Will Hagle is Originoo Gunn Clappa #4

So It Goes begins with an asterisk. Just as Barry Bonds’ 756th home run ball sits in Cooperstown adorned with baseball’s equivalent of a scarlet letter, the Ratking LP needs to be prefaced.

The stage is set perfectly with the spoken word intro that kicks off album opener “*.” Sosa, McGuire and Bonds can’t really be compared to Ruth, Aaron or Mays. Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane reminded us that not even Maris or Mantle had a shot at that. New artists can’t be compared to Biggie and Pac, so why are they?

So It Goes’ opening song clearly demonstrates how Ratking is different without repeatedly declaring that differentness over a DJ Mustard beat. Hak’s verse on the latter half of the song almost sounds like an outtake from Boy In Da Corner. You can also almost hear Ferg humming “Hood Pope” in the background if you listen closely enough.

Some of the POTW camp have claimed that Ferg would be a natural team-up for Ratking. While the dubby, reggae influence that permeates both Trap Lord and So It Goes certainly connects the two, it’s tough to deny that Ratking’s style doesn’t quite vibe with A$AP’s. With this LP, Ratking seem to be doing everything they can to distance themselves from those that have emerged from Rosenberg’s renaissance to become the worldwide representatives of NY’s current scene.

New York purists may deride Wiki’s Upper West Side upbringing or producer Sporting Life’s status as a Bushwick transplant. Yet, like a certain HBO comedy set largely in Sporting Life’s new home base, the sad truths about modern reality are often the most difficult to digest. Wiki named his mixtape 1993 because that’s the year he was born; Joey Bada$$ named his 1999 because THAT WAS THE LAST YEAR OF THE 90s, MAN.

Ratking deserves to be respected because they strive to create something pure and new, but the results don’t always pan out. Wiki’s vocals dominate the LP, leaving much more Hak to be desired. “Remove Ya” and “Eat” lag, and tracks like “Bug Fights” dim upon repeated listens.

At its strongest points, though, So It Goes is more ambitious than any project so far this year. “So Sick Stories,” the King Krule collaboration that came about after Ratking remixed “Octopus,” can be best described with the first two words of the track’s title. “Canal” and “Snow Beach,” the two tracks that precede the Krule-collab, absolutely destroy. “Puerto Rican Judo” references the Dipset days while Wavy Spice and Wiki trade back-and-forth verses over Yuma Tent-ready production. Despite that song lacking the punch of the more straightforward “Canal” or the more left-field “Protein,” even the miss has to be admired.

Wiki bluntly states “this ain’t 90s revival” on “Protein,” a reinforcement of the asterisk that started the album. It would be best if Ratking no longer had to explain themselves, but no matter what anyone says it’s still difficult to be respected as serious contributors to the continued evolution of New York’s scene without constantly providing justification for why you don’t sound the way things used to sound.

Still, most things are better shown than said. So It Goes does both, but it still feels far from the many game-changing debuts birthed within the five boroughs. It remains a strong defining work, and hopefully one that will allow the group to continue pushing things forward into an asterisk-less future.

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