Want to know something unbelievable? Riff Raff was at the Grammys earlier this month. Want to know something else completely unprecedented? I saw him perform in Ann Arbor three days later. But here’s the thing: Raff’s music has never made my personal rotation. Despite my iTunes’ omission of Raff, those two pieces of information still correlate. Let me explain.
There’s something to be said for being so inept at one aspect of a craft but so efficient at another that you can completely make up for your shortcomings. That’s essentially what makes Riff Raff such an interesting character and why both of the occasions above took place.
See, while the man known as Jody Highroller can’t quite comprehend the purist-driven fundamentals of rap and reiterates the same metaphor formula every chance he can in endless amounts of viral YouTube hits like “Jose Canseco” and “Ace Of Space,” this former From Gs To Gents reality TV show contestant is one of the most oddball, yet attractive characters in rap. Like the Based God or even ICP, Raff uses his charisma and character to rightfully command attention in an industry built on musical talent – seemingly bypassing skill for savvy. Such is the reason current multi-platinum-producing boss Diplo signed the Houston MC and his Six-Flags-endorsed facial-hair to Mad Decent last year, then invited him to music’s biggest night a few weeks ago.
Riff Raff’s good at luring people in, period.
Subsequently, Riff Raff’s used his outlandish swag and blind confidence to amass quite a following of loyal fans – which is the first thing label heads want from an artist and the reason I found myself packed amongst a bunch of college students at the Blind Pig in A2 last Wednesday night. Yet, while I personally attended to witness Riffy Jr’s allure and his allure alone, the other 500 or so livewires were surprisingly not there to chuckle at his gimmick or perform a case study. These Rafftifarians were geeked to see someone who is clearly one of their favorite MCs.
No joke, nearly everyone in the crowd knew all of Raff’s songs and a majority of the words, even chanting his name (“Jo-dy! Jo-dy!”) before and after tracks. Most of these youngbloods were ratchet as possible, embarking on everything from elbow-flailing outrages to inherent crowd-surfing. And all of this is regardless of the fact Riff Raff is completely clumsy on stage.
His stage performance was mediocre at best, with DJ Benzi purposely having the rapper’s vocals high to account for screw-ups and Raff Reezy still screwing up on almost every song. Yet, no one cared. It was almost as if everyone was so blinded by his charisma and their goal of self-indulgence, all they could do was revel in the nonsense. Essentially, the people who came to see a show and not a performance, left satisfied. Seeing as I originally went for that reason, you could say I walked away pleased my press pass came through, too.
After all, live entertainment isn’t any fun, unless the people around you are having fun. And the way a lot of shows go these days, getting into the fray of a bunch of crazy fans of a wordsmith as lazy as Riff-Raff can pay just as much as hearing Ab-Soul obliterate a sparse crowd with their arms crossed. A rap concert is only as good as the fans there to support the artist, and a lot of the times the same can be said for the artist himself. In Riff-Raff’s case, a following of rabid fans made up for his lack of skill.
Say what you want about that taking away from his credibility, but in an era where shows keep artists paid and YouTube play counts are factored into Billboard rankings, Riff Raff seems to be doing pretty well for himself.