Album Review: Riff Raff – Neon Icon

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Riff Raff will be performing at Mercury Ballroom on 2/5. “Neon Icon” was released June 24, 2014 and can be bought now on iTunes and other major platforms.

Riff Raff is a Mad Decent signed rapper best known for his time on MTV and his one of a kind personality. Neon Icon is his major label debut.

You have to understand. Riff Raff was once on MTV’s G’s to Gents, and was deemed to be too gangsta to participate. He was disqualified. He has BET and MTV logos tattooed on his neck, along with several others covering his body. Although, you can’t see them all, as many are covered up by extravagant chains (not “middle of the mall shit,” as he has described some jewelry as before.) You just have to understand what kind of person you are dealing with when diving into this album. As doubtful as people usually are when beginning, most should be surprised to know that it is his most impressive work.

Perhaps the biggest flaw of Neon Icon is that it shows its cards too quickly with “Introducing the Neon Icon”, the album’s best song. This is the perfect Riff Raff song. It features a hilarious skit of two stereotypical bros talking about their previous night of partying and how Riff Raff is the only rapper worth listening to. Deezus comes through with an absolutely slapping 90’s NWA influenced instrumental. Diplo even gets called out by his own artist, being mocked for suggesting Riff Raff needs to take the album seriously (“Maaan, fuck that!”) The lyrics are among his most memorable ever. The song is almost entirely bars until it’s short but great hook (“What the fuck a wife do? No wedding shoes.”) Nothing too fancy, but just incredible.

“Kokayne” is another Diplo produced song, but from the other end of the musical spectrum. It is a chugging rock anthem with a fun chorus, but this is one experimental Riff Raff track that’s hard to finish only because his verses feel like too much. The rock idea is fun, but at the end of the day, I don’t feel any need to come back and listen again.

The album calls back to a classic banger, “Dolce & Gabbana”, with its woozy sampled “Wetter Than Tsunami.” The song may seem like a normal trap instrumental with average flow, but the lyrics are memorable. Sometimes it’s nice to hear a normal song out of someone so outrageous.

The are two skits. “Jody 3 Moons” is hilarious and “The Bloomingdales at Windshire Palace” is exhausting. The first skit features Riff Raff, or Jody Highroller, speaking from the perspective of the moon. That is much as I feel like I need to say, but I’ll elaborate. His voice is slowed down, and he repeats that he is the moon six different times. On the latter skit, Highroller is using an English accent that goes on way too long to stay funny.

Some songs aren’t as colorful as you’d hope, coming from a Neon Icon. “Versace Python” is a slow burning, Drake-inspired instrumental, but this is hard for Riff Raff to pull off. “Maybe You Love Me” is a bland R&B song. The best explanation is that Riff Raff is at his best when spitting rapid fire one liners, and these songs stray too far away from his bread and butter.

“Lava Glaciers” features an album highlight instrumental from Harry Fraud that sticks out in the producer’s work. It samples dreamy guitar playing and 50’s style crooning. Riff takes advantage of the instrumental and does all you could ask, but a feature from Childish Gambino steals the song. As much as I like individual aspects of the song such as the individual verses and instrumental, everything together feels bloated. This song is enjoyable, but Gambino’s rapping may be too serious to parallel with the outrageous fun Riff Raff effects.

“Tip Toeing In My Jawwwdinz” is the biggest hit from the album, largely due to trending online presence through memes and Vine videos. The hooks is the kind that invites the listener to dance, or tip toe around, and it’s too ridiculous not to embrace. It comes with all of the classic Riff Raff-isms you would hope to get: Titty bar visits (“I ain’t afraid to tip ’em”), brags (“Seven rings like my last name is Jawwwdin”), and exotic cars (“Just copped a Porsche / Tip-toeing in my foreign.”)

“Aquaberry Dolphin” is a Mac Miller produced song featuring actual dolphin noises. Both Riff Raff and Mac Miller come with two of the most entertaining verses on the album. One of my favorite Riff Raff lines pops up here: “Look who it is, the white Wesley Snipes!” And Mac Miller is the perfect counterpart; just check out his opening lines: “Yeah, I got bitches by the catalogue playing leap frog butt-naked in the living room, look like Reese Witherspoon.”

“Time” is Riff Raff’s first country song. Riff croons about his troubles in life, describing his loneliness: “When its raining hard, and my car breaks down, I got no one to call on, except triple-A.” As ridiculous as it sounds, it’s a pretty enjoyable song, and that’s all you can ask for.

“How To Be The Man” is a highlight. A simple but catchy instrumental is the perfect alley-oop toss for absurd Riff Raff lyrics to slam down on a song. While listening to a guy like Riff Raff, this is the best kind of song because I’m only here for his personality. Also, the South remix features Slim Thug and Paul Wall. Wall hits par for the track, delivering a solid verse for a party track. Slim Thug delivers a surprisingly Riff Raff-esque absurd verse, but it only serves the song in order to keep Riff Raff from being crushed by everyone else.

“Cool It Down” features Amber Coffman, who sings smooth vocals over a bouncy live band track. The production is another example of platform setting for fun lyrics, but there is a little too much singing to keep the average Riff Raff fan on board. Also, the song feels a lot longer than it really is despite being under four minutes. Highlight of the song: “If I listened to your bitch ass, I wouldn’t be Riff Raff.”

“VIP Pass To My Heart” is a blend of Daft Punk and Kavinsky with Riff Raff singing barely recognizable autotuned lyrics. I started writing about this song saying that it was horrible, but honestly, this is a pretty enjoyable song. As a fan of Daft Punk and Kavinsky, I feel like I really could slide it into a playlist with the two and be un-phased. This is the most impressive of all the reaching experimental tracks on the album.

Neon Icon is absurd, experimental and daring. But it is also hilarious, memorable and usually fun to hear. The production is top notch and the features are incredible gets from the rap community. Whether you love or hate Riff Raff, the album has bright moments. I think this is the best Riff Raff album that he could make. Despite a few setbacks, Neon Icon shines as bright as the name would imply.

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