If I met Ari Marcopoulos, my first question to him would be, was directing RATKING’s “Piece of Shit” by accident or design? Listening to RATKING’s album Wiki93, it feels like it has Marcopoulos’ fingerprints in some of the most key areas. Was this on purpose or simply a coincidence by circumstance of a group of New Yorkers sharing interests?
Last year, Ari Marcopoulos directed a video for “Piece of Shit” when RATKING HQ was based in Harlem. At that time, Patrick “Wiki” Morales, the frontman of RATKING sported a curly afro, a full top row of teeth, and had released a new album that was stirring the pot for the type of lyrical dexterity New York had been used to producing for decades. It was through Marcopoulos’ lens we’d be introduced to the RATKING crew in their element. Their surroundings would also define the group. The Puerto Rican-Irish flag Wiki designed (celebrating his heritage) hangs on a swinging french door; Marcopoulos frequently pans over of the recording equipment used by Sporting Life and Ramon; a shot of Cassavetes on Cassavetes also sits on the coffee table, which is adorned by graffiti. Marcopoulos’ style of filming the group known for its detail carried over to the new version of “Piece of Shit.”
Much has changed for the band now that they’ve come full circle with the photographer and director who shot the song’s first visual. Wiki is missing a chunk of teeth, he’s dropped to a caesar, and their new studio space is way smaller than their first. There’s no french interior design flare to it, just handstyles for days, especially Wiki and Hak’s tags draping the room from top to bottom. One of the most noticeable elements missing though is Ramon, one of the band’s co-producers and DJ. The video begins with Marcopoulos shooting portraits of the band, but Ramon isn’t present. Are they still a quartet or now a trio?
Deconstructing the details of RATKING’s home studio is fodder for their cult status, a similarity RATKING shares with a guy like John Cassavetes who as an actor and director defied the commercial trends of Hollywood. They are anomalies of rap music, but use it as a vehicle to create something fresh and new. It’s the nature of hip-hop’s ability to create new perspective. For instance in one of RATKING’s earlier recordings of “Sporting Life,” it incorporates soundbites from Patrick Ewing’s introduction to the NBA, and Allan Houston’s winning layup to beat Miami during NYK’s playoff run in 1999. Marcopoulos also shares an interest in the Knicks as he features a young Carmelo Anthony on the cover of his zine. The force is strong between RATKING and Ari Marcopoulos.