If you haven't already heard of Riff Raff, Google him. You'll find interviews, videos and articles highlighting an eccentric, Houston-raised rapper ready to achieve fame and earn his fortune.
On the fame front, he has the Internet version locked up. Riff Raff's personal YouTube channel is a holy grail for absurdists. In his home-recorded video for "Versace Python," a shirtless Riff Raff does a line of cocaine with a rolled-up $100 bill before launching into a freestyle rap. Most of his tracks consist of outrageous, alliterated, bordering-on-gibberish phrases sung over blown-out drum-machine beats. To wit: Eating lobsters, sharks, screen's on, watchin' Jaws/Rap game Julio Franco, Chuck Norris, Texas Ranger.
It's the sort of thing that inspires awe online, though little is known about Riff Raff other than his birth name (Horst Christian Simco). This cornrowed, gold-grill-wearing rapper with mismatched tattoos appears to have no media presence before his 2009 appearance on MTV's reality show From G's to Gents. (He lasted two episodes and is said to have had the MTV logo tattooed on his neck before he was officially cast.)
This past summer, Riff Raff joined the Mad Decent label, with the help of friend and producer Diplo. For the past few months, he has been on his Birth of an Icon tour, promoting the release next month of his Neon Icon, a two-disc experiment featuring some pretty hefty names: Drake, Snoop Dogg and A$AP Rocky.
Cracking the code on Riff Raff — if there is a code at all — is not an easy task. During my phone interview with him, I wasn't able to do much questioning about the authenticity of his persona; his responses tended toward disengaged, mumbled barks or drawn-out, random anecdotes. At one point, he put me on hold — "to tweet," he said — and his management politely made small talk with me until he came back on the line.
The Pitch: Neon Icon comes out on January 28, and you've collaborated on it with Drake, Snoop Dogg, A$AP Rocky, Future, Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa ...
Riff Raff: Yeah, and 2 Chainz, Big Sean, YG, Paul Wall, Childish Gambino, Action Bronson, Mac Miller, Bun B and Mike Posner. There's a lot of people on the album.
Which track are you most excited about?
I would say "Versace Python," with Wiz Khalifa. All the songs are really going to be big songs. But I know that's one that I've been waiting to drop for over a year.
Was there a notable recording experience with one of these artists?
Mac Miller and I just made a beat at his house in one day, really in like an hour. That was one of those songs where it wasn't even set up. We just kind of laid out the song right then.
Seems like you've been pretty busy networking and making friends in the hip-hop industry this year.
Well, I mean, I think if I just keep making hit songs and putting out albums, I'll be good. I just take it day by day, making sure I've tied up loose ends and all the little Versace strings.
Who would you call your right-hand man at this point?
Diplo. He and I have put it together.
How did you guys hook up?
We met at Coachella in, like, 1998. It was pretty crazy. He wasn't even a DJ, and I wasn't a rapper. We were kind of just hanging out, eating snow cones. At Coachella, they used to have carnival games, too. We were playing one of those basketball shooting games — you know, when you shoot the basketball and you get a teddy bear and stuff. And he had, like, 35 points, and I had 37 points or something. Of course, I won. I got to pick a toy and I got the last Super Nintendo. He was so mad about it. That was the first day we met.
In the holiday spirit, what's on your wish list this year?
I'm probably just going to buy [my dog] Jody Husky a candy sled or a helicopter or something. I'm getting tired of buying myself stuff all the time, so I'll probably just buy him a whole bunch of shit. I buy myself stuff all year round, so I might as well buy other people something. ... I'll probably buy myself something, too, like a necklace.
Maybe you can get him [Jody Husky] a doggy-sized Lamborghini or something.
Yeah, or a go-kart.
Who made the best records of 2013 and why?
Oh, I don't know — Drake, 2 Chainz, Kanye. There were a lot this year. It's crazy. But I haven't dropped my album yet. I've just been focusing on my shit. That's why I got to keep making hit songs, keep the music sounding good. When my album drops in 2014, that's all I want to be talking about.