Low-key New York City hip-hop clout champion busts out a banger.
If I tried to craft a hierarchy of modern hip-hop, I don't even know where I'd start. The legends still walk the earth and are semi-active, but the new generations have established themselves. However it shakes out, a couple of East Coast rappers sit at the top of my list these days. I find myself most connected with the flows and beats of Joey Badass and the hardscrabble dental fronts of a young man who goes by Wiki.
Most people who want to read something about Wiki already know who Wiki is without an introduction. If you're just tuning in, but the name and flow already seem familiar, it could be because Wiki was one part of Ratking. While Ratking has mostly flamed out, with one member making a public exit and two other related artists moving forward on their individual material, there is a deserved respect associated with the name.
Wiki is really the most prolific piece of Ratking. His individual material and appearances on internet heavyweight sites like Boiler Room keep his name in everyone's mouth, even while he hadn't released an overwhelming amount of material to the masses.
Enter No Mountains in Manhattan.
Wiki runs the floor on this release from the drop. On the opener, "Islander," a nice track that features a refresher take on beats, the rapper references his Puerto Rican roots almost immediately. It's a familiar theme throughout the NYC rapper's material and not a thing that I'd ever complain about. The track is short, to the point, and demonstrates the versatility of the flow master as it changes up midway through the track with a second great rhythm.
I feel compelled to not go in any specific order or track by track, but the second track is the public-ready material on this album. "Mayor" is the track that passive Wiki listeners will recall years later, but can't recall the artist that performed the song. It's good and it's place in your memory is deserved.
The vibe that Wiki rides throughout the the opening section of cuts on this album are wonderfully modern, while harking back to the legendary NYC sound that dominated my ears, and the ears of millions across the globe in the 1990s and early 2000s. My wife actually turned around from what she was doing to check what I was listening to and didn't believe me that it was a 2017 release at first.
The album does a kind of transition in feel and sound by the time you get to the midsection. A classic sound still exists, which it always will with a flow like that of Wiki, but even with an off-kilter track like "Litt 15," there is a nice jazz horn laid into the track, keeping the sound anchored in the jazzy, groovy hip-hop of yesteryear.
I'm completely sold on this album. "Face It" is the track that seals the deal. Even newcomers who start the album at the beginning will have a good feel for the Wiki flow by the time they reach this song. It's catchy, it's memorable and it's something that you won't get from any Migos, Lil Pump or A$AP track. That fact alone is worth the price of admission to this sonic ride.
After you've found the groove, the switch comes again via "Stick Ball." A track that doubles as dub and rap track with a heavy drum machine vibe that almost feels like it was pulled from a lo-fi drum and bass recording, swirling with a very Caribbean-sounding jukey dub. Like everything else on this release, not entirely predictable, but enjoyable once your ears catch on to it.
At this point, it's a thing I wish to point out about why I love what Wiki does. He's very good. He puts the words together well enough, I'd consider him a wordsmith. And he dallies with spoken word. And that reminds me of Sage Francis, another gifted wordsmith that ventured between the worlds of legitimate hip-hop bangers and poetic jams. The difference for me is that I like when Wiki does it. For all the skill of Sage Francis, I was lost on his live performance and commitment to the spoken word as a stand alone.
Wiki's strong album deserves all of your attention. It is good from start to finish. A very strong release that seldom falters. With 16 tracks, it is ambitious and could easily fall flat, but by the time you'd expect to lose interest, tracks like "Jalo" and "Nutcrackers" keep you chasing the flow and the rhythm.
Ratking may have come to an unfortunate end, but with only himself to deal with, it seems promising that Wiki will create an expansive catalog eventually and we're all better off for it.
by Daniel Coughlin