ratking

On ‘So It Goes’, Harlem’s Ratking arrive with their debut full-length album, bolstering a nascent XL hip hop roster that is already home to Tyler, The Creator. Led by 20-year-old Patrick “Wiki” Morales, a proudly self-proclaimed “upper middle-class” boy from New York’s Upper West Side, with a nasal flow that has elicited obvious comparisons to Eminem, the group also includes MC Hak and producers Sporting Life and Ramon to complete a barely post-teenage line-up who, despite the hype, have only 2012’s patchy-at-best EP ‘Wiki93’ to show for their efforts.

The breakout hit on that collection was Morales’s personal showcase, ‘Wikispeaks’. Closing with the unconvincingly snarled couplet, “It’s about time time Wiki speaks / It’s about time Wiki freaks,” he announced his entrance by doing little to dispel the notion that teen angst accounted for the bulk of Ratking’s collective worldview. While their physical appearance has led to comparisons with indie crossover darlings Odd Future, the link doesn’t appear to extend beyond hoodies and adolescence. If the Wolf Gang burst on to the scene with a slightly juvenile manifesto (fuck everything), at least it was firm. Ratking, on the other hand, don’t seem quite sure what they want to speak about. And that’s the crux of the problem here.

The indubitable technical quality of Wiki and Hak’s rhymes simply isn’t enough to carry Ratking, and the issues voiced and the scenes painted over these 11 tracks seem either insignificant or disingenuous. It’s hard to imagine that the murders, drugs and gangs on the somber ‘Snow Beach’ were felt too keenly by the son of a banker, while the repeated cop references are straight out of Hip Hop For Dummies. That’s not to say that the ad nauseum should be the preserve of the working class, of course, but an attempt to address Ratking’s own world would surely come off as more authentic.

In fairness, ‘So It Goes’ does point to potential in places. ‘So Sick Stories’, with its King Krule cameo chorus, is a superb slice of urban poetry. The rare foregrounding of Hak’s laidback flow actually strengthens Ratking’s hand, something they seem reticent to do. The title track, winding itself around early ‘90s vocal hooks, is also a standout. The gunshot snares and 808 bass stabs that punctuate much of the record recall the quirky, space age production of Shabazz Palaces (‘Remove Ya’, ‘Bug Fights’), while Death Grips are evoked when the aggression is really jacked up (‘Canal’, ‘Protein’). But that’s also partly the issue; it feels like a series of experiments or a cut’n’shut job on three or four EPs rather than an album as a whole.

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