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Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Monday 12th January, 2015 1:11PM

Left-field hip hop posse Ratking made their mark on the musical world early this year when they flexed their skills and dropped debut studio album So It Goes. The Harlem-based outfit, which brings producer Sporting Life together with rappers Wiki and Hak, have fused the influences of their rap forefathers to craft grimy cuts like 'Canal' that keep people hyped about the current health of the hip hop coming out of New York. UnderTheRadar caught up with Sporting Life (and Wiki jumped in the mix) while they took a break from recording in the studio to wax lyrical about life before and after the skyrocketing success of their first album... 

UTR: Heya, how you doing? Where are you at right now?

Sporting Life: We’re in the studio. We’re about to record some shit, we just took a break to do some interviews.

Oh cool. Well, thanks for taking the time.

Oh of course, my pleasure.

First of all I wanted to talk to you about your name… a ratking by definition is a giant mess of rats all tangled together by their tails. Was that any inspiration about why you chose the name?

Yeah, definitely. But it’s more kind of based on people’s ideas of intertwining and having to co-exist as a band. Any band is kind of like a ratking, you know what I mean, because there are all these musicians connected together.

Yeah, I like that. How did you guys come together?

Well, me and Pat [aka Wiki] met one summer, um, kinda like Pat spitting and me listening, and we ended up deciding to link up and whip up some ideas, and then trying to play things live and seeing where it could grow from there. That was the beginning of Ratking.

So you didn’t grow up in the same neighbourhood?

No, Pat grew up in Manhattan, I grew up in VA [Virginia]. And Hak grew up in Harlem.

What kind of music did you grow up around in Virginia?

Um, well my dad is Nigerian, so I grew up listening to a lot of traditional music and things he liked to listen to, but at the same time a lot of like West Coast hip hop early on, and then from there some East Coast hip hop, so kind of a mixture of the two. And then whatever I would hear from parties or whatever my friends would play me.

Virginia is on the East Coast right, so it’s interesting you got into West Coast hip hop initially…

Wiki [jumps in from the background]: For me, growing up in New York, I didn’t find there was such a East Coast/West Coast thing, everything influenced me that was dope. Especially with the internet, it dissolves the lines of all that regional stuff.

SL: Yeah yeah, so we all ended up getting a mixture of music over time, you know.

What was it that made you want to start making hip hop?

SL: Umm, I don’t know. It was the first music I really ever listened to and the first music I had some type of physical connection with, you know, Dr Dre’s ‘Phone Tap’ instrumental left the hairs standing on the back of my head. It gave me goosebumps, but why, why does it happen? Why does that happen to Patrick or me, and not another person? That was the first sounds that did that, that I was conscious of. I don’t know what my moms played while we were in the womb. Yeah, that’s why hip hop, but it’s one of those things that has opened the door to a wider array of different musical influences and more of a picture of how these different genres of music have branched out, but are connected.

What is the hip hop scene like where you guys are based in New York at the moment?

It’s really cool, there’s a lot of people wearing the traditional high-top fades, and a lot of breakdancing is starting to pick back up in New York city, so that’s always good. We just try to be the musical accompaniment to the most amazing breakdancing moves that are coming out in this new millennium.

How does the process work for you guys in terms of bringing a song together?

W: Eric [aka Sporting Life] produces a lot of beats. A loooot of beats. But it depends really, it can be an idea that we had from the beginning and then Eric might go and use that idea. It might also be that Eric made a beat with something in mind, and then I’ll hear that beat and be like “oh shit”, and then I might take that in another way and write something. At the beginning it’s us apart, but then when we get together, that’s the most fun part - laying it down and building on it after that.

 SL: That’s the most challenging part too.

So you guys must of had lots of stuff to choose from for your album?

SL: Um, there was a wealth of sounds to choose from, but we tried to map out the album so that the production process was as efficient as possible, rather than making 1000 things and trying to dig through them. We’d rather focus in on what we want to make and make those things, otherwise it’s kind of messy.

That sounds wise. How did you feel after finishing it and letting it loose on the world?

SL: We felt good about it. And we had listened to it enough times that we thought it sounded pretty good, so putting it out was a positive thing.

W: I was really proud of it when we put it out, now I’m ready to work on new stuff. But it was a good success for us.

Yeah, it really rocketed you guys on to a global platform. How does the the reality of being internationally recognised musicians differ from how you imagined it to be when you were kids?

W: It’s much more normal than you’d think, but I think things are different now. I don’t know, it’s like meeting a person that you have a lot respect for. It’s not too crazy.

SL: Yeah yeah, it’s a lot more normal than you would think. It becomes like your practice you know, you just try and get better at it.

So, I’ll make this my final question since you guys have a busy day, what are you working on in the studio at the moment?

SL: We are working on a project called ‘700 Fill’, it’s based on the big heavy winter jacket. That’s where the name comes from. That’s the count of the goosedown feathers inside the jacket.

Oh, like the jackets you might see in an old Gangstarr video or something?

SL: Yeah, or like you might see walking around New York right now.

Ha, yeah. You won't need those in New Zealand when you come, it'll be mid-summer here! Nice talking to you guys and see you soon.

Thank you, see you soon.

Ratking are performing as part of Laneway Festival 2015 in Auckland on Monday 26th January. Head over here for full details.


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