I have said this since Ratking’s 2014 gem So It Goes – Wiki’s voice and raps create such a poignant representation of what I feel New York sounds like, despite never being there in my life. Instrumentally, throughout the years, Wiki and Ratking have captured a new sound, seeped in New York tradition with energy that is purely hip-hop. From the pure honesty and transparency from Wiki as an artist, to the desolate, broken soundscape that feels like true working-class New York. His 2015 mixtape Lil Me and the subsequent 2017 and 2019 albums No Mountains In Manhattan and OOFIE followed that raw, unfiltered honest energy, and I have been enamored by that sound ever since. One thing I promise, when i get the chance to visit New York, Wiki is gonna soundtrack some of those experiences. This time around, he has partnered with Philadelphia-born, Antwerp-based producer NAH for a stellar new collaborative album titled Telephonebooth. I don’t know much about NAH, I’ll have to dig into his discography further to truly appreciate his artistry, but from the sounds of this new album, I think I’m already a fan. The 14 track project is just 22 minutes in length, with tracks barely exceeding the 2 minute mark, but its punchy and memorable enough to want to run it back entirely.
From the get-go, the album kicks off with soulful and emphatic loops that are buried behind the dominant drums, and Wiki’s emphatic rapping brings the track to life. The way he pronounces his words and expresses his thoughts with a punchiness makes his verses engaging and always interesting, and his ability to tell stories of his youth, family, and his career in music in such a relatable and free spritied way is incredible. “Yonkers” features heavy drums and synth melodies that are brought to life by the lively and occasionally glitchy instrumental, while “No Work” is one of the more memorable tracks on the album. A sort of rebellious track boasting about calling off work today, nor Sunday ain’t gon to church today, Nah I ain’t hurt today just felt too good to work today, in a Kanye West “Addiction” type flow, before picking things up with a short but punchy verse that acts a counter-argument to the previous sentiment. Rent, bills, getting fed, all of that needs to be considered. Those thoughts loop throughout the project, and his ability to create dense verses over eclectic, electronic yet heavy beats makes it even more enjoyable. On “Frogskins”, Wiki reflects on not being able to perform live, lamenting “Goddamn I’m more dependent on live shows, if I can’t get live I can’t thrive, yo!”. “The Crown” features the only rap guest on the album, foghornleghornn. His brief verse is punchy and playful, while Wiki delivers a punchy and emphatic verse. The colourful and lush “Sexy Jawn” is indeed a love song, with kinda graphic lyrics, but the sensuality on this track is done right. “Shit’n Me” is another stellar track, where he proclaims “walking on the sunny side up” over a drum-heavy beat, with horns that add character to this moody and atmospheric beat, while “Friendship” celebrates life and friends around him. “Hungover” however, describes a painful hangover, also a metaphor for the current state of affairs, whether socio-economic, political or personal. The album does however, end with an emphatic closer “Pimpin & Simpin”. The adventurous and loud beat, dominated by bass-heavy drums and scattered synths and keys that bring a sense of urgency to the track, with Wiki spazzing throughout. It is a truly emphatic way to close the album out.
As I’ve said before, Wiki’s music has always captured New York’s grit and colour perfectly. NAH’s loud and experimental compositions make for an engaging and ferocious listen, allowing Wiki space to breathe and talk his shit, while expressing himself comfortably through his raps. Telephonebooth‘s sound is loud and experimental, capturing punchy raps and stories with brevity. And it’s their chemistry over these 14 tracks that makes for an exciting and memorable listen. Go support!