Wiki is no stranger to his city. The New Yorker’s yappy, lisp-ridden flow rose to prominence in 2012, taking over underground NYC with trio Ratking when he was just a kid out of high school. His first solo endeavour, free 2015 mixtape Lil Me, marked Wiki’s territory as one of New York’s stealthiest city slickers loud and clear. But his plotting was far from finished, and his infinite tales only surface scratched. If Lil Me was an introduction to a solo, intimate version of now 23-year-old Wiki, then his debut album No Mountains in Manhattan is a warm but wary introduction to Wiki’s beloved city.
Contrary to the album’s title, Wiki uses mountains throughout the record to illustrate the obstacles he conquered to find his place and depict his own version of NYC. A storyteller at the root of his soul, Wiki’s raw, observant imagery breathes life into each unique character he pulls out of the shadows of a bustling metropolis. Whether he’s voguing on countertops in the bodega on triumphant lead single ‘Pretty Bull’ or mingling with the vast culture of his city on bass heavy ‘Chinatown Swing’, Wiki’s New York is a place of inclusiveness and pride.
And so it comes with the territory that Wiki sounds most at home over jazzy, nostalgic 90s hip hop production carried through the album’s core. Album opener ‘Islander’ lyric “he said rap about you, so I spit ’bout the train” is a sentiment to Wiki’s ability to turn even the most seemingly every day of activities into a blockbuster soundscape of adventure and unknown. On political, horn-heavy ‘Mayor’, Wik plays humble NY peacekeeper in the form of that mutual, familiar-faced friend who seems to know just about everybody; uniting locals and fusing strangers into community. He’s assertive and assured of his purpose, spitting “I was that little rapper at the party no one ever after/But I was a natural, that’s my first chapter”, as if he himself is the only real competition he’s concerned about in hip hop’s heart of origin.
Longtime collaborator/narrator A-Ron closes the album’s title track ‘NMIM’, elaborating further on Wiki’s mountain analogy. Another loyal New York native, he speaks on the skylines he grew up around that replace nature in the Big Apple’s concrete jungle; interpreting his own view of an urban utopia. “I remember growing up seeing the skylines and thinking, ‘man, this is my nature. That’s my mountain range.’” No matter the artificial high-rise kind or the mental roadblock kind, even somewhere as coveted as Manhattan there will always be mountains to move. Just like the city will never run out of tales for Wiki to tell.
Words: Laura McInnes | princessloz.wordpress.com