“Did it my way, oh I did it my way / around the world and back to sipping on some André.”
That couplet is rapper Wiki in a nutshell: proud NYC homer, cheap champagne aficionado, at once worldly and grungy—the transcontinental $5 bubbly drinker. On his recent debut album, No Mountains in Manhattan, Wiki, given name Patrick Morales, provides a sidewalk-level view of his city, navigating the Upper West Side, where he was raised, and Chinatown, where he lived while recording at the nearby XL Recordings studio. This week he brings those songs to Irving Plaza for a headlining show.
Sitting in the basement of XL, where he still hangs out, Wiki explains the symbols on the cover of his album. The artwork depicts a city block lined with familiar sights—a deli, a pub and a laundromat. In the middle there’s a flag, a custom creation that mixes the banners of Ireland and Puerto Rico, referencing the heritage of his mother and father, respectively.
“When you’re mixed or you’re like a mutt, you always have this identity crisis thing going on. ‘Where do I fit in?’ type of shit,” he says. “So, by making my own flag, you kind of make your own thing, and you take on the pride of being mixed.”
As a teenager, Wiki made a name for himself as a potent rapper in Ratking, a noisy, boisterous punk-rap outfit that he formed with producer Sporting Life and childhood friend Hak. Now 24 years old, he’s still part of that scene of arty kids, but he’s since expanded his circle and ambition. His full-length features production by the buzzy beatmaker Kaytranada and Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt as well as a guest verse by Wu Tang’s Ghostface Killah (“that’s, like, a childhood dream”). The album draws in sounds from all corners, chopping up a cartoon TV show theme song on one cut and a somber subway-tunnel saxophone on another.
This fall Wiki played small neighborhood shows in all five boroughs to promote the album, including at Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the East Village and in a backyard in the Bronx. A video captured the trek, which included a ferry ride to an unlikely spot for a pop-up rap show: a skate park on Staten Island. “It was, like, family-run, kids with scooters and shit. But that almost made it doper. I was like, ‘This is some old new New York shit,’ ” he says.
Looking ahead at his next project, Wiki is already soaking up new sights. He just got back from the West Coast and recently relocated to Park Slope to live with his girlfriend and a pair of cats. “I’m gonna be touring, so [the follow-up] might take place around the world a little bit more. Who knows?” Then again, he just released a new track: It’s called “Metrocard.”
Wiki plays Irving Plaza Friday, December 8 at 11pm (venue.irvingplaza.com). $18.
We asked Wiki for his top 5 things of 2017. This is what he said:
1. Jay-Z's 4:44
"I'm not saying that was the greatest thing that happened in my life, but it was a good surprise. I felt like he did his thing as an artist on it."
2. Hearing “Humble” in Philadelphia
"We were in fucking North Philly at Max's Cheese Steak, the line's out the block, and the album [DAMN.] just dropped. 'Humble' plays, and it's, like, what? It's noon. The whole cheese steak spot goes up! Everyone, the old dudes...everyone is just like, 'Bitch, be humble!' And then I knew, I'm like, 'This shit's fire.' That was a dope moment."
3. Ghostface rapping on his album.
"That was pretty much the dopest shit ever."
4. Meeting A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed Muhammad
"He knew my shit, and was like, 'Yo, I fuck with you,' ... It was just, like, 'That was ill.' Tribe was a huge influence for me. And for him to know my songs—because you could tell when someone's like, 'Oh, they kind of know it or whatever,' but he took the time and listened to it, and really respected it. From someone like that, that to me is one of the illest honors."
5. Directing the "Icarus" video
"It's my second video. My first video is 'Pretty Picture,' from back in the day. But I got to direct 'Icarus.' That's one of my favorite songs I got to make, and it didn't make the album. I'm just happy that I got to do that video, and I got to get my idea across. And I worked hard on that, so that's definitely one."