New York City has a million stories that can be passed down through generations, but few tales are worthy enough to be pressed onto wax. As the iron horse steams down through Manhattan, passing 49th Street Station, then 72nd, before finally reaching 116th street; the city protrudes alive and well as if it was hip-hop in the ’90s. Rather than ignoring history, Ratking gathers homage with new kids on old blocks.
The re-release and re-recording coming from the New York outfit, Ratking holds three members together tightly bound by an MPC and microphone cords. Wiki, Hak, and Sporting Life collectively create through a seven-track weave of an urban environment. It is a tale of two cities; at one end, the youth of New York that have grown accustom to the sprawling madness that are the parks and concrete proving grounds. At the other, a world of business and finance that has a new horizon sparking with each person moving and cultivating to the city. In any case of the word, Wiki93 is an iconic backbone to the Chinatown markets, the Harlem nights, or the heat of competition that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.
On the opening track, “Retired Sports,” Wiki is an urban explorer that works for his piece of the land. With a conquest that underlies his long-spanning career that follows through rhyming, Wiki is younger here but more approachable as an MC. Whether hitting his head with the microphone or capturing the underground scene of hip-hop, all eyes are on him. He begins, “Every time I roll up everyone’s like look who had to show up, Wiki’s gonna throw up, Wiki’s gotta grow up… Point at the train like, yo what you think of the Porsche? The iron horse, ha…ha retired sports.” There is this tightrope that Wiki walks during his time in Ratking between being a cultural leader and a complete fuck-up. He lets the audience in on his personal life, without having the photo in frame, with just enough to acknowledge his deep love for his city.
Even when “Retired Sports” shows a sign of slowing, the beat changes as Wiki describes “It’s tough in New York, law got you stuck in a noose. I just wanna chill free, getting ruckus and loose,” in this infinite cry out into the cityscape. There was a time in New York where Ratking ran the streets, and while that time has passed; their influence still wipes the dirt off those bodega shelves. The original release Wiki93 has these samples of New York street gangs that act as a wake-up call to anyone who wants to listen. The repress is a polished, but still gritty switchblade slice under the Coney Island Wonder Wheel lights showing that Ratking was adaptable and able to switch flows without losing the original mentality behind creativity.
Even on the final track “Sporting Life” which draws similar parallels from rap to basketball, the motivation is the same. Whether sweating on the court or over the SP-555, Ratking made paintings with concrete instead of canvas. The blitzing instrumental from Sporting Life hits like a steel curtain and lets nothing pass. Instead, the weight of the instrumental comes down like a three-man weave where Ratking at its height, was one of the most influential sounds of New York.