words and photograph by Alex Lauer
“Oh shit,” Eric puts a hand to his mouth and gestures to Patrick. “Check it out! 700 fill. That’s the jacket we need. We can get them embroidered.”
Producer Sporting Life (Eric Adiele) and rapper Wiki (Patrick Morales) were talking about my winter jacket. If you’re a fellow resident of the North, you know "fill” as a measure of down. If you’re from the snow-less parts of the world, you’re about to know it as the name of Ratking’s new record: 700 Fill.
700 Fill will serve as the follow-up to the group’s debut album So It Goes, released back in April by XL Recordings and acclaimed as the future of New York hip-hop. Wiki offers an entry point with his nasal articulation and impassioned bars while Hak evades comparison with a manipulation and juxtaposition of sounds—all deftly sewn together with Sport’s noisey, controlled-chaos production. They’re a rap soundscape of today’s five boroughs.
Though Ratking is New York through and through, Sporting Life didn’t make it there until 2005. He was soon impressed by Wiki at a park jam. They started sharing beats and rhymes and then added the young MC’s best friend Hak to the group (Sport is more than ten years Wiki and Hak’s senior). According to them, “It all happened naturally.” The same goes for their deal with the XL. After unapproved-sample-filled EP 1993 and a video by frequent collaborator Eric Yue, their future was sealed with the esteemed British label.
When I met up with them, they were keeping warm in the Fine Line basement before the Minneapolis leg of the Run The Jewels 2 tour. Despite their years of New York winters (“every winter need a North Face for warmth sake on long days” goes the chorus to Snow Beach, a standout from So It Goes), their first visit to Minnesota had them making comparisons to the virtually uninhabitable arctic Game of Thrones land “Beyond the Wall.” As fans saw that night, and other nights on the RTJ tour, the bomb-ass style counterpart to Wiki “one eyebrow” was missing. The temporary lack of Hak wasn’t something they would talk about on record, but if you really want to know what happened, you probably already do.
Anyway, there’s a lot more going on with Ratking than some tabloid headlines. We talked about the new album 700 Fill (hopefully) coming this winter, their track “Remove Ya” aka the “new national anthem,” and that time Wiki fucked NYU. It really happened.
Greenroom: You guys just flew to Minneapolis from New York this afternoon. What was going on there?
Wiki: We had this Adidas event. Nigo [A Bathing Ape founder] did this line with Adidas and we were in the shoot for it, and then they asked us to play the show. So we flew in from Denver and then got there at like 1 p.m., chilled, played, stayed, woke up, and then flew here. And we’re tired as shit.
Sporting Life: I’m not that tired.
Wiki: I’m tired.
Greenroom: This tour aside, what are some of your favorite shows you guys have played? Do we have to exclude hometown shows too, because are those always the best?
Wiki: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. We played Denver like two years ago. That was an ill show. I don’t know exactly what was so special about it, I just remember feeling really hyped about it. We were with Trash Talk.
Sporting Life: We played a show in Brooklyn for a post-CMJ showcase with Denzel Curry and Show Me The Body and DJ Dog Dick. The sound got cut out a couple of times but the heat in there was fucking exactly—I just like shows that feel tropical. When you’re playing and it’s just sweaty as fuck and you get off and everybody’s sweaty as fuck, so it’s like a shared experience. I like shows like that. It’s hard to get that when you’re playing on bigger stages.
Greenroom: I feel like it’s going to get hot in there tonight, but not for the same reasons—just because everyone’s going to have their winter coats and long underwear on.
Sporting Life: [laughs] “It’s too sweaty! Ugh my balls!” That’s the thing with shows. It’s like, damn, I have to wear this outside, but I wanna mosh also. What do I do? Lose twenty pounds?
Wiki: Do they not have a coat check?
Sporting Life: Long johns check!
Greenroom: You guys have done a lot of interviews talking about your origins, Wiki, you and Hak growing up in New York and going to school together. Eric, you came later and met them. How did you end up in New York?
Sporting Life: My older brother moved to New York maybe at the end of 2005. I was kinda in Baltimore just chillin when I first started to tinker around with computer programs, and then he moved there. So then I moved in with him. I just wanted to come to New York.
Greenroom: Do you ever collaborate with your brother?
Sporting Life: Yeah, nothing I made the beats for, but before I started making beats I used to gather instrumentals for him to rhyme over. I’d use samples and instrumentals, maybe from like 50 Cent’s instrumentals. I sampled from Gangs of New York, which is so funny. I sampled from Gangs of New York and he’d spit over a 50 Cent instrumental and we’d just put some project together, just for our own shits and giggles.
Greenroom: That’s something else I want to talk about—
Sporting Life: Shits and giggles? Yeah, speaking of shits and giggles...
Greenroom: You guys seem like a big shits and giggles crew, Hak specifically.
Sporting Life: [laughs] Hak is more about shits than giggles.
Greenroom: But I want to talk about the samples you have in the 1993 EP, like on “Sporting Life.”
Sporting Life: The Knicks sample?
Wiki: Oh you’ve got the original? That’s swag. Most people don’t got that shit. If you have it, put a link out.
Sporting Life: Nah, there’s a link! I posted it.
Wiki: I know, I’m just saying, tell everyone that because I want people to hear that shit too.