Interview: Enigmatic New York Rapper Wiki Fills Us In On His New Album ‘OOFIE’
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Music 11m

“It can be bad or it can be good. It’s like, OOFIE. Let’s say you get a fire ass meal and it comes out to you, ‘OOFIE’. But then it can also be you seeing someone fuck themselves up, and it’s like, ‘oofie’.”

Bottling New York style, slang and energy before beaming it to an adoring and international cult-following, Wiki’s back with his second solo album, OOFIE. It’s half a decade since he first announced himself to the world as one third and frontman of pioneering rap group, Ratking, and as a solo artist Wiki’s evolving and finding new ways to stake his claim as one of the most skilful and versatile wordsmiths in the game. OOFIE, out now via the newly established Wikset Enterprise, is an immersive and diverse collection of tracks that are inescapably and unapologetically Wiki. True to form, intricate and clever raps come packaged with Wik’s unmistakable cadence, an almost lazy drawl that defies the complexity of his content. This time around it’s a typically thoughtful, although more personal approach, that Wiki alludes to being introspective without being overthought. Throw in a selection of hand-picked and eye-catching features, as well as the coining of ad-lib-of-the-year contender in, “oof” (although DaBaby is going to take some beating for that title), OOFIE, is a fine body of work that manages to illustrate a new side to its enigmatic creator.

Curious to learn what the heck OOFIE meant, and eager to get some travel tips, we caught up with the New York born and bred rapper to get the scoop. Read on for the full conversation below. 

Congrats first of all on your new record, ‘OOFIE’. It doesn’t feel like ‘No Mountains in Manhattan’ is two years old though and we’re already on to the next. What’s been happening in between these albums? 

So this album I’ve been working on for a while. It’s not the only thing I’ve been working on obviously but yeah, it’s been two years. I feel you too, time passes quick as hell. No Mountains is definitely one you have to sit with, so I guess that gives it more time. I’ve just been touring a bit and since I got off XL, I’ve been trying to put my whole team together and get everything done on my side to make sure we can do it properly. So a lot of my time has been with that, but I’ve also been sitting on this record for a minute. I’m just hyped to get it out. 

No Mountains in Manhattan felt like this detailed and intricate love letter to your city. How is OOFIE different, and can you give us a little intro to the record? 

I felt that with the last one, I was thinking about it a lot and I was really trying to go conceptual with it. On this, I was trying to be a little more loose with it, and make what the fuck I make, and then figure it out. I kind of like the way it came out, it’s a little less overthought. I overthink things a lot so I know, no matter what, that’s going to come into play and bring a theme that makes everything make sense and makes it cohesive. So I just needed to tone back how much I was overthinking it and that’s where the sound came from and the new vibes. It definitely does tell a story as well and at the same time it’s a little more personal, too. I don’t know. They’re both personal records but this is kind of a bit more raw, bang, smack in the face. 

And before we get any further, what’s the significance of OOFIE. What is OOFIE? 

Oh OOFIE. It can be bad or it can be good. It’s like, OOFIE. Let’s say you get a fire ass meal and it comes out to you, ‘OOFIE’. But then it can also be you seeing someone fuck themselves up, and it’s like, ‘oofie’. I wasn’t really sure if I was going to name it that, but then I thought, “Fuck it,” like the whole point was to not overthink it. So we called it that and just let it be what it is. 

There’s a thrill to listening to your music and not knowing where it’s going to go and I think your fans really appreciate the different styles and flows you bring. Do you ever encounter challenges or an internal dialogue between creating from a rappers perspective versus a songwriters perspective? Like trying to be the best rapper or trying to make the best song. 

Yeah, exactly. I think there’s always that. It’s tough to go and rap a million amazing bars because you want to come off as the dopest MC, but sometimes you’ve got to tone that back. Like once you’ve honed the craft as an MC, that’s your skill. I’m always trying to get better, but I’m also confident enough as an MC to come at this like a songwriter. I’m obviously rapping but that will come up with some [different] sounds like on ‘Promises’ with Duendita. Know what I’m saying? Or some of those other joints where it’s not like, “Oh, I’m out here trying to bar up on this”. More like there’s a concept to the song where all the words matter on a writing side, not just on a braggadocios rap level. And not even braggadocios in that sense, like just trying to be nice. Every verse has got to be fire. Sometimes you have to think about what you’re really trying to get across as a writer. And don’t overthink that. I think all the dopest MCs, in terms of ones with albums, classics, they aren’t afraid to go away from trying to prove themselves as a fucking bar god, and sometimes diving into being more creative with the writing. 

Sometimes I try to simplify but I like to keep it complex on a certain level. With my stuff, a lot of it, you sit with. I think a lot of MCs are really dope and the punchline shit is really popping off again with this new wave, and all the clever Soundcloud rappers who are ill, but I feel like I’m trying to do it simple like HOV did, that Jay Z shit. Like Blueprint, where it’s so simple but you’ll listen to that shit mad times and you’re still catching shit. You know what I mean? That’s why I’m always trying to simplify because I don’t just want to overcomplicate something for the sake of overcomplicating it. You feel me? Sometimes it’s nicer to be simple. I think as an MC, the more you develop and the better you get, the more you realise it’s not always about fitting in a billion words or being the fastest MC. It’s just about being the dopest. And that comes with simplicity, and complexity within the simplicity. Not being so obvious. 

I pulled a couple of tracks from the album that I really liked and thought were interesting, and was hoping you could tell me a little bit about them and where they came from. 

Let’s do it.

Pesto

Pesto? Hell yeah. ‘Pesto’ that was one of the ones that was a long time coming. I just knew that was a joint we had to drop a crazy video for. Just smack ’em with it. At one point ‘Pesto’ was actually going to be a Tony Seltzer beat so I think that’s part of why it’s so fire. Because he was going really hard on that beat to make it next. You know like, “this is going to be for my shit,” not, “yo, I sent you a pack”. So since it was that, I ripped on it and then his album got pushed back and he was focused on other stuff, so I hit him up like, “I really need this joint,” and it all worked out. I ended up doing another joint for his record and that turned out dope, too. But yeah it was just perfect, you know? OOFIE, smack ’em in the face. So that’s how it came together, really, and I got those verses on there and I hit the hook and I remember him and Ep [Alex Epton] going hard on the mix and making sure it sounded right. That beat is tight, it’s a banger, but it’s weird and it’s next and it has this crazy vibe to it. I think what really made it so dope was that Tony was really going hard to make that jam. That just shows you that Tony can do a million things, and he can do a million things at once, but when he really gets into something, and is on that shit, he’s going to go hard. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh2i-tnJAwQ

Grim feat. Lil Ugly Mane + Denzel Curry

So that was a Lil Ugly Mane beat which was perfect because I’d rather not have to ask, “yo Ugly, get on this track,” or something. It worked really naturally this way. Ugly had this beat and I had that hook and it just worked so perfectly on it. That hook is tight because the song is about death and how death is inevitable but it’s also kind of a metaphor. When you’re in that perspective of thinking about the Grim Reaper, you never know. At the end of the day no one knows. And you know that hook is hard. “Once this advance hit, take a 30 grand hit. Bank account damaged,” Know what I mean? Then Ugly destroyed his verse and Ugly is obviously really close with Denzel Curry. I’m cool with Curry from back in the day too, but Ugly and him go way back, they’re real tight. He was in the city, Ugly hit him up to come through, and he just ripped it right there and then. So I felt like it was perfect for Curry too with that dark type of beat and the fact that it was an Ugly Mane beat made it all the more natural and all the more better for the process. That all came together so sick. 

Back Then feat. Lansky Jones

Hell yeah. I’m happy you like that one. That’s sick because Laron [Wages] and Tony [Seltzer] made that beat, both New York producers. I had that beat for a little while, and when I wrote that hook it could have gone a lot of ways but I was kind of like, “yo, I got to go all the way back then,” and really tell the whole story. I remember the day I wrote that verse, I was so hyped on it, but I sat on it for a minute and I couldn’t figure out a way to top it with the second. So I ended up hitting Lansky to get on it and I think in the end it was tight because you get see my perspective on some city kid, running around shit, and then Lansky comes on and shows that Queens perspective. So I think it was cool for him to jump on and do his version of ‘Back Then’, talking about everything he went through and what sticks out to him, growing up. It gives you these two different views of growing up in New York City which I think is tight. 

Freaks

‘Freaks’ is crazy. We actually used some of those elements on another beat with Faze Miyake, mad long ago, but with this it was a mad quick thing. The hook wasn’t even what it is at the time but Alex Epton really built that beat out and made it what it was. Once I had the hook and everything I really wanted to speak to like the No Wave thing, and I wanted to reference James Chance type sax, like that real sharp, fucked up sax on there. Isaiah Barr from Onyx Collective came through and he laid that on there and killed it. The theme of the song is kind of about coming up, keeping it going and trying to stick to why you started doing things in the first place. You know? Like, don’t overstretch things or don’t overthink it if you’re not where you thought you’d be at. This is for the people that you started this for, and they’re the people, the freaks, that are down with it. The outcasts and the ones that can relate to it are the ones that matter. I feel like ‘Downfall’ is the opposite of that and then ‘Freaks’ at the end is the come up. Those go hand in hand. But yeah, that track went up, and the flows on there are tight as fuck. 

Congratulations also on your newly founded label. What made you want to take that step and what’s the master plan with Wikset Enterprise?

For me, I wanted to do it because I was just feeling kind of stagnant where I was at. Not against anyone in particular, just that it starts to feel like the same old shit, or it starts to feel like a job or something. Give them the demos and out with the album. Boom. You don’t have that much say in it. You’re just going through the process. What’s the point in keeping this up? You might as well try and do that yourself and be more in control of it. On a personal level now, I’m like running around trying to get everything together and everything is a priority to me. Every facet of the whole thing. I’d rather have that. It’s more work but it’s more inspiring and more rewarding. That’s where I’m at. I’ve got a little plan, too. Working with it as we go, I’m trying to get my shit together first so that I can help people later. Like any young people that are down for a platform, I’m down to help people do whatever the fuck they want to do. I don’t want to say I can offer you more than I can, but Wikset Enterprise got the future in mind and in sight. Right now this record is the priority. It’s the only thing on there and I’m excited about that. I’ve been getting all the videos together and it’s been good to be independent. Every step feels more rewarding. Everything you do is inspired. 

If you’re not from New York – and probably even if you are – it’s impossible to catch every reference to your city. You know it like the back of your hand. If you were playing tour guide for the day, where would you go and what would you do to capture the essential New York experience?

Let me think on this for a minute. You’ve got to get the train for sure. You know what I would do? I would go to the heights, and then you can go get some Dominican food but you can also go to the park and see the coy fish, and it’s mad beautiful there. That’s real. You get to see like a dope immigrant community and they’ve also got the most beautiful park up there. People are always out, the music is banging, the food is banging, it’s all in the air. But you’ve got to get the train and maybe you can go to Brooklyn, too. Go out to Coney. Coney Island is always a vibe. But yeah that’s two sides to it. And then if you really want the real shit, you’ve gotta go to the Wiki show for sure. That’s the real shit I’m telling you. 

Words by Declan Whelan November 13, 2019
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