Listen Here – Soundcloud
Mixed By: abu
Mastered By: nova blu
Executive Prod.: mavi
to be Pro-Black means to relentlessly pursue money, land, guns and useful knowledge for the purpose of creating and maintaining healthy and productive Black communities. It means the cultivation of a culture that reinforces a unified vision of Black well being and continuous advancement. It is also to seek for oneself and share to share with one’s communities the following critical assets: knowledge, wisdom, understanding, freedom, justice, equality, food, clothing, shelter, love, peace and happiness.
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.
“I ain’t bring New York back, I put Buffalo in the front,” describes the lyrical Tyson, Conway The Machine in a heavyweight match against himself on his newest record Look What I Became. Whether you like or dislike Griselda Records, A level of respect is put on the name like the rap Tony Montana. In a new age where coke rap is no longer at the height of sound, Conway The Machine grabs the listener by the collar, bringing their eye to the light of just what Buffalo rhymes can do.
New York City may be the birthplace of hip-hop, but Conway The Machine pays his respect to the roots from which he came; giving new meaning to “The Nickel City.” As he silently creeps behind the listener, sliding in through the door frame with a ratchet tucked under his overcoat, Conway The Machine scratches an itch that not many MC’s can. He begins on the Alchemist produced track, “No Women No Kids” with a scoreboard full of wins and swagger. “You can’t tell me all these rappers not inspired, before Reject 2, niggas was rappin’ like Desiigner… Alejandro Sosa the only cat that I aspire to be,” before letting off this machine gun ring of ad-libs that fade into the background. The performance is instantly recognizable within a sea of sounds, no longer hidden in the Buffalonian streets.
But it is on the iconic, “Tito’s Back” where Conway The Machine explains just why all eyes are on him. He begins, “Two bodies on the broken 40, your favorite rappers is broke and 40…” as Benny The Butcher jumps in behind with a lyrical Mac-10 on the Lambo-truck seat. They trade verses quickly, but resonate under the same crest, “Continental Spur, I can barely park the motherfucker, got an app on my phone that’s how I start the motherfucker.” Conway The Machine then finishes the line describing, “Gun on my hip, got aim like an archer motherfucker. I be swingin’ through New York like Peter Parker motherfucker.”
Later, Conway The Machine puts the pistol down and instead acts less like a Terminator and becomes more human on “Half Of It.” Rather than being a stiff-spined rhymer, Conway The Machine surrounds himself in the anxiety of what’s occurring in the world behind him. “I been so stressed out lately, nigga you don’t even know the half of it. My homie just finished 10 years of his prison sentence, that ain’t even half of it,” describes Conway The Machine over an instrumental from Rick Hyde. It’s strange, but Look What I Became is somehow a perfected journey that balances the reminiscent style of Conway’s rise with the punch of lyrical hip-hop.
As the record begins to fade with another W getting marked in the book for Conway The Machine, everything falls into place for Griselda Records. Between the rhymes and the way that the Buffalo king carries himself, Conway The Machine wants the world and everything in it.