The Neon Icon: RiFF RAFF

By Taylor

Picture by Rachel D
I had originally planned on reviewing RiFF RAFF’s sophomore album titled “Neon Icon.” Much to my dismay, the album has been pushed back (after being pushed back a handful of times) with a tentative April release. Instead, what I am going to do here is dissect RiFF’s (also known as JODY HiGHROLLER) two latest singles, “Dolce & Gabbana” and “How to Be the Man.”
For those of you who are unaware of just who RiFF RAFF is, (shoutout to my mother’s Facebook friends), he is a godsend to the rap community. His rhymes are clearly not on Jay-Z or Kendrick Lamar’s level, yet his heart and dedication 2 “da craft” has allowed him to stand out in one of the most difficult genres to break out in. As an English major, I will approach these two reviews with the acute examination they both truly deserve. So let us begin.
The “Dolce & Gabbana”  music video came out in September 2013, yet I just stumbled across it and am watching it for the first time. We see RiFF frolicking in between half-naked women’s legs. They are wearing stilettos, and RiFF dons a bevy of costumes: from a lilac pinstriped suit to hot pink leather pants and a purple cardigan. The entire video is shot in front of a white background, which is reminiscent of the greatest err of humankind in 2013: “Blurred Lines.” Normally, the objectification of women in rap videos is something I find infuriating and all too common. Yet, here, I am tickled and delighted by the greater message RiFF is sending. This video is form of parody and RiFF’s self-awareness is a rare quality in rap. The highlight of this song is “I’m outside eating fried okra / with who? with Oprah.” I wish you could feel my goosebumps. As both a prose and poetry enthusiast, I admire his use of the rhetorical question coupled with anaphora. Further, this line carries immense sociopolitical undertones, as RiFF is utilizing a traditional ethnic meal as a metaphor for his quest to eliminate bigotry. Truly the stroke of genius.
Now on to “How to Be the Man.” Hold on I have a 5-second ad. Ok, we’re good. The song begins with ominous, futuristic 2001: A Space Odyssey-like sounds. Then, RiFF dives into the chorus which is much catchier in comparison to the hook in “Dolce & Gabbana.” At around :30, a man says “Mustard on the beat.” I have heard this phrase a lot recently, and I do not understand it. I assume the man is a bit of an experimental foodie. Anyway, the crux of this ballad is probably its overwhelming use of cultural allusions. RiFF discusses Barry Sanders, Adam Sandler, Miami Vice, Danny Glover, Uncle Ben, Julius Caesar, Eddie Murphy, and the track culminates with “Floatin’ through the sky / M-M-Mary Poppins.” We are obviously dealing with an erudite individual here.
I tip my diamond-encrusted Louis Vuitton snapback off to RiFF RAFF. He has crafted two very diverse tracks here but they are both ultimately JODYHiGHROLLER-esque: frivolous on the surface but sincere and thought-provoking upon analysis. I recommend both of these two songs if you’re the kind of person with sizzurp in one hand and Lord Byron in the other. I know I am. So if you need me, I’ll be twiddling my thumbs awaiting the release of “Neon Icon” (if it ever sees the light of day).

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