- Rico Don
The crowd in front of me start to shuffle and become restless. The illuminated thick smoke starts to swirl around the gigantic pendulous disco ball suspended in front of the stage (I’m sure they don’t have a smoke machine), the previously searing atmosphere sparked by the ferocious sets of the supporting acts (in particular Liverpool-based RICO DON) beginning to dwindle to embers. Suddenly, a few whoops and hollers go up at the front of the stage and on swaggers Wiki. The snaggle-toothed headpin of RATKING storms the stage unaccompanied by his fellow members, snaps a skittish snarl at the crowd and tears into his set. Immediately the place is reignited, as the crowd bounce in unison and the smoke is whipped by the flailing limbs and torsos of those at the front.
Wiki is ferocious from the get-go, brazenly snapping against the smooth, yet lashing, sleek grime-influenced backing tracks. The set is predominantly dedicated to his recently released first solo mixtape, Lil Me, still composed of the progressive experimental hip hop ingredients, infused with the traditional endemic New York sound. Like Ratking’s previous releases, it harks back to the mid to late 90’s – however, sliced with warped-cuts of British rap music.
He declares, “I’m gonna slow things down a bit” as he drops into Seedy Motherfucker, giving himself the opportunity to drop the ruckus, and allowing the nasal and grimacing character of his voice to sit on top of the languid guitar of the track.
He appears an amicable and relatable character. Although his interaction with the crowd is almost exclusively confined to the front few rows, he appears infatuated with their engagement, as he is whisked up within the intensity of the moment. On one of the rare occasions when he addresses the whole crowd, he pauses briefly to declare his affinity for Liverpool, confessing, “Y’all got a good city out here”.
Livin’ With My Moms describes the pains of balancing adolescent life with a domestic one. The track perfectly summarises his sense of humour: his unglamorous, inane jibes at real life, and his honest and refining confessional lyrics centred on unremarkable subjects. The other Ratking member in attendance, Sporting Life, only appears briefly towards the close of the set for God Bless Me: a track from the album that also features Skepta. His induction catalyses a peak in vigour amongst the crowd, before he retreats to the side of the stage, allowing Wiki to wrap up the rest of the set.
Ultimately the set mirrors the mixtape, in that for all the lyrical prowess and, at times, outstanding instrumentals, it lacks structure and concept. Perhaps this crude display is a reflection of a raw artist still experimenting, tinkering and broadening the boundaries of East Coast hip hop. But for those in attendance, it’s been a unique opportunity to witness a potentially revolutionising young artist at a defining time in his career.