Wiki, rapper of New York cult-favorite collective RATKING, has been jumping around New York for a while now. Though still in his early 20s, Patrick “Wiki” Morales has a body of work spanning five years with his longtime producer, roommate and co-RATKING member Sporting Life. He’s been performing since far before he got recognized as one of the most clever and eclectic young voices in hip-hop. His latest solo project, Lil Me, finds an artist equally deft at crafting light-hearted fun—check out the goofy music video for “Livin’ with My Moms”—and intricate city narratives. I talked to Wiki over the phone in advance of his tour date in Minneapolis next Wednesday, September 21.
In the five or so years Wiki has spent as a recognized artist (and by recognized, I mean the type of artist who gets written about on Pitchfork or The Fader), he’s transitioned toward a more collective model of music-making without sacrificing creative control. In the early years, it was Sporting Life producing nearly all of RATKING’s discography, and their early mixtapes represent a relatively exclusive vision of Wiki, Sport and former member Hak. Back then, they were talking about influences ranging from post-punk artists like Suicide to canonical New York rap like Dipset. Those early influences are still there, but Wiki has increased his scope. “I listen to more current stuff than I did when I first started out,” Wiki said. “I feel like people are always choosing and trading styles. It’s like you have to pick an identity. But for me, I’m influenced by everything. There’s a lot of people around me making cool stuff that influences me too. It’s a pretty similar place to where we started, just maybe a little broader.”
Lil Me, features more than 10 producers, including heavy hitters like Madlib and Kaytranada. Wiki relishes the opportunity to bring more people into the process, many of whom he counts amongst his close friends. Despite this new diversity of production, Wiki feels more in control of his sound than ever. “We can build beats ourselves now,” Wiki said. “Having more producers is like having more colors to work with.”
Ever since Wiki and company put a zoomed-out map of New York City on the cover of their So It Goes record, their work has been inextricably tied to the five boroughs. Asked if that link ever feels restrictive, Wiki said, “Nah, I’m proud of that. Rap started in New York, so it’s certainly not limiting. The best rap happens when people are connected to where they’re from, not just on the internet faking it.” Wiki added that he specifically listens for those geographical identifiers: “I love when a grime artist from London makes mad UK references. I want them talking about the Queen on their money and tea and beans on toast,” he said. Wiki noted that New York brings creative people together, making room for collaboration between artists of different media.
This summer has been Wiki’s longest return to his home city in years, thanks to constant touring. Wiki added that leaving the city allows him a period to gather his thoughts about it. “As long as you travel, you won’t be limited as a New York artist,” Wiki said. “I’m not just rapping about the city, but my work is always going to be from the city.”
In the half-decade that Wiki’s been a known artist, streaming services and SoundCloud have changed the way music is distributed. Artists can post music for free with unprecedented ease. When asked if he thinks about the distribution process when putting mixtapes together, Wiki responded, “I definitely think about it. I don’t know necessarily the best way, but you just have to come up with a strategy.” He stressed striking a balance in presenting his music to the public: “Should you release everything free so everyone can hear it and you have a bigger platform? It’s a balance. I think it’s fine with something you spend a little more time on, something more conceptual, to put that out with the label. It’s a new [system] we’re all trying to figure out,” Wiki said.
Wiki has the advantage of both youth and experience on his side in figuring out that process. He’s currently touring the country, and he’ll be playing 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis with DJ Lucas Wednesday, September 21 at 6:00 p.m.