Breaking Music - Ratking

Meet the soon-to-explode New York foursome mixing hip-hop with arthouse.
Ratking © Wilson Lee/Red Bull

Ratking, the young XL Recordings rap group, combine youthful hardcore energy and pure New York beats and rhymes into an artful sound that confounds explanation. The foursome of Wiki, Hak, Sporting Life and Ramon cite the Beastie Boys and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as influences, and they've toured with noise-rap trouble-makers Death Grips.

Ratking's 2012 EP, 'Wiki93,' showed off their raw talent and mean skills, but it left us wanting more. Their debut album, 'So It Goes,' comes out April 8 -- just in time for the group's performance at Coachella -- and you can stream the recently released single 'Canal' below. Recently, producer and all-round musical maestro Eric "Sporting Life" Adiele spoke to us about keeping an open mind to their sound.

© Ratking

Your style has been compared to the Beastie Boys...

That's a huge compliment for me. I've taken a lot of influence from them. Everything on their albums was so organic. The original idea for us was trying to come up with a sort of mix between Suicide and Wu-Tang Clan but you know, once you’ve got an idea you have to work in order to make things happen. We're still progressing, trying to reach a cohesive kind of sound.

So it’s some sort of organized chaos?

Hopefully it's more organization than chaos. I'm a big planner, nothing is really that random. Although we don’t practice that much for our live shows, so what happens on stage with Wiki and Hak is totally unplanned. If you can take that live energy and somehow capture that for a record, then you got something.

How did you settle into your unique production style?

Moving to New York, I opened up my mind to a lot of different stuff. Once I figured that out there's a lot of music in the world that opens up to you, it’s possible to mix and match from all those different influences.

If you come up with something that hasn't been done before, you always have the opportunity for somebody else to consider you the next big thing –- so every day I try to be the next big thing.

There’s a very visual element to Ratking’s work too...

The visual part is very impotant for us, all the things we take inspiration from also have a very strong visual element -- just think about Wu-Tang or Dipset [The Diplomats], the images they used were really striking. We’re all involved with art somehow, Hak probably paints more than writing music and even the cover for Wiki93 was a piece by Wiki taken from his ninth grade art portfolio.

Wiki and Hak are clearly so much more than just rappers...

Wiki hasn't decided what kind of rapper he's gonna be, so he basically can take influence from different ideas. I don't really send him beats on which he writes. We talk, we discuss and come up with ideas and have conversations about what do we need to do. Hak never grew up listening to rap. He's an artist and a poet first of all so even the ways he's putting his rhymes together, it's like a collage method and somehow he gets it all to work.

Does being considered as “the next big thing” puts pressure on you?

I already have 18 songs ready for the next Ratking album, so the next big thing tag doesn't even matter. I think as long as you remain in the work, being the next big thing doesn't matter. If you come up with something that hasn't been done before you always have the opportunity for somebody else to consider you the next big thing – so every day I try to be the next big thing...

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