Occupying SOBs: Ratking live in SoHo

by Caitlin LoPilato

On Monday night the NYC hip-hop collective Ratking devoured the stage at the SoHo’s SOBs, offering rampageous bars and powerful rhymes at their hometown show. The spirit in the venue was charged and anticipative; the crowd supplied a healthy mix of Ratking connoisseurs and virgins, but not a soul failed to realize the conceivable talent of the on-the-rise trio.

After the release of their debut album, So It Goes, earlier this year, Ratking has been snatching the attention of some big-name media outlets (NPR, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork, to name a few), which have been spreading their influence exponentially. The result was evident last night, as hundreds of New York hip-hop heads rubbed sweaty shoulders to catch a glimpse of the city’s most talked-about rap group.

Impassioned vocals and stirring fearlessness was enough to exalt the enthusiasm of Ratking fans; mosh pits and unruly dancing erupted as the group’s members, Wiki, Hak, and Sporting Life, channeled emotions within the layered beats and recited their lyrics before their worshipers. During “Snow Beach,” I caught a glimpse of a single leg thrashing into the head of one front-row victim, which seemed to be the result of a poorly executed crowd-surf attempt.

While their live performances are sometimes fleshed out by a full backing band, the trio stood alone this time around. It was probably for the best, not just because of a lack of physical stage space, but because there’s something so indescribably genuine about the chemistry within the essence of Ratking. As Wiki took charge and vocalized dominant, abstract lines into the microphone, Hak held back and turned to his side of the audience for more relaxed interactions. The band was consistently in synch, providing a certain tenacity that captivated every last audience member.

When I saw Ratking at Webster Hall’s Studio last August, they exuded this same type of grit and brashness, but with only a handful of congregants, the reckless, helter-skelter energy in the music wasn’t translated into a live experience. This year, those moods were brought to life at SOBs.

It’s hard to tell what the future holds for a group like Ratking, but judging from last night’s performance, the dynamism amassing within their following is just getting started.