ARTIST REVIEW: RiFF RAFF
I have been in this argument with several people several times: is Riff Raff a joke? Whether his music appeals to you or not, it is impossible to ignore the cultural significance he has had in 2013. He amassed a large online following for his music, his social media presence (check out his Vine: http://seenive.com/u/925555870136410112) and the claim that he was the inspiration for James Franco’s character in “Spring Breakers”.
From a music standpoint, I have heard comparisons to Lil B in that he has weak lyrics and still manages to get some of the hottest beats created. He also has drawn comparisons to Paul Wall and other Texas rappers due to his pronounced Southern drawl as he shouts his rhymes. I would prefer to make the comparison to a less-talented Rick Ross, in that his songs depend more on the phonetics of what he is saying than the actual content. The way his voice bounces aggressively off the thump of his tracks are tailor-made for head nodding. Upon closer examination, many lyrics make you cringe. But Riff’s unrelenting confidence gives the listener the feeling that your buddy is freestyling next to you, so we are inclined to just laugh and move on. (Sample line: “Don’t want your girl cause she look like Jay Leno-big chin”) Clearly, no one will look up Riff’s lyrics to delve into any deeper meaning, but there is more to hip-hop than poetic introspection. Here arises the question: Is he joking? Is he being ironic? Riff knows he is funny (check his comedy skit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9iCNcei-WU) but mostly I think he is able to be confident without taking himself too seriously.
Riff has gained the attention of the hip-hop world and is starting to trickle into mainstream pop culture as well, recently featured on MTV. Riff does not yet bump on the radio, but he has certainly gained the respect of fellow artists, having collaborated with the likes of Chief Keef, Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt and Kitty Pryde. For those who refuse to give Riff a chance, he will never be the next Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, Eminem so why listen with those expectations? To me, Riff belongs to a different era, when hip-hop was just music and lyrics, in the days of the Sugarhill Gang. Rap was meant to be fun, something to do at parties and to be vocals to go along with a catchy beat. Don’t believe me, look up Kurtis Blow or the Sugarhill Gang and their lyrics. Sure Riff isn’t saying much with his verses, but he’s having fun, and people are listening.
As for specific tracks and what to listen to, Riff’s mixtapes Hologram Panda (http://www.datpiff.com/Riff-Raff-Dame-Grease-Hologram-Panda-mixtape.429249.html) and Birth of an Icon (http://www.datpiff.com/Riff-Raff-Birth-Of-An-Icon-mixtape.382802.html) provide plenty of good production and Riff going in. Many are pretty funny, especially due to Riff’s tendencies of rhyming track titles and his Rap Game [Insert Celebrity] thing. One standout track is “Time” which is a different sounding song, causing one youtube commenter to dub Riff the “rap game Plain White T’s”. This is because the track has a definite country feel and features Riff sing/rapping to a guitar sample beat. Additionally, the track is deep, talking about time and the loneliness at the top of fame.
Riff Raff is a complicated character; a confessed high school basketball player in Houston who dropped out to pursue a music career, who might be smarter than he lets on. As music listeners, or more accurately, music consumers, we are quick to ridicule the likes of Riff Raff, Lil B, 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane, but then avidly download their next release. It makes me think, are simple-content musicians like Riff Raff simply just characters created to make money? 2 Chainz had a 4.0 GPA and was a college basketball player. Riff Raff had a promising high school basketball career. Is making dumb music just a business model?
Either way, Riff Raff is readying to make the jump to the big time. His debut album, titled “Neon Icon” is building momentum leading up to the release, with features from some of the industry’s finest. Already a polarizing figure, Riff Raff promises to offer even more controversy when his music is more widely distributed. Personally, I think Riff Raff has found an area in music to capitalize on, and will find success with his album release. He is definitely a character (See recent tweet: “Your girlfriend is an iguana driving a Honda”) but hip-hop purists shouldn’t sweat. After all, he is #RapGameBonJovi.