“I’m professionally overthinking everything,” New York rapper Wiki says hours before his London show at OMEARA. He’s restless, having just arrived from Manchester. He’s sitting on the edge of a black sunken-in couch, his hands unable to be still before continuing, “For me, it’s important to just be like, ‘yo, you’ve done a lot, bro. Take a step back and get your health right and everything will fall into place.’”
Over the last ten years, Wiki has, in fact, done a lot. In the early 2010s, along with rapper Hak and producer Sporting Life, Wiki formed Ratking. Releasing projects like the full-length album So It Goes in 2014, Ratking became darlings of the underground. But, it was the nasal-voiced young teenage rapper who instantly stood out. Wiki signed to XL Recordings while still in high school, eventually releasing No Mountains In Manhattan in 2017. His debut studio album was a critically-adored conceptual project where the city of New York comes alive through Wiki’s eyes. He also became a rapper’s rapper: Earl Sweatshirt, Princess Nokia, Your Old Droog, Run The Jewels, Junglepussy and DJ Shadow all asked Wiki for a guest feature on a track. King Krule and Wiki are frequent collaborators while he has also worked with the likes of Micachu and Skepta. But, after the release of No Mountains in Manhattan, Wiki shied away from the spotlight, before surprise releasing his second studio album Oofie at the tail-end of 2019.
“I don’t want to be like ‘I’m a veteran’ because then you a veteran, you’re kind of done,”
“It’s the end of the decade, new era, new beginning type things,” he explains about the album. “That inevitably makes you look back on the 10 years [which] passed that I came up in the game. It’s kind of a reflection. By the end of the album, it’s like ‘let’s move forward to try to be positive and not dwell on anything that might not have exactly turned out how you thought it would’.” The self-released album – Wiki and XL Recordings amicably split but he still used their studio to record the album – sounded like Wiki tying up loose ends. With an air of anxiety mixed with optimism, what instantly stands out on Oofie is the sense of catharsis that the album seems to bring about.
For as long as he’s had a mic to his mouth, the industry has gravitated towards Wiki’s peerless ability to be goofy and serious with bars that make you stop and play it back. With such a strong critical adoration, it’s still surprising that Wiki hasn’t found the kind-of commercial success he’s seen fall into the lap of his peers. “Yeah, that is frustrating.” he says, “But, then, it’s also, I’m not saying there’s one specific reason. It’s just [my music is a] little bit more niche, it’s not so easily digestible. It comes with art and not sacrificing anything. It’s like Van Gogh never sold a painting his whole life.”
Considering he’s been performing and releasing music since he was 16, it’s easy to forget that Wiki is only 26. He’s already been deemed a veteran by peers and publications. But, he doesn’t see himself as an old person in a young game. Instead, he sees an incentive to rise up. “I don’t want to be like ‘I’m a veteran’ because then you a veteran, you’re kind of done,” he emphatically states. “I don’t even look at it like that. I don’t want to be a one-trick pony. I know how to make cool, dope, rap songs. Give me beats, like I can rap and write songs on it, but how can I challenge myself? People aren’t even ready for what’s next.”
Photo credit: Alice Plati