For the majority of his career, RiFF RAFF has been seen as little more than a parody, a character to ogle or an oddball at which to point and stare. His music has largely taken a backseat to his outlandish appearance, his quirky attitude, even his hilarious command of social media—find an artist who has mastered Vine as skillfully as RiFF—with most people not able to pick a RiFF RAFF song out of a lineup, much less critique his output.
But that’s about to change. Since signing to Diplo’s Mad Decent label last year, RiFF’s star has been set on an accelerated path, with his visibility only boosted by James Franco’s character in Harmony Korine’s unexpected hit Spring Breakers earlier this year and a buzz building around his debut album, Neon Icon. He’s tapped Mac Miller, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean and Action Bronson to appear, with rumors swirling about the possible involvement of A$AP Rocky and Drake as well, but he’s also not backing himself into a corner by pinning himself to any one genre; instead, he’s branching out in all kinds of different directions. “People think it’s gonna be all pretty much just hip-hop music, trap music, whatever,” he told XXL this week. ”I’m gonna have some country songs on there, some rock songs and everything like that… It’s gonna put people in a position where they can’t even compare me to nobody.”
RiFF himself has at times shifted the focus away from his own music in the past, focusing more on the theatrics of the entertainment industry, but that, too, has changed as his album nears its release, rumored to be sometime this Fall. RiFF RAFF swung by the XXL offices this week ahead of his sold out headlining show at New York’s Highline Ballroom to speak about his new music, his image as being little more than a joke in the music community, and why he’s about to prove everybody wrong. —Dan Rys (@danrys); Interview by Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)