Angry Robot

RiFF RAFF is mesmerizing

And I am mesmerized.

I read Pitchfork Reviews Reviews now and then. You might have noticed the Gawker article in my links a few days ago; that was written by David Shapiro, who writes PRR, and is awesome. But that article wasn’t my first experience with Riff Raff, it was this video, also gotten via PRR:

I will allow that Kitty Pryde is also mesmerizing in her own right and worthy of a YouTube dig at some point, but for now, I cannot get over the Riff Raff package: Texas drawl, hair like a lion, bad tats, Kool Keith style nonsense raps. Plus he pulls a full Dylan in interviews and just bullshits constantly.

As Shapiro points out, he even lied about his height. That, his penchant for changing his name, and interest in doing characters (Jody Highroller) – makes you wonder: is this a person or a persona? Is he another Die Antwoord, a Borat?

It’s almost beside the point because this guy can rap. Observe the freestyling herein, let it play out…

He has a surprising number of videos on YouTube. They follow a strange formula: songs like personal favourite Porsche Cayenne:

Jose Canseco, Mike Tyson, Versace Bentley. There is a deep well of them; I’ve been watching for hours and have yet to reach the bottom. Riff Raff has uploaded 3 videos to his YouTube page in the past week, ten in the past month. They always feature a guest star. Riff Raff does one verse exactly. The songs have distinctive yet apparently meaningless names.

He’s like the rap game eHow, a one-man content farm, spamming out videos based on bizarre keywords. His penchant for putting keywords strings like “RiFF RAFF JAMES FRANCO SPRiNG BREAKERS HARMONY KORiNE MOViE” into the video descriptions only adds to this impression. (The story behind that is in the Shapiro article, but basically: Korine invited Riff Raff to play himself in his latest movie, Spring Breakers, but Raff didn’t respond to the email so Korine hired Franco to play him.)

The persona sucks you in. He guests on this low-budge post-apocalyptic video by an LA band. They seem pretty normal but there is Riff Raff the lion-clown king in the background, dragging your eye toward him, until he finally gets his verse in and it’s just such beautiful gibberish:

When my day begins, flawless women friends
With tactical air brushed golden skin, unblemished physique
Rap Game Dawson’s Creek
Volcano liquid lava Benz
Feels like the world is about to end

Because of the bullshit in the interviews and the mysteries about the real person, in combination with the sheer volume of nonstop free-associative flow on YouTube, the net effect is that you can learn a great deal about his subconscious, but next to nothing about his conscious self. Riff Raff likes rice, diamonds, golden skin, math. I know this. But I don’t know how old he is.

After a loose affiliation with Soulja Boy, Raff is now signed to Diplo’s Mad Decent label, which hopefully means big things. Maybe some great beats. Maybe he’ll write a song that surpasses the power of his freestyles. Maybe he will explore his character a bit more. Maybe not putting out three songs a week will be good for him. Or not. Who the fuck knows. He’s a powerhouse, right now.