Release Date: Jun 24, 2014
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap, Comedy Rap
As of 2014, it was still unclear whether Texas rapper Riff Raff was a performance artist or a ketamine casualty freakshow supernova pimped by superstar DJ Diplo. One clear opinion was that he was talentless a-hole who fed on the lowest common denominator of indie hip-hop. For that button-up crowd, Neon Icon will hold no sway, although the ever-shifting music, the endless supply of quotables, and the wonderful mashing of indie beats, oddball lyrics, ICP theatrics, and stadium-party rap hooks beats up on the "talentless" argument hard.
RiFF RaFF is a little like Lana Del Rey. Not in terms of musical style, of course, except maybe that they both exist in strange little corners of the pop music ballroom and have managed to captivate our collective attention quickly enough to throw them both into the limelight. The obvious difference is that she moved seven million copies of her 2012 breakout Born to Die while he has a loyal cult following, that’s rapidly expanding, who religiously absorb his mixtapes.
On Neon Icon's opening track, Introducing The Icon, Houston emcee Riff Raff is humorous, free-associative and surprisingly dense. His freestyle flow, along with a propensity for hooks that occasionally exude longing and pathos, have always been Riff Raff's biggest strengths, and they turn up here, too, especially on poignant Versace Python and riotously funny Tip Toe Wing In My Jawwwdinz. But at times it seems like the rapper is using his unique delivery to disguise his inadequate rhyme skills.
RiFF RAFF is unarguably the most enigmatic rapper in existence. There are weird rappers like Danny Brown and Yung Lean, and there are rappers who have a shtick that they stick to, like MF Doom and Captain Murphy. And then there are people who defy categorization. RiFF RAFF falls into that milieu, and with his long-awaited debut album, Neon Icon, he furthers himself from being an artist that is easy to box in.
For the past three years, RiFF RAFF has become a cult phenomenon, and his proper debut, Neon Icon, is his movement’s anti-climactic culmination. It’s nearly impossible to criticize the album without coming across as an enemy of “fun,” due in part to RiFF RAFF’s knowing, over-the-top branding as low-culture trash. But irony and irreverence can only do so much lifting on a record this thin.
Proving the Digital Age’s ability to make a spectacle out of the unorthodox, Riff Raff has been a leading benefactor of this phenomenon. He has snuck his way past skeptics and gatekeepers, and somehow become a ubiquitous figure within Hip Hop’s freak show subculture. Breaking every possible rule and convention, it is difficult to even describe who or what he is no matter how closely one were to examine his routine.
It's been a long, strange and thoroughly entertaining journey to this moment, the release of thoroughly contemporary renaissance man and rap enigma RiFF RaFF's official debut long player. It began with him selling his CDs in Houston shopping centres, to parlaying a two episode run on MTV Reality farce G's To Gents into a nationwide rap buzz that would eventually find him "signed" to Soulja Boy's SODMG without them ever having met. Next came announcing the "deal" via a dramatically shot rap video of him sitting on a sofa in an untied doorag, cementing it with the most awkward chain gifting ceremony of all time, then the transition into the jiggier alter ego Jody Highroller, before he quit the "label" not long after, amidst a flurry of twitter arguments and signing to Diplo's Mad Decent.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The Butterscotch Boss, The Neon Icon, Jody Highroller, Iceberg Simpson, Riff Raff or just plain old Horst Christian Simco. A man of many names and of many styles, Neon Icon shows that hip-hop's most infamously recognisable face can dip in an out of genres at will. When Mos Def is making documentaries about force feeding Guantanamo inmates, you need a Riff Raff to occupy the other end of the spectrum by coming up with lines like: "Now I'm Julius Ceasar in the Versace wife beater." Riff Raff has never made it clear whether his persona is a joke and Neon Icon raises some interesting arguments for and against that hypothesis.
“And on the pedestal these words appear:/ ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:/ Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!/‘ Nothing beside remains. Round the decay/ Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/ The lone and level sands stretch far away. ” —Percy Bysshe Shelley There has always been precious little by way of music which could be considered to be in possession of immutability; there have always been, materializing from those billowing brumes of sand, songs and artists and albums and videos which come, entertain, let loose some sort of scream into the tearing wind, then dissolve, turn to sand themselves, reenter the brume, ashes to ashes.
Alter egos — Riff Raff’s had a few. There are Jody Highroller, Kokayne Dawkinz and any of the hundreds of off-the-cuff monikers he bestows upon himself in song or on Twitter. Riff Raff is malleable, a canvas forever in need of fresh paint. In this fashion, he’s carved out a sui generis hip ….
It’s fitting that Riff Raff opens his debut album, Neon Icon, in the character of a Spring Breakers-sounding bro. “The Neon Icon album, it finally came out today bro.” Finally. From 2012 to 2014, Riff Raff recorded over 100 songs for the album, had numerous push backs, and didn’t receive a traditional roll-out, if any. On the opening track, “Introducing the Neon,” Riff Raff lets us know what he thinks of himself, and what he’s attempting to project: “I’m the white Gucci Mane with a spray tan.” He also compares himself to athletes Allen Iverson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Quentin Richardson, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, songtress Alicia Keys, and comedians Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy.
There are two ways you can listen to Neon Icon. One, as a not-good rap album that rests on dated pop culture references and attempts (but fails) to blend radio-friendly rhymes with shiny pop and country, created by a fairly insane person. Or two, as self-aware performance art; a method acting project meant to examine the absurdity of money and fame, created by a dedicated intellectual.
A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Sea When Absentopinion byBRENDAN FRANK There wasn’t a single point during the recording of Sea When Absent when A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s six members (guitarist/frontman Ben Daniels, bassist Ryan Newmyer, drummer Adam Herndon, and factotum Josh Meakim, and vocalists Jen Goma and Annie Fredrickson) were all in the same room together. On their latest and possibly best record to date, their ideas are united by jubilance if nothing else, striking in their eccentricity. Sea When Absent is a little less weird than ASDIG’s other efforts, but also riskier.