“Hip hop is the music of our generation. So its kind of natural and inevitable that I would be drawn towards that."
When I meet with Wiki, he has indecipherable gibberish written across his hand from the night before.... unable to even read it himself, “Hope it wasn’t anything important” he jokes. It is a Monday morning, just before noon – Wiki had just performed the previous night, he began expressing his admiration for the crowd coming out on a Sunday night, and still going berserk.
Patrick Morales – better known as Wiki, was born and raised on the Upper West Side of New York. Rapping his way through house parties in his early teens, Wiki’s bold and hard-hitting freestyles and performances quickly gained traction, soon realising he was better than the average kid on the block. At just 15, alongside producer Sporting Life, and rapper Hak, Wiki forms the group RATKING. The gritty trio quickly invigorated the underground scene in New York – bringing a new genre-bending sound, ranging from raw & gritty hip-hop to the sounds of the British punk rock scene. Releasing their critically acclaimed debut album ‘So It Goes’, this new wave of praise was just the beginning for Wiki. Mixing brazen raps with distinctive storytelling, Wiki has a number of solo projects outside of RATKING; beginning with Lil Me, followed by No Mountains in Manhattan, and now Oofie. Across the trilogy, Wiki pulls inspiration from the little details of New York life, diving into the usually mundane and twisting it into something unique, bringing the city to life. It’s clear that New York is not only the rappers home, but also his muse. Wiki’s lyrical style pushes against the usual tropes of rap music. He expresses how critical acclaim doesn’t always reel in the crowds, reflecting on himself modestly with a proud embrace to his true self.
Was music always an important part of your childhood?
Yeah for sure, I was always into music. I don’t come from a musical background, my family weren’t musicians or nothin’, but yeah I’ve always been drawn to music, it just makes me feel good you know what I mean?
On ‘Downfall’, you spoke about how you started rapping in the playground – at what age did you begin rapping?
Yeah well I started really, really rapping when I was in like 6th grade, but I was rapping even before then, really just fuckin’ around in the playground in 4th grade even. But 6th grade was when I started taking it seriously.
What sparked your original interest in rap?
I think just being in New York city, and that being a big part of the identity there, and when you’re young and you’re from a place, you have pride in that place you know? But then also, it’s just kinda like… Hip hop is the music of our generation – so it’s kind of natural and inevitable that I would be drawn towards that. Especially without being a trained musician or something, it was something you could do without being like ‘oh I gotta go to class and do that’ you know what I mean? It’s almost what makes it what it is that you learn it for yourself.
And you joined RATKING fairly early, 16 or so?
Yeah I met sport (Sporting Life) I think when I was about 15-16, and we pretty much formed RATKING right then.
And that was almost a decade ago now - tell us about your evolution as an artist between first joining Ratking, and releasing Oofie as Wiki.
Aight so, it started with me rapping, I would just rap on instrumentals you know, and just start writing and freestyling a lot. Then, Sport and I made RATKING and all that, and I thought that was a good way to grow, and I thought it was important to grow with a group rather than just come out solo. We just made some dope shit, that was a dope era for the music we were making. I feel like a lot of stuff was popping at that time, around the 2012-2013 era. So there was that, but a part of me was still working on a lot of solo stuff at the same time. So from there I made Lil Me – that was the first mixtape. RATKING was still a thing, but I made a tape which was the solo stuff I had been working on for the past year and a bit – so just put that together. From there, you would be touring with people for so long… and you have your differences, and you wanna do your own thing so, we ended up taking a break and going our own way. This whole time we had been signed to XL, so then I did No Mountains in Manhattan, which technically was the first solo album… but I personally call Lil Me my first album. To me, it’s Lil Me, No Mountains, and then Oofie is the third album. So I did No Mountains, and that was real conceptual, at the time I was like ‘this is going to be my first album on XL…’ which I thought was a dope album for sure, but then Oofie I made in XL but wanted to go back to the Lil Me era… a little sprinkle of No Mountains too but also bringing back that flavour of not overthinking it too much and just like, having fun with it you know what I mean? Telling my story in that way.
“You’ll try and you’ll try and you’ll try and it won’t hit, but then when you least expect it, you start feeling it and you write some dope shit. I’ll be asking myself “damn, do I not got it? But then these dope moments of clarity and progress happen and you’re like “aye I got it.
You’ve got Puerto Rican blood in you – did that side of your ancestry ever influence any of your music?
Yeah for sure, I think that the way I rap a lot of the time is influenced by, you know that Latin drum where it’s like… on but its off… like “da da da da… da da da.” you know what I’m talking about? I don’t know how to do it… I’m not a fuckin’ percussionist… but I do that with my words. And I know that seems like a subtle thing, but it’s like listening to Ray Barretto who is a drummer, he had that rhythm… and that’s where I think I got that from, got that from my Pops – he’s Puerto Rican. He don’t rap or anything, he’s an ill dancer though. And I think at the end of the day, you gotta have rhythm to spit, it’s percussion with your mouth. When I’m singing, I can be on or off… but with rapping… it’s like drums.
And how do you keep the creative process organic?
It’s tough… especially when it becomes your job. And you have to like get in and make that feeling that’s like what it was when you were an inspired kid making this, ya know? So it’s tough but, I like to take a little time to myself, don’t force it, just try to get out and write sometimes. You’ll try and you’ll try and you’ll try and it won’t hit, but then when you least expect it, you start feeling it and you write some dope shit. I’ll be telling myself “damn, do I not got it?” But then these dope moments of clarity and progress happen and you’re like “aye I got it.” I’m not good at forcing it, I can’t go out and be like I’m going to write a million verses, I need to feel it - and I feel like that comes across in my music, I think it’s very thought out you know, you can tell there is meaning behind it, it’s not just that I will say whatever. That’s another thing, I will re-write a lot, like I just want to - make it perfect, and find the perfect words.
Across all of your projects, you’ve touched on some heavy topics. Do you think it’s important for artists to use the platform they have wisely?
I think it’s important to not glorify some things… I don’t glorify it necessarily, I’m more like actually telling you what I’m going through, and I think that is important because it just sheds light on what people are going through, and its relatable to people you know? Like “damn, maybe I felt like that too”. For artists in general, I think it’s important to have some meaning behind what you’re saying, even what you said about social issues – make it genuine. If you really feel that way and you feel passionate about that, that’s going to make its way into your music. Someone like Mos Def can talk about social issues without it being preachy, it’s all ill, but you’re still getting the messages coming across, and I think that is a tough thing to do. If you can master and capture that balance of drawing someone in, but you’re still relating to some real world shit, you got it.
What’s the first impression you want to make on those who are yet to hear your music?
I always want to come off that I’m a dope M.C, I think that’s always first and foremost. But as I grow as an artist, I want more people to be into the writing, so I’m not just seen as an MC but as a writer too. I think also, people get the New York identification which is important to me, that’s my city you know?
You’ve had some really cool collaboration across your projects, and personally what I like most about your collaborative tracks is the uniqueness of the featured artist – can you tell me a little bit about the importance of collaboration?
I think collaboration is mad important because it takes you out of your element a little, and most of all in rap music because you don’t want to hear the same fuckin’ voice the whole time. I love collaboration because I love when I get to feature on other stuff because I get this whole new topic I can write around, like they already gave me the prompt, and I can take that and make it my own. That’s always dope. Then when there is someone like Droog, (Your Old Droog) who I’m real back and forward with, it’s cool to collaborate in the sense that it’s a challenge, and that’s ill because there is some pressure there when he delivers a bar, then I gotta deliver a bar. Also on a production level too, it’s good to get more people in the room, more ideas are being bounced, and more dope shit is created. Having feedback from people you’ve brought in really gets everyone’s ears tuned in to what you’re doing.
And while we are on the topic, who are some dream collaborations of yours?
Mos Def for sure. I really wanna work with this dude, Alex Cameron. He’s this Australian dude, we met a few years ago at Laneway and he has always shown love. That probably seems random, but I love his writing, it is so sick – I just wanna link with him and see what the fuck we can make. That’s a recent thing, Mos Def is someone that I’ve always been inspired by, and who would love to collaborate with. Slick Rick would be tight.
I’ve noticed the real DIY side to your album art. The cover of Lil me was a giant collage, the cover for No Mountains in Manhattan was a painting, and you drew the cover of Oofie – can you tell me about your ‘do-it-yourself’ approach to album art. Does it reflect on Wiki, or Oofie at all?
Yeah I think that in terms of art, it has always been there for sure. I’ve always had ideas for photos… but it always comes back to being an art piece. I think my music is very much my own, it comes from me, it is my voice and my perspective – so I think it’s important the album art comes from me too you know? For the No Mountains cover, I wanted it to look like new York… but my New York… like that street isn’t real, its mythical… it’s the Wiki version.
The last decade has been quite eventful for you. What are you hoping for in this decade? And what’s next for you music-wise?
I am on restart right now… well, not restarting, exactly, but beginning a new chapter. This is a new chance to relook at everything and see what I want to do with my life. I’ve done three albums, that’s a trilogy. Now it’s time to figure out what the next step is. I’ll be real with you bro, at the moment I’m trying to stay healthy, I want to go back to New York and try and work out more, I want to eat better, go to the doctor, maybe even start therapy. I want to really get my life together, take a step back and see where I’m at, and where I can go from there.
Listen to Telephonebooth on Bandcamp below:
Words by Oli Spencer
Photography by Oli Spencer
Wiki is the fourth cover star for Tenner Magazine Volume One.
Order your copy of Tenner at www.tennermag/shop