For both the familiar and the initiated, Ratking was full of surprises. One surprise was the crowd: it was huge. The scrappy NY trio has sure gained a following and a spotlight in the recent months, but even they surely were surprised by the sardine-level crowd for them underneath Governors Ball’s Gotham stage. As with most other things, though, it seemed as though Wiki, Hak, and Sporting Life couldn’t give a fuck about the crowd’s presence or notions of what they’d be seeing, as they were perfectly comfortable rocking out with some of their more sprawling songs. Most notably, they unfurled the entirety of their LP’s title track and it’s five-plus minutes of jagged density.
Though that choice to stretch and ramble no doubt came as a surprise to the miniature attention spans of hip-hop fans (who are normally fed abbreviated versions of each and every song at live shows), it was kept afloat by the pure musicianship of the band. Wiki’s rapping was unimpeachable; a sublimely executed barrage of rhymes as layered and thick as an NYC roadmap. So was his energy: half our shots of the wild man show him with the microphone inside his mouth, as his combined flailing and screaming appear to lead his energy to literally eat the music. Sporting Life was formidable as well, dutifully banging away on drum pads and a machine with the mathematic focus he’s known for. Hak played a solid straight-man to Wiki’s Tazmanian Stooge.
The full sound was matched by a full stage: in addition to the aforementioned trio, the band was fleshed out by a corny-looking and sharp-playing saxophonist, as well as DJ Dog Dick. All of this is not to mention the potent Native American imagery projected behind the entire affair. It was a lot to look at–almost distracting, as Wiki and Hak stood far apart, leaving a physical vacancy for the music to fill in center stage. Wiki had no problem drawing some attention, cheers, murmurs, and blood, though, when the time was right: whereas most rappers would punctuate a bar with an adlib, the young scruffball popped the microphone against his forehead in a one-two flash, eventually leaving his face with a red stripe or two. Out of nowhere–the presence and essence of Ratking.
Photography by Julia Schur
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