Reviews

RIFF RAFF

This is the moon talking to you, it's the actual moon.

I want you to be nice to everybody you're around.

And it's okay to just go ahead and let them tears fall like waterfalls.

Like Versace little rain drops.

You close your eyes and you dream about a better place.

This is the moon talking to you, simply the moon.

-“Jody 3 Moons (Skit)” Neon Icon 2014

I first heard of Riff Raff in 2010, when I came across a video of him on Youtube. At the time, I was fascinated by the culture of white rappers, especially those in Oakland, California who were walking the line between serious and hilarious. I spent the time in between my classes at community college on Youtube, watching self-shot videos of Dirt Nasty, Mickey Avalon, Andre Legacy, Beardo, The White Girl Mob and Andy Milonakis. Their rapping skills were usually sub-par but they were charismatic. At some point in one of these videos, Dirt Nasty and Andy Milonakis linked up with Riff Raff in a Audi station wagon and rode around LA getting high and free-styling. Riff Raff was bizarre looking, almost cartoonish. He was skinny, with tattoos of the MTV and BET logos on his body. He looked like a white Soulja Boy and had a vibe like if Kid Rock hung around Paul Wall. He was an alien, irrelevant and strange to me until a point in the video when he ridicules a woman trying to parallel park.

“She tried to pull a perpendicular. She tryin’ to parallel park in front of a bus.”

Since this comment, I’ve been devoted to the study of Riff Raff.

For me, the allure of this subject was the possibility that the Riff Raff character was completely fake, that this was a normal man, committed to his eccentric internet persona. For a short time, there was a video of him dressed and speaking normally, but any trace of it has been removed from the internet. I’ve looked on message boards and some say they went to high school with Horst Christian Simco or “Riff Raff” and he’s always acted like this. Others say it’s a well developed act. What makes it even harder to determine Riff Raff’s intentions is that a lot of his work is rooted in comedy. His album cover is meme-like and features him grinning and holding a baby in one arm and a Siberian husky in the other. These questions about Riff Raff’s authenticity used to quite literally keep me up at night, but I’ve since resolved my anxiety about his image. If it is an act, he’s become his art. He blurs the lines between the internet and real life. Riff Raff’s entire career was born on the internet. His content covers various platforms, in the early days it included Myspace, WorldstarHipHop and Youtube. More recently, Instagram, Vine and Twitter. If Las Vegas is the physical representation of American consumerism, Riff Raff is the physical representation of the internet.

A month ago, I was looking for tickets to a sold-out Marilyn Manson concert because I wanted to go for the tweets. The tickets were over $100 so I gave up. Turns out, Marilyn Manson is still a cult icon despite the whole Columbine thing. Under related events was my beloved Riff-Raff, with his piercing blue eyes and corn-rows. I had recently skimmed Neon Icon, his first album under Diplo’s record label. It was a rap EDM hybrid with surprising tracks like “Kokayne” and “Time” that had more rock or country influences. I was too down to see Riff Raff, so I hit up the group text and recruited the crew.

Aren’t We All Here As A Joke?

We pull up to the Ready Room nearly two hours after the scheduled start time of the show. We didn’t even miss the opener though, since rap shows never start on time. The place is filled with fuccbois. It’s fuccboi nation, if you will. A fuccboi, to me, is the counterpart term to “basic bitch”. A fuccboi has “a fire Instagram” and wears every trend at once. He’s got on joggers, a bucket hat, and flannel and he’s here to see Riff Raff. No disrespect to fuccbois though, I prefer this calculated look over khakis and boat shoes any day. This experience is already everything I wanted it to be. The warm up DJ is playing every hot rap song, including Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga”. Shmurda is currently sitting in jail for gang conspiracy and gun charges, but the crowd of young white people here are loudly rapping along with him,

“I been selling crack since like the 5th grade.”

We’re getting drinks at the bar (A 24oz Pabst Blue Ribbon is the special) when the lights dim and a girl with a backwards hat comes out to introduce Riff Raff’s opener Chanel West Coast. The blonde girl from Rob Dyrdek’s MTV show. I’m ready to laugh at Chanel’s act since she’s wearing a hot pink dress that Julie described as having a “Forever 21 clearance rack” vibe. Chanel West Coast raps her song “Alcoholic” and it isn’t awful? Chanel has more stage presence than a lot of artists who I watched on The Grammys just an hour earlier. She is clearly having fun on stage and doesn’t fumble with her flow. “I never gave a fuck like Britney Spears in public” she raps. Love a rapper who incorporates tabloid imagery.

In between acts, I go to the bathroom and hear a girl in the next stall over say, “It smells like heroin.” This girl then nicely notifies me that I have toilet paper on my shoe and takes it off with her own hands. Two groups of girls in tight club dresses meet in the bathroom and take pictures together. “I’m so glad we met you guys, we felt so overdressed.”

By the time Riff Raff comes on, we’ve lost half of our group in the crowd and Julie, Kelsy, Conor and I somehow ended up in the middle of the pit. We can’t find Nash, and Billy is somewhere furiously tweeting that he’s “bout to fight everybody in this fukhouse.” Since Riff Raff’s show was on Grammy night, it was only appropriate that he opened with “Wetter Than Tsunami”, a song that says “Ice on my hand and I shoulda won a Grammy”. It wasn’t until Riff Raff came out in his neon green muscle tee and Russian fur hat that I remembered he is no longer my beloved skinny Riff Raff. He is huge now, with a tanned body type that resembles a pro wrestler. He paces the stage as he raps and the crowd is turnt up. Julie and I threw Butt n’ Booty Riff Raff buttons on the stage and I swear he looked at us mid-rap. The entire set is drowned in black light, making his skin look tanner than it already is and his clothing more neon. He closes with his viral hit “Tip Toe Wing In My Jawwwdinz” after only being on stage for 40 minutes. I didn’t notice how brief his set was. Time was non-existent for me during this.

Even if Riff Raff’s act is seen as a joke, his fan base is serious. I went into his show unsure of whether I was going as a joke and left just as unsure. Riff Raff is the perfect example of art that dares you to take it seriously. It draws fans who like it “ironically” and challenges us to ask ourselves if our “guilty pleasures” are simply just “pleasures.” 

 

Words by Audrey Hasse. Find more at auddawg.com and @auddawg on Twitter. 

Pix by Billy Sukoski. Find more at intellectualstuff.tumblr.com and @BillySuk on Twitter.

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