Last week, like the week before it and the week before that, it snowed in New York. Out of all of the types of precipitation, snow is the absolute worst. Nature’s dandruff serves one purpose and one purpose only: ruining your fucking day. If you are lucky enough to live in a warmer region, safe from the cold white Mongrel Horde, you are probably thinking, “No way, it is so pretty and nice to look at.” I’m going to be honest with you, because I respect you and your opinion: you are wrong and never say such stupid sentence near me—I’m liable to go Michael, no choices just Myers.

Snow is awesome in theory and fantasy, which is pretty much only somewhat reality during the Holiday season. A White Christmas is always welcomed and the merriment doesn’t feel right without a visit from Jack Frost. However, after December 25th, snow is no longer needed, it just exists. Winter is already hell because someone had the bright idea to live in place where it gets colder than the freezing point of water, but then this useless shit just falls from the sky at seemingly random times.

You like snowfall, well what happens afterwards. Here is a thought experiment: imagine having to mop after every rainstorm…it would piss you off right. Welcome to snowland, where our motto is “Shovel once at the beginning of the storm, during the storm, then after the storm and still fall on your ass because we left a little smidgen of invisible ice on your doorstep. It is literally the freaking worst. Buses and trains are delayed, you see how fast ivory turns into shit brown sludge, everyone is a upset at God and you for the mere fact that cold and existence are not mutually exclusive, and every conversation eventually amounts to “fucking snow, man, it’s too cold. I’ll talk to you later.”

I think this anger is why I am a big fan of Ratking. New York City rappers come and go quicker than a compulsive gambler’s earnings. You could pick any street or avenue and find someone claiming to be an emcee. It is a beautiful thing as a hip hop fan, but like most people, I rather avoid having to deal with a lot of them. Either New York rappers sound too nostalgic or their out of town influences are so transparent and poorly executed that I can’t really enjoy myself. Yet, Wiki, Hak, and Sporting Life some how remain true to their hometown, without compromising their progressive tendencies.

Ratking’s latest project is nine track EP, entitled 700 Fill, that is dedicated, in part, to New York’s frigid winter. In a space where warm weather cities are dominating (and justly so), it is rare to hear about the trials and tribulations of those trying to avoid hypothermia and frost bite on the regular. Turning freezing into cool is a tough, nearly impossible, undertaking. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that my first listening took place while I was traversing through a few inches of snow, but 700 Fill quickly became one of my favorite records of the year thus far.

It isn’t Wiki’s uncontrollable wordplay, Hak’s manic combination of Caribbean and Afro-European vocal influences, or even Sporting Life’s constantly boundary pushing production that makes Ratking so impressive; it is the incredible amalgamation of these three unique parts together that take them further than their peers. There are moments on their previous projects, Wiki93 and So It Goes, that felt unstable, as if the track was going to collapse under the weighty pressure of their individual talents. This shakiness normally took some getting use to or forced you to write off a song altogether (rare). However, 700 Fill contains all of the same aspects and risk taking, yet feels more focused and polished.

At a certain point, music just has to be relatable to the listener. In all of their unorthodox sounds and styles, Ratking are just New Yorkers, something everyone in the tri-state can understand. Once November arrives, down jackets become the uniform: hence 700 Fill. Sporting Life’s production gives off an icy industrial vibe that captures the feeling of walking through New York streets or riding the A train all the way uptown. Hak’s flow is an amazing testament to the city’s challenging diversity and wide array of voices anxious to be heard. Wiki embodies the lyrical expertise of a 90’s emcee, with a brash punk rock attitude. These are all descriptions that you expect and see on the daily here, to the point that it is often taken for granted.

“Arnold Palmer” is an immediate standout from the pack. Sporting Life seems to have reined in some of his more abstract layering and focused on crafting melodies, which gives the beats more room to breath. His new direction is quite noticeable on “Arnold Palmer,” although the banging bass remains. Like the drink it is named after, the track deals heavily with being mixed and the ramifications of this mutt status, which is a topic Wiki explores frequently. Wiki begins the track painting a vivid picture of the Summer—drinking lemonade, playing ball, and grilling with the homies—just too quickly pop your bubble and remind you that it’s Winter. These beautiful memories are not reality and unfortunately all you can do is reminisce under grey skies, a lesson that the young Ratking members love to teach.

Hak continues to mature as an artist and 700 Fill contains a lot of his best moments. His hooks are a staple for the group, but this go round they are much more approachable and infections. “Arnold Palmer” has my favorite Hak chorus, although “Eternal Reveal” is the best I’ve heard of him. His voice is a great mixture of slightly off-key and soft. While he is crooning, it feels like you are just trudging through an empty Manhattan block: alone and anxious to escape.

700 Fill’s star is “Sticky Trap,” it is far and away the best track on the entire project. Between Hak’s singing and Wiki’s impassioned hook, you will not be able to sit still while listening. “Bundle up to the summertime, counting 700 fill and I’m feeling fine/and feeling shine, I ain’t feeling time,” is such a true sentiment; you try to walk around in the face bruising chill of winter, time no longer matters. Wiki then comes through and drops an incredible hook that doubles as a PSA: “Creeping ’round the city, watching for some sticky traps Watch for fucking pigs, I’m a mouse watch, for kitty cats.”

“I don’t get along with New York/One hell of a place to be broke and poor” is one of the realest lines to be recorded and therein lies why I will continue to follow Ratking. They are not focused on flash and glamour, even though I love the over the top style and stunting.They are like neighbors,who just happened to rap. Wiki, Hak, and Sporting Life are all about telling their own story on their own terms.  New York Winters suck, no matter how you dress it up. Yet this trio used it as inspiration and created one hell of a project, 700 Fill. Its strangely comforted me through a terrible week of snow and near freezing weather.

Luckily, unlike recorded music, Winter comes and goes, taking its abysmal weather away for nine months. It was in the 40’s today and I watched a considerable amount of the dirty snow melt all around me, leaving giant disgusting puddles in their wake. Thankfully, they are gone and this means Spring is on its way.

P.S.: I’m well aware that majority of these descriptions of cold weather can be used on other cities. Please feel free to do so and stop hating.