Possible Theories Re: Riff Raff’s Possibly Fake, Possibly Insane Rap Persona
1. He is a performance artist, who is using rap music as his canvas. He is a dude pulling off the greatest living Internet con of the Web 3.0 era, a guy tailoring his references (“I done shook dice with Larry Bird in Barcelona,” etc.) in order to blow up Twitter feeds.
2. He just happens to be a savant at this rap shit, a guy whose verses would never impress Rakim, but who is entertaining enough via his supreme confidence to make up for his propensity for lyrics that don’t make a lick of sense in any traditional definition of “making sense” (“I’m sitting sideways at a Chinese buffet,” etc.). Because the Internet is primarily a place where weirdoes can be truly appreciated (or gawked at) for being weird and for being themselves (essentially), he is perfect for this era. He is beyond notions of “being hyped” or being “critically evaluated” or being “really bad at rapping” because he is willing to say stuff like “My bank account accumulates money quick, my bank accountant speaks Arabic” and mean whatever that actually means.
The part of me that thinks we need a new Andy Kaufman–a guy who will make fun of our expectations of constant entertainment, who is willing to trick us for the sake of making himself laugh—is hoping that Riff Raff is pulling off theory one. But according to OG Ron C and Kitty Pryde, he’s all theory two.
How you feel about Riff Raff, and his new Mad Decent mixtape, Birth of an Icon, actually being a totally earnest “greatest hits” mixtape determines how seriously you take yourself. If you can’t at least appreciate how stupidly great Riff is on “Bird on a Wire” (a serious song of the year contender, no joke), it’s an indictment on you, not Riff Raff. It’s highly possible that Birth of an Icon is more “critic proof” than any album this year. You can rate pop albums by comparing them to each other: What can you possible compare this to? It’s like watching Grown Ups and saying it doesn’t have the same mise en scene as Fitzcarraldo.
10 Songs From Birth Of An Icon That Are At Least As Good As Any 10 Songs On Any Other Mixtape This Year, In Order Of Their Greatness
- “Bird On A Wire” ft. Action Bronson
- “Larry Bird”
- “Cuz My Gear” ft. Chief Keef
- “Terror Wrist”
- “iCU” ft. Fat Pimp
- “Brain Freeze” ft. Lil Debbie
- “Lil Mama”
- “Sour & Gunpowder”
- “Hologram Benz”
- “Deion Sandals”
Possibly Wrong Idea About Riff Raff’s Weird Refusal To Capitalize “I”s When He Tweets
If you read one of the many, many lengthy profiles of Riff Raff that have popped up on the Internet in the last six months, they all note that Riff Raff uses “unconventional” capitalization when he is Tweeting. What that actually means: He writes in all caps, except he never, ever capitalizes the “I”’s in any word. At first I thought that was just a charmingly obtuse thing to be doing—like carving wavy lines into your chinstrap beard—but the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense.
Riff Raff’s entire persona is about killing the “I”; The personal details that provide so much of the backbone of what we think about when we think about rap music is totally absent from his music. I know what kind of clothes Jay-Z wears from his songs. I know Kanye had to drink Ensure when he had his jaw wired shut. I know what Action Bronson ate for dinner the last few weeks based on every new verse.
But what do we really know about Riff Raff? He was on the show from G’s to Gents, but only for two episodes. He was signed to Soulja Boy’s label for a while. He’s on Mad Decent now, and he apparently has a pet snake. That’s basically it. Does anyone even remember him from the show? Did he feel he lost a bit of himself selling out to be on TV? What was his inter-personal relationship with Soulja Boy like?
We don’t know anything; just his endless rush of at least partially nonsensical verbiage. This is why Riff Raff is the most interesting persona in rap music right now. He’s as anonymous as we are, while remaining totally un-anonymous. He’s just like all of us: Someone on the Internet trying to get other people to notice them by leaving ephemeral, obtuse and reference-heavy statements on YouTube and Twitter.
Names Of The Songs Where Riff Raff Sings, And You Could Probably Convince People That They Are Actually Listening To Flight Of The Conchords:
- “Jody Highroller”
- “Lil Mama”
- “Only I Can Cure Your Broken Heart”
- “Don’t Wait”
- “Sour & Gunpowder”
The Part Where I Try To Bring This Thing Home
So, I know I haven’t spent that much time actually dissecting the songs on here, which if you were looking for that, I am sorry. But I feel like just lining up the songs here and going, “This one is a mad dash of Stromile Swift references that showcases Riff Raff’s stupid-smart internal rhyme sequences,” would be total bullshit, and you wouldn’t even read it. There’s no way to review this mixtape in a way that only focuses on the music, and I suspect that’s part of the true success of Riff Raff as a rapper. His public persona is too big of an elephant to ignore.
Which is to say it’s possible there won’t be another album in 2012 (or maybe ever?) that makes me confront what exactly it is I’m looking for in music, whether or not someone’s persona is “real” or “fake,” and still be a totally fun album. For that, it’s impossible to not wholeheartedly endorse this thing to the full extent offered to me by Potholes capo Andrew Martin. A five out of five would probably crash the site. So: