Photo by Teddy Fitzhugh
There’s a scene in Martin Scorsese’s 1973 crime classic, Mean Streets, where its protagonist Charlie, an Italian New Yorker working his way up in the mafia, is strolling on the beach with his lover Teresa. He’s reeling off a list of the things he hates. After he gets it off his chest, Teresa asks: “Charlie, what do you like?” He answers: “Spaghetti and clam sauce, mountains, Francis of Assisi, chicken with lemon and garlic, and John Wayne.” She looks at him earnestly, taps his chest and reminds him, “There aren’t any mountains in Manhattan.”
When Patrick “Wiki” Morales caught the phrase, slumped in front of the TV one evening, he was suddenly filled with excitement and scribbled it down. It was the perfect title for his debut album: a chronicle of the pressures bestowed on a young man trying to make it in the rap game, New York City, and life in general. Unlike Teresa, Wiki believes that the island he grew up on is home to plenty of mountains; he’s climbed plenty of them in his 23 years. “The obstacles we go through, those are the mountains,” he squawks. “There are mountains in Manhattan! Growing up, being a young adult, I think that’s a big theme.”
In March last year, when XL Recordings opened a new studio in New York, Wiki - who returns to the label as a solo artist following the disbandment of his group, RATKING - set out to create a body of work with a cohesive vision. An early reference was Ghostface Killah’s second solo album ‘Supreme Clientele’, released in 2000. “That shit is like New York as fuck, but it’s different,” Wiki enthuses. The description could just as accurately be applied to his own music: an amalgamation of grimy bass, expertly mined samples, autobiographical lyricism and bold delivery.