Keeping My Ear to the Grindstone: Wiki’s No Mountains in Manhattan

When Patrick Morales—better known as Wiki—takes the stage at his August 2017 Boiler Room set, he has a wild look in his eyes. On the Chinatown rooftop he is armed with one mic and is the creator of his own universe. He rocks the crowd of trendy Brooklynites, his fierce presence belying his 5-foot-6 frame. Wiki oozes a New York energy throughout the set. The Boiler Room appearance is in support of his most recent project, “No Mountains in Manhattan.” The New York skyline that towers over the Chinatown rooftop is a perfect backdrop for the quintessentially New York emcee.

Wiki made a name for himself beginning in 2011 as a member of Ratking, a trio also featuring producer and rapper Sporting Life and rapper MC Hak. The group was emerging in the world of underground hip-hop at the same time as Joey Badass’s Pro Era as well as Odd Future on the country’s opposite coast. Ratking’s sound peaked on its 2014 project “So It Goes,” but the group never experienced the wide success of their early 2010 contemporaries. Wiki left the group in 2015 and began working with Your Old Droog and Lil Ugly Mane on their collective, The Secret Circle.

Cartoon by Lo Wall

During Wiki’s solo career, he has produced mixtapes such as “Lil Me” and a collaborative project with Your Old Droog titled “What Happened to Fire.” On “No Mountains in Manhattan,” Wiki maintains a positive trajectory but has by no means created an artistically cohesive project.

The album bounces between teeth-chattering bars and boring attempts at pop-rap. Wiki’s strong suit is his ability to channel the grit of his particular New York street experience into rambling and diffuse stories. His lyrics are filled with homages to his hometown, proudly repping the hearth of American hip-hop. Whether he’s talking about ordering a chopped cheese sandwich or giving a shout-out to his local bodega, Wiki keeps his New York roots close. In his video for “Mayor,” one of the album’s best tracks, Wiki roams the streets of New York dapping up passersby and handing out “Wiki for Mayor” buttons. His affable grin is hard not to like.

Sparse beats accent songs at opportune moments. Wiki’s flow is not at all conventional but enjoys a harmonious marriage with the project’s production. On the grimy records of his former group, Ratking, Wiki drove a majority of the songs but shared space with MC Hak. On “Mountains in Manhattan,” Wiki takes center stage and struggles to fill 16 tracks with worthwhile lyrics. He is a prolific rhymer, no doubt, but on tracks like “Chinatown Swing” he loses his train of thought and spins off into rhymes that have no central story or purpose. On Ratking projects, Wiki could lean on Hak to pick up hooks and add texture to the tracks. Without Hak, Wiki struggles to pull all of his songs together. However, the features from Ghostface Killah and Your Old Droog help fill out “Made for This” and “Litt 15.”

The album loses its edge and menace when Wiki takes a more pop-rap approach with the features and his flows. “Pandora’s Box” features an EDM-style vocal hook from Evy Jane that strips the layer of New York mystique from Wiki’s image. An impressive and melodic hook comes together on “Jalo” without Wiki having to resort to tired pop trends.

Wiki’s entire style thrives on momentum, and when he embraces this fact, the project shines. One track that takes advantage of his endless flow is “Wiki New Written.” Over a smooth jazzy backtrack that is reminiscent of J-Dilla, Wiki spits a freestyle-esque stream of consciousness rap. The format fits Wiki perfectly and he is at his frenetic best on the track. On tracks such as “Face It,” he builds well on his own energy and riffs into a flurry of wordplay. The difference here is that Wiki is telling a cohesive story as opposed to unloading his collection of rhymes onto the page. His struggle with alcoholism is well-documented on the project and comes through clearly here.

While the project has its weak points, it by no means turned me off of Wiki’s work. “Mountains in Manhattan” is Wiki’s first official album and it shows ample room for growth. If Sporting Life can keep providing edgy, jazz-influenced beats, there is no question that Wiki can continue unspooling dense and engaging verses. It will be interesting to see how Wiki develops and builds off of what feels like an incomplete debut album.

Overall Score: Decent to Strong 6

Favorite Songs: Mayor, Wiki New Written, Made for This, Jalo, Face It

Skip: Pretty Bull, Chinatown Swing, Nutcrackers – Lakutis

If You Liked This Album: Ab Soul – Do What Thou Wilt; Antwon – Fantasy Beds Mixtape; Lil Ugly Mane – Mista Thug Isolation

David Andrews

David Andrews

David began his time with the Catalyst in the Fall of 2014 as a first-year. After two blocks as a writer he became the Sports Editor and continued in this role for the spring and fall semester of 2015. Beginning in the spring semester of 2016 he took over as Editor in Chief of the newspaper. Andrews is majoring in English-Creative Writing-Poetry and loves the Catalyst.

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