Will Hagle hung out on Fairfax long before the OF invasion.
Wiki is as New York as a yellow cab, bagels and lox, or stop and frisk. Modern Manhattan and the joys and pains of living there are the predominate themes driving the music he makes as a solo artist and as 1/3 of Ratking. Yet, somehow, some of his best work has been made during visits to Los Angeles.
Ratking was on the West Coast a few weeks ago, performing at various venues throughout town. One of their stops was Babylon, the all-ages venue / skate shop Trash Talk’s Lee Spielman opened in the heart of Hollywood last year. The occasion was the debut of “Market,” a seven-minute skate video shot on Super 8.
I walked into the event just as the video was being projected onto the wall. Dozens of kids stood reverently, watching as their East Coast counterparts weaved in and out of traffic, skitching on cabs and grinding on basketball court bleachers. The video, which is now available on YouTube, is a meditative tour through the country’s most populous city. Wiki makes an on-camera appearance to rap his verse for “Lord’s Mess,” over a beat created by Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) and Ratking’s Sporting Life. In a stylized video with a good soundtrack, New York doesn’t seem so miserable.
Wiki and Antwon performed after “Market,” and both artists had the crowd going nuts. The vibe in Babylon matches everything you’d expect a Trash Talk-run venue to be like. It’s as DIY as a store steps away from Hollywood Blvd. can get. The ventilation is not very good, and the AC is not turned on. There are t-shirts for sale but no one monitoring them. The floor is littered with empty beer cans brought in by those not yet of legal age. If you light up a joint like the teenagers standing near me did, Lee Spielman will personally come over and tell you to get the fuck outside. Wiki fits in.
In between the Babylon set, the Low End Theory set and whatever else he was doing out west, Wiki also found time to shoot a music video. The song is “Patience,” off the solo album he released in December called Lil Me. Not coincidentally, it features Antwon. The flimsy narrative of the visual is that Wiki and Antwon are on the run from the police, having just stolen hip-hop. The footage has a style similar to “Market,” interweaving grainy clips of the two driving with clearer clips of them rapping outside their car in an alley. In the end, they get away. The cops out here are not as thorough.
On “Seedy Motherfucker,” another track from Lil Me, Wiki raps about the type of New York he grew up in. It wasn’t the crack-addled city of the 80s, and his upper west side neighborhood wasn’t as turbulent as it was when Malcom X was roaming the streets a few blocks north. His first solo album is called 1993, because his whole life has been post-36 Chambers. His hometown is still treacherous, just in a different way. Basically, he’s from a giant bank condensed into a 33 square mile police state. He should spend more time in Los Angeles.