Ratking 700 Fill

[Self-Released; 2015]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: boom bap, trap, NYC
Others: New York

A 700 fill refers to the amount of down in a coat; it’s heavyweight and designed to resist severe cold and snowfall, not unlike the beats on this new EP by Ratking. Produced by Sporting Life and featuring the raps of Wiki and Hak, 700 Fill advances Ratking’s gritty sound by collaborating with lesser-known NY-based artists. These songs aren’t as catchy as singles like “Canal” and “So It Goes” (off So It Goes), but they have a certain fleshiness that make them wholehearted and compact.

Wiki, a Manhattanite with Puerto Rican and Irish roots, has a nasally tone and the energy of a hardcore punk vocalist. He’s a young rapper who’s still learning his craft, pronouncing his words in a grimy half-yell. Hak — equally young and from Manhattan, but with a pensive demeanor — complements Wiki’s vigor with a slower flow, sometimes half-sung, that’s more obsessed with consonants and the weight that words encompass. By track three, “Bethel,” I notice that they’ve gotten better at working together, lacing their narratives instead of syncopating themselves. Hak’s going hard here, and even Sport raps, with my favorite two lines of the whole album: “NY Yankees jacket, Yankees jersey, Yankees cap/ That ain’t Mickey Mantle, Mickey, that’s a sticky trap.” You can tell that they’ve got more intuition as a group, and that touring and learning how to rep New York while not in New York makes them realize what it means to actually be from there.

The EP begins with a mini banger, “American Gods,” featuring some rappers from the city who I’ve never heard of: Slickyboy is a remarkable discovery. Although it isn’t on the level of “1 Train,” it’s got a slow pace that allows for fast flows and dense slang. After that, the cameos go away for four tracks and Hak and Wiki amalgamate. Hi-hats are ubiquitous. So are weird samples. So are impressive raps. Sporting Life’s production is colorful, but shrouded in grayness. It feels prohibited, as if illegal, but also enlightening, as if he’s spraying graffiti signs with abrasive candor. It’s half boom bap and half trap, placed in a rubbery shroud and smelling of paint. It doesn’t bring back 90s New York production, because it isn’t nostalgic like that. It’s just New York. It’s raw, honest, reactionary.

There are some themes here: the ubiquitousness of a Yankees hat, the shit-show that is the NYPD, and, most importantly, what wearing a 700 fill jacket means to a New Yorker during the wintertime. As a symbol, the 700 fill is a form of armor: the winters are harsh in New York, and the season of spring is quick and uneventful. (Hak’s line, “Bundled up until the summertime” refers to this.) To have a 700 fill means you’ve got life: you can go out, get blasted by the cold, and find your way back, alive. You can survive. You can do it. You can live in New York. You can fall in love, eat a bagel, visit a friend, go to your job, shop for groceries. Essentially, it’s a metaphor that, in the Big Apple, life begins when you can use your surroundings to your advantage, even when it’s below zero.

Links: Ratking

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