Riff Raff at First Avenue, 4/15/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Erik Hess

Riff Raff
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

After "Rose Gold Stripper Pole" -- in which Riff Raff managed get a decent bounce going simply by occasionally saying "stripper pole" out loud, over his own vocal track -- his DJ addressed the crowd. "You know you're looking at the future of music!" he said. The future of music, aka Riff Raff, aka Jody Highroller, aka Horst Simco, aka Rap Game Shirley Temple, was kneeling down on the side of the stage. "I apologize to the state of Minnesota," Riff Raff said, not acknowledging the mantle just placed on him by his DJ. "I'm very drunk right now."

See also:
Slideshow: Riff Raff at First Avenue, 4/15/14

It would have been weird if he wasn't. Riff Raff's reputation and persona is of a mad clown, and his shows have never been based around actual displays of rap skill. Live, Riff Raff is almost like a hype man for his own music -- doing push-ups on stage, getting people involved, and just generally being Riff Raff in all his iced-out glory.

Photos by Erik Hess

The stage itself was simple -- three projector screens and a DJ deck, with "Riff Raff" emblazoned across the front in what looked like cut-out white Styrofoam letters. The crowd was more than ready during the warm up set, which gave a hint of the manic-ness to come. The screens showed what looked like a Tumblr dashboard collage of cultural icons -- Carlton Banks from Fresh Prince dancing in between clips from Dragon Ball Z. After about 20 minutes of this, the man himself took the stage, looking his most Spring Breakers in a tank top with neon guns and tropical shorts that reached far past his knees.

The first two minutes were simply dedicated to his presence, no rapping required. Riff Raff looked over his kingdom while getting a few curls in with a 35-pound dumbbell -- Versace, no doubt. He wore no chainz, unfortunately. Behind him, three conventionally attractive white women between the ages of 21 and 30, who would share the stage with him the whole night, "twerked" with various degrees of success and enthusiasm.

Riff Raff had an unfocused stage presence, moving with very little rhyme or reason outside of his own id. He switched between posing before his followers (often with one hand under his chin), making out with one his backup dancers, drinking a 40, and moving a projector screen for basically no reason. When he rapped, using a headset mic, he often delivered it from an upright posture, delivering his words with the body language of giving directions. Not that he had to rap much. The Hannibal Burress bit about his shows is right -- he plays his own music, vocals and all, and hops on when he feels like it, often just for the ad-libs or punchlines.

Sometimes this worked well, like in the beginning of the show. Riff Raff is one of those people who is just naturally entertaining, even when he's not really doing much of anything. Though the rapping wasn't impressive (or even good), the vibe he created with the first five songs of the set was infectious. And it's hard not to be charmed by the massive cutouts that joined him on stage at various points -- how can you resist someone holding up their own face, six feet high adorned with neon blue cornrows?

Also included in the cutouts was his dog, Jody Husky, whose baby blues shone out over the audience, the cover of his upcoming album Neon Icon, due out later this month, and Katy Perry with blue hair, for some inscrutable reason. When it was working, it was fun as hell to go along with his ridiculousness. In "How to Be the Man," for example, he compares himself to Adam Sandler, Danny Glover, Uncle Ben (of rice fame), Julies Caesar, Eddie Murphy, and Mary Poppins. The crowd was hype.

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