5/12 KUMD Album Review: Ratking
New York City is a loud, congested, overwhelming monster of a place, and Ratking likes it that way. In their latest album So It Goes, Ratking conveys a palpable sense of place, lyrically and musically conjuring an image of NYC that is both busy and beautiful.By Basement DJ Quentin Stille
Production is in-house, handled completely by Sporting Life, who captures New York grit perfectly, juxtaposing cacophonous beats with chill synths and instrumentation. The jarring beats are defined by their mechanic nature, although not as abrasive as El-P's Cancer For Cure-another New York rapper/producer's album- for Sporting Life puts a more wavy, laidback vibe in his soundscape. Take for example the track "Snow Beach," where a rhythmic, mechanical opening changes to a wavy beat defined by New York drums and an ongoing saxophone solo. Another standout is the track "Canal," which is defined by a stop start sampling of shrill strings that blisters as much as it intrigues the ears. While somewhat polarizing, the spazzed out track "Protein" sets itself apart from other contemporary rap songs because of the frantic drums that rarely let up. The wavier vibes come in the form of tracks "So Sick Stories" and "Eat," which still feature some pretty banging drums, but also grounded synths, contributing to the cohesiveness of the album as a whole.
The raps come from artists and young adults Wiki and Hak, with the former overshadowing latter mainly based on the fact that Wiki really sounds like Eminem. While different from Eminem's flow, the voice and intonation sound like they're from a New-York-ified "Marshall Mather's LP," though solely in sound. Moreover, the subject matter is grounded and human, painting a picture of Ratking's idea of NYC. Themes like the weather (Snow Beach), sharing stories with the homies (So Sick Stories), and even love (Puerto Rican Judo) present themselves throughout So It Goes, with the chorus of the title track defining the album nicely, declaring that there are "six million trains to ride choose one/six million stories to tell, whose one? There's plenty as many as pennies in the futon." Essentially declaring the vast nature of the five borough-ed city is almost too big to define, yet Ratking still tries and succeeds.
Wiki and Hak also sing most of their hooks, which are almost all notably devoid of the anger they lace their raps with. This not only gives the audience a break from the frustrated raps and jarring production, but also demonstrates a maturity from the two. This maturity is also present in unique style and structure, with Wiki and Hak sometimes engaging a song without any choruses at all ("*", "Remove Ya"), layering the bridge over an outro, opting for detailed intros and outros of tracks ("Eat", "Bug Fights"), and, in a particularly intriguing track, "Puerto Rican Judo" Wiki engages in a call-and-response verse with featured artist Wavy Spice, telling a love story of sorts, instead of engaging in misogyny that can be pervasive within the rap music.
The definition of an actual "ratking" is "when a group of rats become attached to each other by their respective tails, either because they are tangled, or caked in excrement. The rats cannot separate from each other and they become a big "rating." In short, that sounds disgusting. And yet the idea of witnessing an amalgamation of rats trying to function as one is a novel concept. Everything going different directions, but still connected; a metaphor for the city, if you will. This is what you get with Ratking's So It Goes, a firsthand definition of New York. Best told by Wiki in "So Sick Stories," NYC is a "city [that] flows with the prettiest prose mixed with the gritty and gross."
Recommended tracks: Eat, Bug Fights, Puerto Rican Judo, So It Goes, Canal
RIYL: Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, Isaiah Rashad, Vince Staples, Step Brothers