There are two different sides to RiFF RaFF aka. Jody Highroller. On the one hand the former G’s to Gents contestant is that guy sporting MTV, BET and Bart Simpson tattoos, along with a jewelry selection that could make Ghostface shake his head in disbelief, whose look inspired James Franco’s character in the movie Spring Breakers and is part of a rap collective called Three Loco, along with comedians Andy Milonakis and Simon Rex. On the flipside he’s well connected, able to count on producers Harry Fraud, Dame Grease and Diplo amongst his beat suppliers and having collaborated with respected rappers like Action Bronson, Meyhem Lauren, A$AP Rocky and Earl Sweatshirt. Somewhere in his past there’s also an alleged affiliation with Swishahouse head honcho OG Ron C.
It’s tough to tell if he’s a new version of Ali G that the world hasn’t quite caught on to yet or if he really means it, maaan.
Either way, he does have an undeniable work ethic, having shot and released an insane amount of videos accompanying his prolific musical output. Those videos are a big part of the hype RiFF RaFF has been able to generate. They’re hilarious parodies (intentional or not) of southern rap subculture, memorable for their outlandishness and overall weirdness.
The problem is that once you disconnect the music from the visuals, a lot of entertainment value is lost in the process. That’s a feeling you can’t quite shake when listening to the Birth of an Icon mixtape, which serves as the perfect introduction to the Jody Highroller universe. At the same time the music does hold up better than you’d expect considering RiFF RaFF works better as a comedic character than as a mere recording artist. Dude isn’t a lyrical marvel by any stretch of the imagination but when paired with the right talent behind the boards the results are satisfying enough to warrant a listen away from your computer screen. The beats and hooks are catchy, in that deliberately candy coated sunshine kind of way, and you can always count on Highroller for some ridiculous one-liners to be delivered in earnestness. There are plenty of them throughout the 25 tracks that make up this tape. Some prime examples include: “ice on my fingers/looks like I slapboxed a penguin” (Deion Sandals) or “Shook dice with Larry Bird down in Barcelona!” (Larry Bird). The undeniable odd couple vibe transmitting from the collabo with Chief Keef might actually be sufficient motivation to check out this record.
It’s tough to tell what the future will hold for RiFF RaFF, it could go both ways. At his worst he’s a continuation of LMFAO’s brand of grating party-rap. At his best he’s a guy with an ear for a cool beat that will get stuck in your head for days on end, never trying to overshadow his more skilled cohorts on a track. The route taken will probably depend on whether or not he manages to keep working with respected producers and emcees who are grounded firmly in rap’s vibrant underground scene or if some major label decides to seriously cash in on his pop potential and pairs him with a supporting cast that completely disconnects him his hop-hop roots. If that happens you’ll be glad to revisit his current output so you might as well enjoy it now.