When I first heard Wiki featured on Run The Jewels’s “Blockbuster Night Pt. 2” and Earl Sweatshirt’s “AM // Radio,” I was pretty stoked — he reeked of the underground hip-hop sound that I vibed with so hard. Then his first solo tape, Lil Me, dropped, and its mediocrity eradicated all my interest in the up-and-coming New York rapper with the quirky drawl. I passed over his debut and never really dived into his past work with Ratking. But I would never skip anything with Madlib’s footprint on it, so when Wiki dropped the Madlib-produced “Eggs” last September, I was excited to see him bring his A-game.
Right away, OOFIE doesn’t set itself up for success. “Downfall” is a standard “I failed but I swear I’m bringing it back this time” type track, not unlike something you might find on an Eminem album. It’s unclear what failure he’s talking about: Maybe disappointment with himself because he’s never had a break-out single or album, although that doesn’t seem like the kind of worry Wiki would have. Regardless of what it concerns, hearing themes of self-disappointment at the very beginning doesn’t set a good tone for the album. At best, it’s uninteresting, and at worst, it’s cringe-y (remember J. Cole’s “Let Nas Down”?). I want to grab Wiki by the collar and say, just show us what you got already!
Digging into the music, most of OOFIE is underwhelming, and not in any particularly interesting way. Every song is in a sort of weird middle ground where it’s hard to tell if it’s supposed to be a chill kickback track or something that slaps in the car. Not that all hip hop has to fit neatly into those categories, but the album just doesn’t seem very sure-footed in its direction. I think I’m supposed to have the windows down in the car during “Pesto” and I think I’m supposed to drink a beer on the porch to “The Routine,” but a good song should make me think, I can’t wait to blast this in the car or I can’t wait to listen to this while I’m chilling with the boys. The only thing that crossed my mind was I could probably do the dishes to this.
Something that holds this album back is a lack of progression in the production on most of the tracks. Typically the beat you hear at the beginning carries the music all the way through. This is fine for bite-size tracks but it’s easy to lose interest during your typical three-minute-30-second song. Wiki’s focus on making lyrical lemonade can only carry a song so far, especially when so many lines don’t land well (“When you poppin’ Perkies, she pop her pussy / She drop her tushy, she almost hurt me” … really?). None of the beats are interesting enough to carry a listener through the whole track, which is dangerous ― in today’s era of hip hop production, lackluster production is a death sentence. Tracks like “The Routine” have an interesting, quirky lead sample, but the rest of the production doesn’t do it justice. More uninteresting drum patterns and woozy, unexciting pads. It’s no wonder the album ends up feeling purposeless.
The only beats that are juicy enough to carry through an entire song are on “Dame Aqui” and “Way That I Am,” but I still probably wouldn’t listen to them again if it weren’t for their features. Princess Nokia blesses the beat with her own sixteen bars on “Dame Aqui,” while Your Old Droog and Wiki hold down an entertaining back-and-forth on “Way That I Am.” At some point, it became clear that I was waiting for Wiki to finish and his features to start. That should have been obvious on “Grim” where Lil Ugly Mane and Denzel Curry outshine Wiki to an embarrassing degree.
Wiki’s choruses are also a stain on every song. Typically signified by Wiki layering his vocals, it’s mostly annoying. There’s no saving the hook to “4 Clove Club.” It would have been more interesting if he went the MF-Doom route and just cut the hooks out from the start. I want to give Wiki more credit — some of his writing is really slick, like “Grand maestro of the metro / Damn, your hand swipes slow, while I get dough” on “Pesto.” It just doesn’t have any room to stand out, especially put next to pen game demons like Your Old Droog spitting burns like “Lames on Rap Genius wanna speak for the God like televangelists.”
When it comes down to it, OOFIE has only convinced me of something I was pretty certain I already knew: Wiki is a feature rapper and doesn’t have the creativity to hold down a track on his own. He fits in a cool niche of underground rappers with a strong pen game, yeah. Your Old Droog fills the same space, though, and he executes his ideas way better. It took a Madlib beat to put Wiki back on my radar, and it’ll take something better than OOFIE to keep him from falling off again.