New band of the day – Ratking (No 1,362)
This Odd Future-style coven of hip-hop mavericks from New York City could be the next to prompt a full-on furore
The lineup: Wiki, Hak, Sporting Life and Ramon.
The background: The last time we heard about a new rap act from the XL stable, it was January 2011 and Tyler, the Creator had just done a deal with them to release Yonkers. And so the news that the label had signed another new rap act, called Ratking, was always going to pique our interest. They haven’t quite arrived with the hype and myth-story of Odd Future, who unveiled a whole new modus operandi – being an 11-strong “Wolf Gang” who handled design, videos etc and came with a radical worldview that could reasonably be described as post-moral. They were, as the great John Calvert over at the Quietus so evocatively put it, “ready to think you out of existence”.
There isn’t anything – yet – that we can discern about Ratking meriting such pithy bullet-points or sense of duck-and-cover. On the OF forum there has been a bit of talk about them, mainly focusing on the high, nasal flow of one of their two MCs, Patrick “Wiki” Morales, an 18-year-old from Manhattan who took his alias from a rather well-known internet site and has been compared, predictably, to the young Eminem, although there have also been mentions of ODB and Yelawolf. Morales is the self-confessed “upper-middle-class” son of an Irish mother and Puerto Rican banker from New York’s Upper West Side, where he still lives. He’s been a fan of both rap and rock since his early teens: aged 13, he was spotted in the audience by GZA and invited to join the Wu-Tang Clan onstage at one of their gigs; and he grew up listening to US hardcore bands such as the Germs (he has their motto NOGOD tattooed across his chest) and played in a band of his own called the Homo-Thugs, a liberal-baiting name worthy of Steve “Rapeman” Albini.
Now he’s in Ratking with fellow MC Hak and producers Sporting Life and Ramon. They’re due to visit Europe for the first time this month before undertaking their first full US tour in November and December ahead of their debut album, set to come out in 2013 and with Jay-Z’s Young Guru already lined up to engineer and mix. Apparently it will explore their many and diverse influences, from Animal Collective to Suicide. It will also, we are told, reflect “a city in which delicate perfumed beauty sits beside rancid mangled poverty” (weird: we thought New York’s process of gentrification had left no borough sullied, but we could be wrong) and provide an antidote to “a bloated and self-satisfied hip-hop [and] the nihilist refrain of dead-end punk”. It is, they decide, “no wave” rap or “no school” hip-hop.
The six-track Wiki93 EP goes some way towards justifying the blather, albeit less mind-blowingly than the best of OF, although being canny omnivores the latter had the benefit of a multitude of spinoff groups and side projects with which to express themselves. Ratking only have Ratking, but they do their best to cram a lot of sounds and ideas into those six songs. Wikispeaks is wonky, Wiki himself effecting a snarky, sneaky and cheeky flow over a blunted and enchanted, sci-fi jazzy groove. Ratking’s agenda may not involve hate or destruction, but it could well be to subvert through gently dislocating weirdness. Is the title a comment on the ubiquity of banal information these days? While you’re pondering that, try Comic, its swirling noise’n'FX pleasantly disorienting, the jolting beat less R&B-jerky than grime-itchy (there’s a video of Ratking wearing hoodies and hanging over decks and it looks more like a high-rise inner London Rinse FM tableau than it does a US ghetto one). Sporting Life is pretty out-there sample-wise: the sonics are redolent of post-punk electronica, or experimental hip-hop, equal parts Cabaret Voltaire and Cannibal Ox. Pretty Picture also features looped, jarring samples, while Retired Sports pivots on an interminably repeated two-seconds of mad avant-skronk, which then turns into spacey shimmerfunk halfway.
The music on the EP is uniformly interesting, even if Ratking haven’t quite managed the OF trick of producing amazing music dramatically at odds with the meanness of the lyrics. But then, Tyler and co’s intent was clear. Ratking’s agenda is less obvious, beyond the usual new-band imperative to shake things up. There’s footage of them on the net performing live another track, not on the EP, called 1993, presumably titled after the year of their birth. It shows mildly interested white kids looking on, their interests piqued as ours was. Whether or not that will convert to full-on furore remains to be seen.
The buzz: “They are probably the most exciting rap act to be coming out of the city at the moment” – thatsdeck.com.
The truth: They’re Wiki, guy.
Most likely to: Spread un-ease.
Least likely to: Spread disease.
What to buy: The Wiki93 EP is released by XL/Hot Charity on 6 November.
File next to: Eminem, This Heat, Danny Brown, OF.
Tuesday’s new band: Naytronix.
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