When Wiki realized there were no mountains in Manhattan, he built them with his own two hands. When Wiki realized he was a “mut,” he painted his own flag. When Wiki realized no one in New York had his sound, he made music for a generation of outcasts and art kids. Since 2012’s Wiki93, Wiki has done it for the freaks and weirdos. In 2015, Wiki did it for himself on Lil Me. In 2017, Wiki expanded his view to all of NYC.
Born Patrick Morales, the 26-year-old New York rapper constructed a glorious mountain range, taking us from borough to borough on 2017’s No Mountains In Manhattan. On the sprawling album, Wiki cataloged the sunniest days in the city, the grimiest trips on the subway, and the best of times spent on the streets of Chinatown. Armed with a pen, an off-kilter flow, and an unmistakable vocal timbre, Wiki used his quiver of cadences to fashion New York in his image. The rapper became an architect. He secured acclaim, rose his star, and accelerated the importance of his label, Wikset Enterprise.
“For a while, I was feeling kinda stagnant where I was at,” Wiki tells me over the phone. Prior to this year, Wiki was on British indie label, XL Recordings. “You’re on a label, and you work to put out an album. There are a million other things on their plate, [so] you end up being a small fish in a big sea. You get disillusioned. It’s nothing personal. When I left [XL], I was like, ‘Should I try to sign to someone else?’ Nah, I’m gonna try this out and do it myself. It’s been a lot better! [Being independent] is more inspiring. It’s a go-getter mentality that I’ve taken on.”
Now, in 2019, Wiki is back with his newest album, the independently released, OOFIE. At once, OOFIE is murkier and more insular than NMIM. OOFIE features Wiki’s darkest themes and muddiest production choices. On OOFIE, Wiki finds himself concerned. Worries over being overlooked (“Pesto”) and musings on his excessive drinking (“Promises”) take center stage. Gone are the days of drinking in the park with friends. On OOFIE, we’re stepping inside the mind of a more self-aware man. But as in the case with all Wiki projects, there’s good fun all over the album.
OOFIE is a joy to listen to. Wiki snarls and slobbers over janky production. He raps with gusto. Wiki’s polish evidences itself in the tight configuration of verses and impressive storytelling, as on “Dame Aquí.” Even at his most plodding, as on the intro track, Wiki sounds formidable. With “4 Clove Club” and “Way That I Am,” Wiki uses OOFIE—the most Wiki album we’ve seen from the rapper—as a declaration of self and ode to his self-esteem.
“That is the theme of the album, taking a step back and sticking to my guns,” Wik explains. “Doing Wiki and being me and identifying [as] myself… It’s not phased. It’s just what it is. It’s pure. It’s real.”
Wiki’s reality on OOFIE comes with a hefty dose of anxiety. On “Downfall,” Wik worries over his stature in the rap game, measuring himself up against a brew of unrealistic expectations. With “The Act,” Wiki promises to be himself after putting on a face for fans. “That’s an important theme of the album; being comfortable with who I am, not having to put on a face for anyone,” Wiki offers.
“It’s therapeutic in a way,” Wiki says of writing OOFIE. “It’s a chance for me to talk about shit I maybe wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about. On record, I can say whatever the fuck I want. That’s always been my shit, since Wiki93. I’ll say whatever! It’s important to be real.”
Too, OOFIE tackles Wiki’s concerns with his drinking and reckless behavior. On “Dame Aquí,” he recalls a night in jail in Stockholm, prompted by punching a window when DMX came on at the club. All over the album (“Downfall,” “Way That I Am,” “The Routine,” and “Promises”), Wiki poses as fearful of himself becoming the neighborhood drunk. It’s a turn from the days of public drinking and being a “Pretty Bull” in a china shop. With OOFIE, Wiki is not only growing into himself; he’s growing up.
“You get older, you’re less wild,” Wik says. “You gotta take on more responsibility. At the same time, you don’t wanna lose yourself. You don’t wanna be boring and shit. You wanna experience shit and have fun. I’m a shy person, but people know when I get turnt, I could be the life of the party. Sometimes I rely on that for the crutch. That’s one thing I’m working on. Even talking about it and putting it on record, that’s a step.”
He continues: “I try to be better about that shit, but sometimes old habits slip out. The record is really personal. It’s a lot about [drinking]. Everyone goes through that. That goes into what I struggle with, and in turn, goes into the music.”
Wiki’s struggles stain OOFIE in the best way. The album has a grit to it absent on his previous releases. Even 2015’s more insular and teetering Lil Me lacks the raw flair of OOFIE. The album feels tattered and bare while still packing that Wiki swagger. A lot of the discomfort of OOFIE comes from Wik’s aversion to getting comfortable with his art. The Wikset Enterprise mentality is one of pushing through and moving up. There is no stagnation, and as we descend into murkier waters on OOFIE, we ascend in terms of Wiki’s creative streak.
“I felt like [with] No Mountains, I over-thought it,” Wik reveals. “I needed to take a step back and have more fun. Just get in with the homies and make dope music, and then figure it out. That’s OOFIE. Also, we have Nah; he’s an insane drummer and musician. He came through and did layers of production on top of the whole thing. It’s more raw. I wanted to take a step back. On No Mountains, it was too clean cut.”
“That mentality of ‘Yo, let’s be creative with this shit, and push it,’ that’s what made [OOFIE] sound different,” Wiki assures me. Everything about OOFIE, for all its turbid undertones, comes from a place of purity. On the subject of purity, Wiki slyly drops game for any artist looking to find themselves in their music: “Don’t ever try to fake the funk; don’t ever try to do something so that people are drawn to it. You’re gonna lose one crowd for another. Just be pure to yourself.”
On the OOFIE closer, “Freaks,” Wik breaks down the process of turning pain to profit, making clear it’s not about the money. It’s about being able to use your struggle to survive.
“You gotta use all the struggle and pain you feel and put it into your art or whatever you’re doing,” he says. “I don’t wanna make it like it’s all about money. It’s all about living and surviving and shit. Keep going, and no matter what you go through, keep trying to push it and make something out of it. You’ll be proud of that.”
In 2017, Wiki labeled himself “Mayor.” In 2019, Wiki proudly declares he does it for the “Freaks.” Wiki has his own flag. He made his mountain range. And with OOFIE, Wiki made the battle cry for his tribe. Janky brass and sputtering percussion, this is his war song. If you’re on the fringes, whoever you are, Wiki is your man, and he’s soundtracking your triumph.
“There’s mad different sides to me,” Wik concludes. “It’s hard to say I represent one person. I think I got the potential to represent a lot of different types of folks. I represent the weirdos, for sure. Every type of weirdo. Anyone that feels like an outcast in any way, I’m drawn to those types of people. That goes for all age groups, all genders, all races. I came up on OutKast and Mos Def, and the idea you can be ill and be the dopest at what you do. Be who you are and [remain] true to yourself. I stand for that.”