Climbing No Mountains In Manhattan With Wiki

“I think there’s room for everything in the city you know, I’m not stressin’.

Using New York city’s complexities almost as a metaphor, from the jump Wiki’s album ‘No Mountains In Manhattan’ serves as an insight into the life of Patrick Morales – his inner workings, thoughts and experiences. With so much achieved at only 23 years old and gifted with bars, the New York native has it all to play for. Now signed to XL Recordings, Wiki recently touched down in London to perform to a sold out crowd at The Nines in Peckham. Off-stage Wiki may seem relatively reserved and quiet but don’t be fooled. When it’s showtime and the mic’s on, Wiki delivers a performance with the raw energy and showmanship we’ve all come to expect from the MC.

I caught up with the Wiki in a small cafe just off Bethnal Green high street to talk all things New York, ‘No Mountains In Manhattan’ and his accomplishments thus far. There’s a certain calmness and relaxed vibe as Wiki enters and we grab a coffee, getting right into it off the bat. Donning a ‘Sopranos’ varsity jacket Wiki’s brought that Big Apple flavour to this quiet East London cafe but it’s obvious that having spent enough time in London, he doesn’t feel out of place in the slightest. “Even in New York I feel like we look up to a lot of shit in London. Not necessarily in Hip Hop but other sounds, people are more aware of it now. You could be into Grime and some obscure stuff in New York, whereas I feel other areas of America, you don’t have that as much. Sporting Life put me onto ‘Boy In Da Corner’ and I started watching battles and freestyles on YouTube. Then obviously Mac would put me on and spit game telling me “this dudes with these guys or that crew” or whatever.”

“When you watch those [Grime] videos it’s like this parallel with Hip Hop and how that came together. I think that’s why New Yorkers fuck with it.”­­­

Wiki emulates the type of feeling that Dizzee gave us Brits when we listened to ‘Boy In Da Corner’. The feeling that we were actually from Bow in East London and living in the inner city, even if we weren’t. When listening to ‘No Mountains In Manhattan’ you can’t help but cling onto a feeling of familiarity of the unknown, with a place that you’ve never lived in but are experiencing in realtime through the music. Once you press play you’re essentially taken through New York city, through every borough play by play. “You can kind of put yourself in their shoes and understand it from their perspective and like you said even if you’re not in New York you get it. It’s like a movie, you can watch a New York movie and you’re like “damn that shit’s tight” you know what I’m saying. It’s something that’s cool to grab onto but then also something that’s actually relatable.”

“I feel like kids can see the shit I’m rapping about. It’s like a movie”

The idea of music serving as a capsule for escapism in the same way as a movie, is probably a reason why so many rappers are able to succeed beyond their own locality and reach a global audience. Wiki’s album title, ‘No Mountains In Manhattan’ suggests that it embodies the idea of everything being subjective at first glance. “It’s like I want you to take it for what it is. I want you to take it and think about it yourself. I got the name from this movie ‘Mean Streets’ where he’s complaining and Shorty’s like “why are you complaining?” or whatever and he’s like “I like the mountains” and she’s like ‘“there’s no mountains in Manhattan”. So I took that and put my own perspective on it. It’s kind of like the obstacles and getting through shit. Everybody can relate to that.”

Hosting the likes of Kaytranada, Earl Sweatshirt and Sporting Life just to name a few, the stellar production line up on the album is a testament to Wiki’s ability not only as an MC but also as a collaborator and I ask how it all came about. “I worked with all of them before, some are in my friend group and people I talk with all the time. Tony’s someone I worked with for a while, Kaytranada’s someone I worked with on the last project and we work well together in terms of sounds and shit. It all came together pretty naturally. None of the beats were me trying to take it too left so I was in my lane.”

The same goes for his fellow New York native Your Old Droog who he’s frequently collab­­­orated with over the past couple of years, most notably on their joint project ‘What Happened To Fire?” released early in 2017. The two came together again on album track ‘Litt 15’ where they traded bar for bar, proving yet again the strength of New York youth. “We had mutual friends and shit that kind of introduced us and basically made tracks on tracks. We did pretty much all of it at my crib so that was ordinary and regular. I like working with Droog a lot cause he’s such a dope MC, it makes me level up. ‘Cause he’s really on a technical level hella good and you’ve gotta level up and that’s a good challenge to have. I feel like we can balance each other well when we spit.

Some MC’s nowadays pick up the pen for fun, some pick it up for monetary gain and to get a quick buck. But Wiki is different, a natural confidence in his abilities has been apparent from an early age in Morales’ life. “Prolly knew that shit when I was like 8th grade. I was going out and trying to make the moves to make that happen. Figuring out who to work with as producer, just rapping trying to do shows and shit. Getting myself prepared you know what I’m saying. I was trying to pop off then but I was putting in the work so it wasn’t like now I’m 18 and trying to figure it out then. I put in the work to get to where I’m at.”

Now as he tours the world, it dawns on me that despite the ever growing early starters in the industry Wiki is amongst a rare group of artists who has accomplished a huge amount while consistently releasing material. The MC’s bars aren’t a gimmick, there’s no tabloid push, it’s essentially a raw and uncut New York City youngin who is really about the music. I ask if he ever stops to think that he’s really only just a 23 year old in a rap game that’s taken him across the globe, “Yeah definitely, I mean I’m usually like we need to make it pop more and get bigger but that’s a good way to look at it cause at the end of the day that’s true and you can’t be mad at yourself for doing that. That why I’m happy about Ratking and shit because people be like “oh what’s good with Ratking?” and I always knew I wanted to do solo shit obviously but I’m happy I got on tour with Ratking. I got to learn the game through that before I got to come out on my own and now I feel more in control.”

When you look at XL’s roster you see a label that takes on talent, nurtures it and creates longevity. I ask Wiki what drew him to XL Recordings. “They were one of the first to hit me up. I didn’t really know shit about that side of things. Then Sport hit me up and told me about them saying, “yo that’s a dope ass label” so I was like oh shit, then I met with them. This was hella years ago; I was on an imprint of XL first with Ratking, so that’s when I first started working with them and once I gave them the demo’s they wanted to do the Wiki album. They got a studio up in New York, I’ve recorded there. It was just a dope working environment.”

I’m always intrigued about where certain artists find it most comfortable to create and let their ideas flow. So I’m naturally curious about what a regular studio session is like for Wiki, “It depends cause sometimes I like to work at the crib then I’m like ok I need to switch it up. As soon as I feel like it’s losing a certain raw element at the studio, I’m like alright let’s head back to the crib, get fucked up and just zone. Sometimes I’m trying to be productive, sometimes I be smoking hella weed and drinking beers and shit.”

For a rapper, you can only imagine what it must feel like to work with Ghostface Killah and secure a feature on a debut album. As two artists from completely different era’s of Hip Hop, Ghostface is considered a statesman of Hip Hop royalty, while Wiki is a relatively new voice for the millennial generation. The two pairing together on one track might have seemed unlikely at first but one thing unites them both, they’re both New Yorkers to the bare bones. “My homie Arthur worked with him before and I played a show with him before so I met him and Cappadonna. I already had ‘Made For This’ and I knew I wanted someone else on it that’s an OG and Ghost is the perfect guy for that song you know what I mean. I felt like it was a good bet, that he would kill ‘Made For This’. I feel like every Ghostface verse is about him being made for this in a way. That’s the whole thing to his shit, not just bragging but like “I’m made for this shit, I deserve to rap”. Once he sent it back I was like damn this shit’s fire.“

“That’s like a dream come true for me. When I was young that’s all I would want to do was work with Wu-Tang.”

In rap these days, it’s not uncommon for artists and their album’s to be used as a type of therapy session, allowing them to channel that energy and let loose in a way previously untapped creatively. Wiki talks about alcohol and drug abuse on his album and the result is an open and often unsurprisingly honest project. “I feel like that’s where a lot of my shit comes from. It’s kind of real and real honest. There’s a lane where I could just curse out whoever and it’s all good cause it’s on a song you know. It’s I guess about me getting my own shit together.”

The tales and stresses of drug and alcohol abuse on ‘Face It’ will be sure to hit home with fans, but the likeable man behind the music and more importantly relatable content throughout the album is why Wiki will stay winning. The project has undeniable replay value, with bars and flows soaked in that New York haze we’ve come to love, not to mention the Ghostface collaboration over a stellar production line-up. It’s safe to say Wiki has cooked up another solid milestone album that will further place him as one to watch on everybody’s lists.

“I feel like I’m kinda shy and shit and it’s hard for me to express myself sometimes so I can use that and say whatever the fuck I want.”

There’s a definite difference in Wiki’s approach to ‘No Mountains In Manhattan” compared to his highly praised previous release ‘Little Me’. Sonically it doesn’t seem forced, there’s real growth within ‘No Mountains In Manhattan’, and it feels like Wiki has got to a good place. “Nah definitely I feel like I needed to get this one off and I feel open now I can do a lot cause I got ‘Little Me’ done, I got this one done and it’s like certain shit that I did for the city, I did that. So now I can experiment a little bit and do what the fuck I want. Not that that wasn’t what I was doing before but now I feel like I can you know, maybe be a little weird with it. I needed ‘Little Me’ to do ‘No Mountains In Manhattan’ because I needed to get all them joints off and go even harder on the next one.”


I ask Wiki where he feels the New York City sound is heading right now, it’s a topic that’s always been one of hot contention within the industry. As the sound has changed over the years, are NY MC’s really bringing a diverse enough range of styles to the game? “I think the New York sound isn’t one thing. People look back and say there was this New York sound when really there was all types of sounds. There was Tribe and then there was hardcore ass rap you know what I mean? There’s De La Soul and then there’s Biggie you know what I’m saying. Shit can live together and be part of their own scenes and overlap here and there. A$AP are influenced by the south but then bringing an old west coast sound too sometimes. It’s New York, everyone’s influenced by everything. I’m definitely influenced by a lot and have flows from all types of motherfuckers but I just do it in a type of way that comes out on some New York shit.”

“I think the New York sound isn’t one thing. People look back and say there was this New York sound when really there was all types of sounds.”

Wiki’s previously shown a lot of love to UK artists early on, forming relationships with Boy Better Know and others. They’ve reciprocated that love and I ask what we could expect to find on a UK playlist put together by Wiki. “I got Skepta on that, Suspect on there. You know, just the homies. Definitely that new J Hus, Jesse James, anything Mac sends me. The new Suspect shit is about to be crazy. Maybe some old Dizzee shit, some old Wiley shit. Shout out Sampha too – definitely got Sampha on there.”