one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year and was deserving of a review on The Ether Report podcast.
The panel was split and the Ether came early with Anonymous’ distaste for Ratking’s portrayal of New York and Asia not finding the albums “easy to listen to.” For the remainder of the panel, the production was lauded as a high point, as well as Wiki’s ability to rap his head off with substance.
One of the album’s standouts was the floating “So Sick Stories.” Backed by an array of sounds from flutes to looped samples, this may be the best song on So It Goes. Wiki unleashes a multi-layered verse that showcases the frontman’s rare style. Diving in and out the beat he touches on everything from the shooting of Malcolm X, his past as a drug dealer, unfair treatment by police, and his story in general. Wiki has this way of stringing you along with his verses—keeping you hanging onto his bars in search of where h’ll go next—a trait that many of the greats possess.
“Thinking, Might it be worth it, life in the circle, write in my journal/
My journals the, city it flows with the prettiest prose/
Mixed with the gritty and gross”
– Wiki, So Sick Stories
That sequence captures everything I like about Wiki as an artist. The track also features Hak’s best verse on the album. Hak has a style that is very hard to understand, but when dissected elicits vivid mental images. His verse touches on his past as an outcast who came to form.
“Remove Ya” was another song we touched on. While it wasn’t my favorite musically it’s message was so relevant for today, especially with the Mike Brown and Ferguson situation we have going on currently. Wiki and Hak jump on a sample we all remember from Dipset’s “Gangsta Music” to speak on their feelings on the ever-so-popular NYPD. The story is textbook reflection of the injustices that go on in today’s America. Wiki and Hak give us first person narratives of run-ins with the police.
“To the boys in blue, never really liked ’em, rubbed me rude/
While I was cruising the nue, vibin’ the view/
Hear the whoop whoop whoop, “stop don’t move”/
Hands on the hood, you gave me that look, wearing ya hood”
– Hak, Remove Ya
This was among many other social issues that Hak and Wiki commented on throughout So It Goes. To think that two 20 year olds put their minds together to speak on things such as unfair treatment by police, the ideal New York City versus reality for foreigners coming to city, spirituality, and social hierarchy naturally – as in not being preachy, just free flowing – is refreshing in today’s rap climate.
While Ratking had some memorable highs, So It Goes had it fair share of flaws. While we applauded the risk-taking production, we also had to note that the album did sound a bit over-produced. I loved the fact that the album sounded like sonic version of New York City, but the loud sounds of the city makes the album hard to digest. It is literally impossible for you to say you can digest this album without the help of Rap Genius. The lyrics are hard to make out on a lot of the tracks as there are so many things going on at once.
The album also hits a rough speed bump when you get to the completely out of place “Puerto Rican Judo,” a song with good intentions, but completely disrupts what’s going on on So It Goes. Wiki tells the story of how surprised he is that a girl actually likes him, missing teeth, unibrow and all. It’s like they decided to go to a rave halfway through the album, which I guess does bring it back to the sound of New York City feel they were going for.
All in all, I applaud Ratking for their fearlessness when it comes to creating art. It makes for shining moments when they get it right on songs such as “So Sick Stories,” but those same risks can be very overbearing. Wiki is an ace on the mic and watching him progress is going to be something special. After listening to the album over a dozen times, it might just take another dozen to actually capture the essence of what is really going on.
*Ether Report Card – 7.64