Trans-Atlantic Culture Club
If the youth are the future, then we're subject to the eventual reign of King Krule and Ratking. That they're in cahoots on the matter doesn't help.
Photos by Ben Lowy
If the youth are the future, then we’re subject to the eventual reign of King Krule and Ratking. That they’re in cahoots on the matter doesn’t help.
They say real recognize real and when two of the buzziest young acts, from opposite sides of the pond, start fucking with each other heavy, well, that’s a real problem. Or a solution. It seems both King Krule and the boys of RATKING have their visions, and when superimposed on top of one another, there’s a blueprint for something special. We spoke to both acts, asking about their camaraderie, how it came to be and what is to come out.
It’s a Krule World:
RATKING are like me and my boys in London. They came to London and we played a show. That was October, 2012 I think. It was sick, it like popped off into a riot during their set. I showed them around London. That kind of connection was made. You know RATKING are really into filmmaking and so am I. We spent most nights just drawing, sketching together. Making a lot of art mainly, rather than music.
I’ve been writing a movie called Babylon’s Blues for three years now. I want it to be like Downtown 81, just documenting creativity in the area that I live in. I’ve been writing these different kind of surreal scenes. I wrote the treatment to Rock Bottom, and Octopus and I’m trying to write the one to Neptune Estate as we speak.
My roots in music were in ska and reggae, listening to a lot of that Caribbean style; offbeat guitars, that stubby base line and real
nice singing. My uncle played in a ska band. That was the first time that I got exposed to live music. I remember looking at that brass section and being amazed by the colors, the saxophone and the girl playing it. That was probably the biggest influence.
It was mainly the East Coast that did it for me. Going to all of Dilla’s stuff; his samples were gateways into discovering really good bits of music. Through Dilla, I got into Erykah Badu, then Tarika Blue. Now I listen to a lot of jazzfusion, because all of these hip hop producers have put me onto it.
That’s my route into production. I got a lot of mates who emcee and I cater to them with beats. I wanted to make more of a hip hop mixtape with my style of singing over it. The whole thing was freestyles. That was the Baby London EP. Working in the freestyle booth, I got some of the best lyrics I’d ever written ‘cause it was just a spinning of emotion really. But I’ve always loved making stuff like that, mashing up and sampling. I also managed to get my hands on a MPC2000 XL. So I was attached from then on, working on floppy disks, trying to make the grittiest samples possible. I got into the real old school methods.
I’m a pioneer of mash. I’m a pioneer of punk. I’m just mashing everything together that I love. So, I can’t describe it myself. I call it punk that’s it, ‘cause its got that aggression and mentality, first and foremost.
A lot of my songs are influenced by trying to create images; a soundscape or a soundtrack. So a lot are built with two parts; a long build up of aggressive guitars that drops into something quite elusive. The chords will go real nice, slow up and the tones will start to come in and the ambiance will start coming in, and it’s really based on that soundscape, and trying to get the story across in a way that when I say this word, that guitar drops a bit. When I say that word, the bass comes in and it’s just me and the bass. It’s always been like that. I love composing.
I keep a sketchbook and I make sure I write just a sentence everyday. No matter what, I can reference it later on. I’m constantly referencing my sketchbook before I even write a song. Mainly it’s about painting a picture, and actually formulating visuals out of audio. Forging an image for the listener to get into. It’s like something so enormous compared to me. It’s trying to visualize a lot of things, so it becomes real elusive.
I see myself as a modern expeditionary. I feel like I’m a traveler, I’m an unraveller. I’m designed to do art, to interact with other people, to do music, to do film. I know a lot of good actors and I want to get into that as well. It’s just creativity, anything that you can create is really interesting. It’s almost like Odd Future with their skateboarding. This generation are really doing anything they want and trying to create as much as possible.
That’s why I was making such a big point about when RATKING came, we made like an exhibition;s worth of artwork. We were drawing on each other’s shit, changing each other’s drawings and stuff. If you’re an artist, you’re mad optimistic, and I guess my generation of people are starting like a collective worldwide. So, I think it’s going to do its thing naturally.
A few years ago, I was painting a lot of graffiti, and I was fixated on going out bombing then going home and making beats and smoking blunts. I got a little obsessed with it, and it fucked with my head’ cause you can’t do that everyday.
The music scene is really international now, the Internet has really given us that. Anyone that’s complaining about not getting out there and not getting successful, it’s like, ‘yo you’ve got that platform, enough people in front of you on the Internet to be able to see you and respect you, to be able to make them links. If you really want to get your creativity out there, you can do it. We can do anything.
I’ve been trying to keep things organic. Because you can get lost in the Internet and try to create an empire and not live up to it. That’s why it’s real good traveling and meeting all of these people because it’s physical. I’ve been talking to them on the Internet maybe a couple times. Then I get to see them and I get that physicality. See what they’re about and they’re able to project that to
me. It’s a real optimistic time. There’s a lot of good stuff coming.
I got loads that I’ve been creating this year. A lot of stuff didn’t make the album. I got so much music waiting to come out. I’ve been working on an r&b project. It’s real like, two step, just nice vibes. With the album, it’s natural, it’s created over 19 years pretty much. 19 years of influence and thinking. It’s got songs from when I was like 14 on it. It’s really a documentation of my childhood.
My desire this year is to sell the place I’m living in, move back to my mom’s and actually get like a big, warehouse where I can have gigs, art shows, live theater…anything. I want to make it into a studio as well. So that people can come through and stay with me, they can be creating.
Ratking Of Swing:
Sporting Life: It’s funny how a term like blowing up can become embedded into hip hop consciousness when it doesn’t even matter. It’s not something you need to focus on. You put your energy into the work, and then the trickle down effect is what other people consider you blowing up.
Hip hop as a culture will continue, but why can’t hip hop be based in technology? We don’t have to rap. Not to say people can’t rap, the idea of rapping and spitting over beats is really good, but you shouldn’t be fearful of letting that thing go because that fear is what keeps things stale.
The culture is so young, you don’t even know the true power of it. And you’re never going to be able to get to that true power if you stay fearful of things. The world, nature, isn’t fair. If there’s a rabbit and a tiger, that tiger’s going to fucking devour that rabbit. Nobody’s going to give you anything. None of those A&R’s are going to let you in. They have jobs to keep, so the drive is to get new blood. And that’s what we’ve been; that’s why Chief Keef has to be directed to use his power for whatever it’s being used for. That to me is just like Detroit Red before he turned into Malcolm X; he had so much power and didn’t know it, because all of the adults around him. You can’t even direct this kid into something that could actually make a difference in peoples lives, they’re just trying to make money.
These dudes are trained to see what’s now, not what’s next. So you need to clear those motherfuckers out if you want to be on some next shit.
Wiki: The person who signed us was James Medina. He showed us the original King Krule EP and we were like, “Oh, that’s dope.” We set up a show, and ended up doing it in London and that’s when we met. We also did an “Octopus” remix. Once we were in London, me and Hak stayed for an extra week and just chilled with King Krule. We were just listening to music, putting each other onto new music. I’m down to work with people who I can relate with, and not just send me some shit over the web. Every collaboration we’ve done thus far has been really natural, including King Krule. He’s taking a lot of different old shit and putting it together. He’s doing that in his own way. Like post-punk. Putting that forward, and trying his best. And that’s similar to what we’re doing.
SL: I started making beats around 2005. I always felt like I knew what a dope song was. I was trying to emulate the people I look up to and the songs I think really slap. Being influenced by Kanye and his work ethic, and fortunate enough to have that bug that gets into your brain and says, “Yo, you can’t do it half way.” So when you lock yourself in a room doing five beats a day for three summers, then slowly but surely, your artistic endurance builds, and you can work on something for longer.
It adds a whole other degree when you start playing shit live. I was having this discussion about the Kendrick Lamar [“Control”] verse. People are talking about, it changed the game, but it didn’t really because the mindsets of rappers and producers are pretty much the same. The next day people wanted to write diss rhymes. We’ve seen all that. What changes the game is when you start to put in the work to become a musician and then that mindset reflects back on what you’ve learned up until that point. To actually have rappers know what sounds good with live sound.
I like this quote, “People are cursed to live out the consequences of their taste.” So production wise, I’m just living out the consequences of my taste. If it resonates with you then you go for it. If you get frustrated and you break that door down, where you actually start learning something.
W: It’s not a constant struggle but a constant effort to get our music out there. People aren’t always going to hear what I’m saying or what Hak’s saying. I’m constantly trying to get better at rapping live. I’ve had to get better at breath control and getting what I’m trying to get out there. We want our music to bump hard as fuck, that’s why the sound-man is so important to us. We want the vocals to be clear as fuck. We just toured with Trash Talk and I would never know what the they were saying, but those kids, they know every word.
I still listen to Reasonable Doubt and I’m like, “Yo, that’s so sick. I didn’t even realize that’s what he meant.” Or Nas’ shit, it’s so intricate. You listen to it and he’s dope, but you’ll have to listen to it 30 more times to really get everything out of it. You got to work until it’s like a book. You can’t just read and understand.
SL: Like the Wu shit, it’s like reading a comic book, you have to invest your time to decipher some of this shit. It shouldn’t just be all laid out for you. Most things given to people without having to work for it, they lose respect for it. Like if your girl shows you everything the first night. It doesn’t matter whether it’s music or dealing with a female. Those things resonate through everything we do. That’s a rule you don’t break.
W: Even that “Canal” verse, it’s almost like it was written in code. The story is meant to be hidden.It’s a graffiti reference but I intentionally made it really subtle, and Hak’s part is really subtle, but it gets the idea across.
SL: [The album] is not something that’s dated. The time hasn’t passed on it yet, cause this has new styles. For me, this is the best hip hop we’ve ever made, but also this is the most next shit that you’ve ever seen, separate from hip hop.
The work doesn’t stop after you’ve made some dope shit. So that’s what we’re doing now, just trying to play live shows and incorporate all of the
songs we have on our album.
We have the benefit of living in New York City. Take some chances with the life you have. You’re not going to live forever. Motherfuckers used to be about something. People stopped doing that.I decided that this was what my life was going to be; dedicated to the progression and mixing of different styles. You have mad leeway to do shit.It’s just the perception in your mind that you don’t.
Once you drop the idea of making it in music, and just decide to make dope things, all of the other mental hurdles just fall by the way side. People still respect quality. If you decide to become an artist half way, you’re just in a weird place, you can’t half ass the shit. It’s a gift and a curse. So, it behoves you to go toward your gift. Suit the gift.