Jacob Consenstein / Courtesy of the artist
“Now he’s got the haircut, you know he’s sweet,” producer Navy Blue said over the phone, recalling the way New York rapper Wiki was walking around in a knot after hitting the mic on the phone. head during performances.
“I have the vest,” Wiki jokes.
Last month Wiki and Navy Blue published Demigod, a record that highlights the collaborative spirit of the two artists. The process began in November 2020, when Wiki wrote “All I Need” in a Los Angeles studio with Earl Sweatshirt while Navy played the beat for them. It would be the first song on the album. The rest of Demigod was recorded by Benamin in a few months in New York.
“I’ve never had a project that looked like ‘This is how I wanted it’,” Wiki says. But with Demigod, “it just worked.”
Maybe it was divine timing. More than a decade after its introduction with RatKing, this is Wiki’s third studio album, but the first entirely produced by Navy Blue. His second album, Phew, was released at the end of 2019, under very different circumstances: a few months before the pandemic, when Wiki was in the middle of a break with its XL label and a breakup, and after the dispersal of its rap group Secret Cercle due to allegations against another member.
The difference on Demigod, Wiki says, was the perspective he gained from slowing down from COVID-19, and how that gave him the space to perfect himself: “I write and I walk / look at the cityscape, is it? a simulation ? “he raps on” Roof. “” In the middle of town, in seclusion. “
Another difference in the manufacturing process Demigod, Navy Blue notes, is that Wiki was not drunk. Wiki says that making music has always been linked to his understanding of himself, but also to drinking alcohol: “I have to go do an interview, I have to drink. I have to do a show. “Navy mentions that the Wiki arc is apparent in the difference between, say” Piece of S *** “from 2012 Wiki93 EP, and the way he raps about himself on this project, seemingly more aware of both his self-deprecating tendencies and his ego, but also how thoughts can be transmitted through music.
“I see more clearly and I speak more clearly,” adds Wiki. This sense of spaciousness and mental clarity for Wiki is reflected in the backdrop of the sparse production. Navy Blue describes it as “nothing too complicated … just a few loops” which he attributes to Earl’s advice: “‘Never let the beat get over you.'”
Where in the past Wiki dove in and out of the abstract using its voice and tone, here it complements its thinking and allows production to lay the foundation for its introspection. Maybe it’s some sober self-reflection that allows Wiki to rap more cohesively about personal consequence, responsibility, and community.
“I feel like a lot of those beats made Pat really shine,” Navy said. (Navy, whose legal name is Sage Elsesser, generally refers to his friend and collaborator by his legal name, Patrick Morales.)
The Navy’s production approach helped Wiki develop the confidence needed to reduce. And Wiki says that self-confidence in general can help make you a better person, like recognizing when he’s getting “aggy” because of “some weird chip” on his shoulder.
“With that confidence, you can approach what you’ve done, sincerely apologize for what you’ve done, and grow,” says Wiki. “It was a big thing for me. I would apologize so much, but it was always like ‘You don’t really take the steps to get better.'”
Between the synergy of Wiki and Navy Blue, there is a feeling that personal consequences and growth could be tied to fate – in their music, self-awareness and understanding of what to do with it can also be. a spiritual process. At Demigod, we see the connection to the spirit as part of the experience of the rapper growing up in the city, as witchcraft taken from an ex’s abuela, or maybe a new understanding that words can cast spells, like on “Remarkably,” which Navy had four or five years ago beat: “When I make a remark / I notice remarkably. “
Asked about his use of looping and how it reflects connection to the spirit, Navy Blue, whose mother is a Buddhist, likens it to singing, praying, or listening to an Elder’s stories: ” There is something really special about the rehearsal, ”he says. “Every time he shows up, you hear him a little differently.”
New York was a character in Ratking’s Wiki music on his debut album No mountains in Manhattan. Production follows suit here as well. Navy says he added a phaser on “Roof” to highlight the peaks and valleys of being on the roof that Wiki raps on: “And then the wind hits, filling you with endorphins / And now I know what is really important. “
A year and a half after the start of the pandemic, Wiki’s representation of New York has changed. With more than 50,000 dead, the end of the looming moratoriums on evictions and the lack of personnel in the city, the importance of the workers is becoming more and more important. “Workers carrying bricks, women carrying children / Do you hear that? Begins the introduction.
Music has also been a way of connecting to the community for Navy; he says a highlight for him was the interactions with the listeners who are train drivers and construction workers, who approached him on the street. With three albums of his released since last year (Àdá Irin, Song of Sage: Post panic!, and The Resumption of the Navy), he says he makes music because it is “an estimable act” and it can be an act of service.
“There are a lot of people here who are not good at what Patrick has, which is a way of speaking,” Navy says. “So someone could listen to that and say ‘Huh. Wow. He’s saying what I don’t have the words to say.'”
Wiki says fellow New Yorker Duendita, who appears on Demigod the track “Still Here” said something similar about its music. In particular, Wiki says she is a fan of “The Business” (“She was like ‘Yo,” The Business “is my favorite joint,” he says. “You just said the right thing to say”) , an incisive piece on the rapid gentrification of his hometown:
You gentrify him, terrorize him, not terrorize him
We fight back, staying inside is nowhere to hide
We will wait with pliers, take your teeth, fix mine
For every time you’ve tried to colonize
Buy at the candle store instead of the guys.
At 28, Wiki recognizes that he has benefited both from the community he lives in and that strengthened by music. His friend Andre quit drinking with him for three weeks while he was writing, and he says you can hear his voice in the background of the record. At Demigod, we see how establishing a clearer relationship with yourself could allow for a similar understanding of your responsibilities and who you are responsible for. You can hear it in the song “New Truths”, from which the album takes its name. Navy Blue inadvertently named the song when he named the beat, before Wiki wrote the lyrics, and Wiki’s friend Theo later drew the line (“Half God like Hercules”) that would become the album title.
On “New Truths”, Wiki sums up these themes, it seems, subconsciously: “It all started with Party and Bulls ***, then I saw the burning bush / A parted the seas, the moon barely pulled / Keep pushing / Read a book or stay silent. ”Along with the features of Earl Sweatshirt and Navy Blue, New Yorkers MIKE and Remy Banks make it easy to see what you might be talking about when the essentials disappear.