Hitting the ground running, Ratking went to SXSW booked alongside Talib Kweli, Earl Sweatshirt, Young Guru, and Just Blaze. Building up a solid resume outside of the Northeast, Ratking – under the tutelage of XL Recordings – continued to play in front of diverse and multicultural crowds.
The infusion of the music world with the art scene has always been slithering its way into a larger stream of consciousness. New York City serves as an incubator as day by day more artists hatch material that appeals to both the music junkie and the art school kid. To sum up our talks with Ratking, they give us a glimpse into their professional and not so professional lives, Hak shares a word with us, and the group collectively shares their thoughts on the game today, take a look.
Hak, where you ever interested in spoken word or is it something that comes out through your music?
Hak: I mean I just say what I got to say, whether its seen for this or that. I’m just not going to be better than Wik at spittin’ necessarily so I have to bring something else.
What’s on your reading list right now?
Hak: I always read a few books at once. Right now I’m reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Sin City by Frank Miller, just two.
Tell me about the tour with Gza?
Wiki: It was pretty dope. Small venues so it wasn’t that big but it was chill. It was a lot of good experience.
Sporting Life: I’ve never been to a Wu show period. It was ill to see his stage presence, he was so chill on stage. Seeing him spit his rhymes like he’s teaching class.
Wiki: I’ve seen him when I was younger too. If you know Liquid Swords and you know the classics it’s going to be a great show to go to. Gza is dope, we didn’t get much time to chill with him but it was a dope experience, something for the track record. It was good to learn because for a couple tours we were headliners, it was good to be a part the other side of touring and learning to tour as a hip hop act at this stage.
Hak: I learned that I would like to be playing iller spots when I’m his age, whatever that means.
Putting together art and music is part of your arsenal. How important is it for you to do with consistency?
Sporting Life: Everybody who we think is dope did it in one way or another. This is just our version for the time and space that we’re living in. What’s really good about it is that it gives you a few more dimensions to pull inspirations from. Sometimes you can be trying to solve something for days and you can just cut on a movie or read something then put it back into what you’re doing and it clicks. I think it’s huge and it’s serendipitous that we have an appreciation for other forms of art outside of music.
Hak: This past month I’ve been composing my own music aside from Ratking, but I have a huge headstart. Jamming with Sport, I’ve gain a lot of knowledge and now I’ve come to see it as the same things that are a part of my everyday life, the art and the music.
Wiki: Being around people like Arvid. He does art for us, he’s like a part of us. We’re watching each other develop as artists and he’s even making music now.
Sporting Life: Arvid is kind of THE Ratking. He is so low key but he’s developing in so many different directions simultaneously. Whether he is starting to noodle with beats or otherwise.
Wiki: When he gets into something, within a week he knows everything. He’s like the master of Memphis hip hop, like he knows underground 90’s Memphis hip hop. Diving into records everyday, his perspective on it is just like “that’s a piece.” He doesn’t mean it in a pretentious way he just sees art in everything. Growing up in New York and hanging out downtown and knowing kids whose parents grew up in the art world. It’s dope that we’re now making our own kind of art and show what we’re about but make just as artistic.
What has it been like working with Ari Marcopolous?
Wiki: At this point, he’s our boy – we’re so close. People have this idea that he’s such an older photographer or that maybe we should be working with someone younger. He’s an ill dude and we can relate completely. He’s an old soul but he is open minded, a really chill guy. That’s also the whole point of Ratking, the age thing doesn’t matter. Eric is 30 and I’m 19 and it is what it is. Sometimes it takes time, like Jay for example. It’s not like he is the artist that he was when he put out his first album but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. And that’s what makes it so dope because he developed. Then album after album he was cutting off the fat. He became so much more simple but within the simplicity he was so strong. We try to make music that everybody can f*** with, I want our music to reach people.
Ari Marcopolous began his career assisting Andy Warhol in New York City. The photographer and filmmaker presents vivid images, taking you on a journey that brings you closer to his subjects. Throughout his career as a photographer he has published several books including bestsellers Beautiful Losers and Out & About. He immerses himself into his projects and the people in them. The change of scenery and diverse landscapes in his work drill to the very core of the underground and New York subcultures.
Hak: He’s still a kid, ya know? With a bad mouth.
Check out Ari Marcopolous’ film for Ratking’s track Piece of Shit.
Sporting Life: We try to operate off of a different set of rules. It’s still amazing to me that in the time we live in so many people base what they do and the things they’re into off of age. It allows us to look past that and know what’s good. Whether its Christine Choy or a friend Pat has from high school you’re input is valuable. We take all of that and keep that mindset when we work with people. Often you hear people say “oh that’s for them kids” or “I got time I’m young”, why not do it now?
What are your opinions on artists who get big money and flop?
Sporting Life: It’s a tricky time we’re living in, it’s hard to be dope. What makes you think that something you microwaved is going to be as good as something your mom cooked? Are you trying to rip people off or are you trying to feed people? You want to put something out so that when you get it back it will help you. If you can withstand the outside pressures, a ton of endorsement deals, and feeding into the internet you can get twice as much as the dudes that came before you in half the time. That’s what Kanye did. Old school work ethic in present time leapfrogging the whole rap game. It’s harder to do now because it’s almost like music serves the internet now. After you start to love the work of it you can be honestly humble and honestly not care.
Working with Young Guru:
Wiki: It’s been dope working with Young Guru. We had like a week where we recorded a lot of the stuff on the album. Then we went back and recorded with this DJ, DJ Dog Dick – experimenting with sounds. Hearing him speak to Eric, mixing So It Goes, we saw why Young Guru is Young Guru. We should be finishing up the album with him soon. It’s ill how he was able to – as an engineer – shine light on an aspect that didn’t get as much notoriety.
Sporting Life: He really is a guru. You hear people shouting out his name but then this dude is a bastion of information on everything he talks about, he can school you on anything. You see the connection between the work he does with his hands on the board and the mindset that goes with the person who does that. He is probably the best listener ever, he showed us the outcome of being that kind of studious person. One thing I noticed was that he realized you didn’t have to be the rapper mad early. I think a big part of rap is that suddenly everyone wants to be the rapper and he realized that mad long ago.
If you could become any video game character who would it be?
Sporting Life: Hear me out. I wish I had the powers of the guy from Grand Theft Auto, like metrocard – swipe! A regular guy jumping into a car when I want. Or a video game basketball player. Full court chest passes and perfect spin moves.
Wiki: Link from Zelda
What’s up next for Ratking?
Sporting Life: First thing’s first, completing the album. Figuring out how to present it to people and the visuals. You know, you get signed and it’s on you, it’s all up to you if you f*** up because your idea is your idea. If it’s good, it’s good.
Wiki: We know the album is dope but we want to make sure it hits when it should hit and doesn’t blow in the wind. I was listening to College Dropout and it’s so dope because Kanye knew Jesus Walks was going to be one of the singles with this big video. Kanye is a mastermind, he explains the controversy of the song in the lyrics. There’s so many albums we look at like unsung classics that didn’t have the impact they should have, it’s important.
Sporting Life: That to me is the illest place for any artist. Once you start to love the work and stop paying attention to all the things you naturally think are important then these ideas come to you. You have to be on your s*** all the time. When you are you can stay in the stream of dope ideas. Hopefully we can stay on our s*** as this process goes through so the good ideas can come to us.