Wednesday 30 July 2014

Review of 'Neon Icon' by Riff Raff

Forget Eminem. Forget Nas. If you want expert lyricism, look no further than Riff Raff’s Neon Icon.

Here are just a few examples of the impressive poetry on display on this album:

Ice in my ear looks like a baby penguin

I’m dyslexic in a four door mango Lexus’

Rap game Uncle Ben pulling rice out of the oven.’

 ‘Now I’m in Chinatown. Bok Choi.’ – this line comes out of absolutely nowhere and has nothing to do with the rest of the song. Beautiful.

This is the moon talking to you. The actual moon.’ – one of the skits is told from the perspective of the moon.

The actual moon.

It's pretty absurd stuff. I really can't tell if they're 'good' lyrics or not. If anything, they're pretty stupid. In fact, Riff Raff might just have succeeded in producing the most stupid hip hop album of all time.

But before we get ahead of ourselves and start getting overcritical, let’s discuss some background info surrounding this guy. Horst Christian Simco (AKA Riff Raff) is a Houston rapper and self-confessed codeine addict, who’s made a name for himself as one of the most goofy, polarising musicians out there. He’s been active a few years, but only now has he released his debut album, Neon Icon. According to an interview, when asked whether his music was a joke or not, he replied that it was in fact serious.

However, I refuse to believe it. Riff Raff is not a serious rapper, but a professional troll not too dissimilar from Lil B. You only have to look at the cover of this album to work that out. He’s got pink dreads and he’s holding a puppy and a baby. Come on. This dude is about as serious as a whoopy cushion. HE CAN'T BE SERIOUS. HE JUST CAN'T.

Once you start viewing him as a caricature, Neon Icon turns out to be a pretty damn entertaining listen. I have never chuckled so much at an album before. In fact, at points I was in tears. How can I hate an album that made me laugh so hard?

I suppose the problem is this: how much talent does it really take to write goofy lyrics? Yes, this is an entertaining record, but can I really call this a good album? Can I really merit a grown man for writing lyrics this silly. 

'Ice in my ear looks like a baby penguin'

Let’s take a look at the rest of this album and work that out. The beats here are pretty good for the most part. There's some trap stuff, some Beastie Boys-style stuff. Riff Raff’s flow is alright. He’s also got a unique tone of voice, which gives him his own sonic style.

There’s clearly diversity on this album too. There are a few skits, a few tracks with guest vocals from famous rappers such as ‘Childish Gambino’ and ‘Mac Miller’, a bizarre country track entitled ‘Time’ and the weird autotuned dance track called ‘VIP Pass to my heart’. Admittedly, the country track and the dance track are pretty awful musically and have no relation to the rest of the album, but I can’t help thinking that was Riff Raff’s intention.

I suppose the only way to really judge whether this album is good or not is to measure how funny it is overall. Is the stupidity consistent? Certainly on the first half of the album it is. However, the backend seems to suffer a bit, even ending up a little serious at points. ‘Cool it Down’ is about Riff Raff’s rise to fame and isn’t humorous at all (and if it was supposed to be humourous, the joke was clearly lost on me). It’s this scary inconsistency towards the end of the record that almost has me doubting whether Riff Raff is a joke or not. 

Overall, I think this is an entertainingly stupid album but it’s not quite entertainingly stupid enough for me to fall in love with it. Some of the absurdity is quite creative and witty (like the 'gucci sleeping bag' line and constant out-there celebrity references), but there are other moments that just make me go 'huh?'. That's probably the most solid verdict I can come to.