The big question surrounding Riff Raff and the way he acts seems to be, “Is this an act?” The answer to that is no, it’s not an act. Riff Raff is a genuinely funny and weird guy, and when the camera starts rolling he ups the ante and that’s what you get in the interviews and YouTube videos. But even if Riff Raff isn’t putting on an act, he’s still far from being an open book. Riff Raff wants himself to be identified as the entertainer, not the person.
I was curious as to what Riff Raff was doing before he arrived on From G’s to Gents and then later on the Internet. Why he keeps such a small circle around him (a rarity amongst rappers), none of which are guys he’s known from the jump? In the days after I saw Riff Raff I reached out to legendary chopped and screwed pioneer, Houston’s OG Ron C who was the first to manage Riff Raff and has known him for over 10 years. Here’s what he had to say:
“Riff Raff, he grew up around us. He grew up around black folks. You know how in every black neighborhood, there’s always that one white boy that grew up with you. That was Riff Raff. His parents were one of the ones that didn’t move when all the black people moved in,” Ron laughs. “But the way he talks. The way he is, that’s him. That’s not a front by any means at all.
“He’s a very entertaining guy. When you look at him, before he even opens up his mouth you think to yourself: ‘That’s a fun-looking person.’ But unfortunately, he grew up in an urban part of the city and when people see a white person like him, the first thing they think is he’s trying to be black, or be something he’s not. People in Houston didn’t take to it and we had a hard time really trying to break ground in Houston. That’s the reason that you see Riff Raff out here doing the Internet thing because he had to find another route to let people know about his music.”
I ask Ron if he thinks Riff Raff has a sour taste in his mouth from his past in Houston, and maybe that’s why he’s now seemingly distant from the place he grew up in.
“I would have a sour taste in my mouth,” Ron says. “People in Houston just didn’t really show him the rapper love that he wanted. They thought it was a joke. But I always loved his music because his style is an unorthodox mix of 2013 mixed with 1995, 1996 style.”
“He’s a very entertaining guy. When you look at him, before he even opens up his mouth you think to yourself: ‘That’s a fun-looking person.’ But unfortunately he grew up in an urban part of the city and when people see a white person like him, the first thing they think is he’s trying to be black, or be something he’s not.”
It must be frustrating to not be taken seriously. Riff Raff is on the cusp of success and stardom, yet it’s dependent on him always being “on,” as this sort of over-the-top caricature of himself. He, like everyone else gets a kick out of it, but at times I sense he’s tired of the constant need to live up to it. When asked during the Q&A about his bad habits he bluntly responded, “Talking to strangers,” before changing his answer to some ingenious remark about shoving guacamole into his socks despite knowing better.
Eventually, Riff Raff finished with his press obligations and he and his small entourage headed out to get dinner. They were more than gracious and invited me to join, but I passed, agreeing we’d all try to meet up again later during Major Lazer’s set at the Block Party. (It ended up getting rained out.) It would’ve been nice to partake in dinner, but throughout the day, I had become increasingly aware of the fact that Riff Raff had been followed around with cameras the entire time, in addition to having me tag along. I worried my presence would have trapped him in a prison of his own eccentrics. Honestly, I wanted to give Riff Raff a chance to breathe and just be himself. I hope that’s what happened. —Neil Martinez-Belkin (@Neil_MB)