Interview: Riff Raff

April 06, 2012

If everything turns out as planned, a new Harmony Korine movie where James Franco stars alongside Selena Gomez and Gucci Mane will be released next year. Franco will play a character based on Riff Raff, the Houston-born rapper who became famous-on-the-internet after getting booted from Fonzworth Bentley's MTV makeover/competition show, From G's to Gents. Riff Raff got an MTV tattoo on his neck before filming started, but he was kicked out for being a troll. Contestants complained about his Skittle-colored cornrows. They said he wasn't on the show to become a different guy, but just to get money, or worse, just because. Three years and a lot of YouTube videos later, Riff Raff says he's making an album with Diplo and getting ready to play Vans' Warped Tour. People are still complaining. Is Riff Raff a performance artist? A jerk leeching real touring gigs off of rappers? Or someone who genuinely loves to do this? When I spoke with Riff Raff this week, he was driving around his current home base of LA in a new car, having some trouble with his GPS and singing Red Hot Chili Peppers (his singing voice is nice). I don't know for sure if his parents actually locked him out of the house when he was a kid, if he's working on movie that is not Spring Breakers with Korine, or if Diplo will rap with him on a record, but he said those things with certainty, and hopefully some of his projections materialize, because that would be insane.

What does your daily routine look like? What do you do on a typical day? Starting off is always in reverse, thinking about the previous night. I don't wake up until about one or two or noon. I don't get out of bed until about three or four. If I get too messed up one night, then the next day I stay inside and maybe get a massage or eat delivered food, just get high to recuperate. Maybe sit in a jacuzzi and reminisce on what happened over the last 24 hours. But normally when I get out of bed, I decide what to do or I call my secretary and see if there's anything I need to e-mail. Then I wake up with a couple shots of whiskey or maybe hit a couple lines. I only do stuff that's better than what I did the previous day. I'm in a position like that now where I can choose. If I have a show or something important planned, then it's like Okay, I gotta do this. If it’s something not that important then I try to forget about it and just act like it never happened.

How long did it take you to learn how to rap? I always freestyled. But writing on paper, I'm still learning. I’ve just incorporated music into my day-to-day life. It's like riding a skateboard. I don't ride a skateboard, but I assume you learn new tricks. Or if you're a chef, you could get new food recipes like Martha Stewart or something, and then you're like Okay, now I wanna cook this soufflé a la carte from the 1700s that I never knew about. And then you've learned about the 1700s.

You grew up in Houston. What did your parents do there? My dad was like a street basketball player. He had a real mysterious life. I don't know what he was doing day-to-day. My mom was in and out of the house and I didn't know where she was and stuff. Sometimes they would just lock me and my brothers and sisters out of the house, and we’d have to go on adventures. We were like G.I. Joe kids.

Did that impact your performance in school? Were you a good student? No, I usually showed up pretty late. I was good at dressing. I'd treat it like a fashion show. Believe it or not, I relatively dress the same as I did when I was like third, fourth, fifth grade. Girbauds and neon swim trunks. I can remember picking out my school clothes and laying them on the ground, putting the shoes and socks out and having the socks match the underwear. All matching head to toe. You can't do that everyday cause that's a little too flashy. Sometimes I just relax and chill.

Did people treat you weird for dressing differently? Back then, people were like, He's the best dresser, he dress all crazy. But now the commercial public society might not like it. I can't say if somebody will like what I do or won't. But through time, somebody could get used to your style. People are gonna watch my videos and maybe take like bits and pieces of my style. They're more famous, they got more fans and they're more popular so people are gonna love them. It’s kind of fucked up but that’s the shit you gotta take. If I say something about it, it makes me look like I’m the hater. People hate me, but a lot of people wish they were doing what I was, or am, doing. That doesn't make me more successful or make me have more money than them though.

James Franco, a super famous dude, is emulating your style in Harmony Korine’s new movie, Spring Breakers. That's me being able to say, like, fuck you to everybody. How many people can say that they have somebody doing some shit like that? People don't even qualify me as a rapper, so for some shit like that to happen, it’s like, I got a handful of cards and I got like four aces. What you gonna do with that?

Why aren’t you going to be in Spring Breakers? What happened? I was gonna be in the movie but I was out of the country, and then by the time I responded to the e-mails and stuff it was already too late. I was sad, disappointed, frustrated, all of the above. I still wish to this day I was in it. But me and [Harmony], we're friends and there’s other shit that me and him are gonna be doing. [Spring Breakers] don't even come out until 2013, so I can't jump the gun and already start talking about the next movie. All I can do is sit back, push this one, and then as the time comes, folks will see what the next step is.

When did you leave Houston? 11th grade. I didn’t graduate high school. Since I moved out of Houston I've lived in probably 10-15 states. I always had ADHD, I can't stay in one place for too long. I’ve never been married, no kids. Don't plan on getting married and I don't plan on having kids for maybe ten years. For now in California it feels like home, I've learned to chill. It's good to have a place like that, but I need to move around too. I'm going on the Vans tour with Mod Sun, that's like a dream come true. I always wanted to be on a big tour, a real tour. That’s big for me. Doing shit, movies and TV and living in Hollywood, that's me. That's always been me. It's like finally the stars are aligning.

People wonder if Riff Raff is a character. Are you acting? You've seen Eddie Murphy in Nutty Professor, right? That's really him playing all those parts. When Martin Lawrence was on the Martin show, he was the talk show host, he was Sheneneh, he was this, he was that, he was little snot nose Roscoe. Nobody else could do that. There's a very seldom handful of people who can do shit like that. And I'm one of them. There are people who don't have limitations, who don't have a net around them to catch what they're capable of doing. Through time, those are the ones who will float to the top like flotation devices. I feel like I made my own lane. Nobody could imitate me without somebody pointing them out and being like, Man, what are you doing? You're copying Riff Raff? Nicki Minaj has definitely created a lane where if any artist does any type of gestures, or clothing relating to her, then people are gonna be like, We already got a Nicki Minaj. Nicki Minaj could play multiple roles in movies, not because she's acting like a character. She can do all these things because all that's her. And I can do anything. It doesn't necessarily have to be an act. It's just one of my many entities and one of my many formulas and ingredients that makes up me.

What does it mean to "bring the rice out?" Bring the rice out has several meanings. In simple terms, you maximize your potential, you take advantage of everything. You don't take shit for granted. You go 110 percent. Or, rice could be cocaine. I might fuck myself up commercially by saying this, but I really don't care because I don't think people really like me anyway. Like, bring the coke out. Where the rice at? Also like, Random Intelligence Chasing Excellence. See how that spells rice?

Does managing your career stress you out? Is your life stressful? It’s not. I haven't worked in like five years, so it can't be too stressful. Nothing's more stressful than standing, working at a car wash waiting for the next car to pull up, and then all you're doing is waiting for your next break. The shit that stresses me out is maybe anxiety. Like, Damn, I got this and this and then I gotta do this, and then I gotta fucking check this and get this information to this person, record this song today. So yeah, it's stressful, but life in general is stressful.

You and Andy Milonakis are friends, and you mentioned Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. Are you a comedian as well as a musician? I mean, I'm about having fun. I'm not about what other people say. I’m not about like, this is gonna make you look good, this is gonna make you respected. I care about the here and now. I care about what's in front of me. Am I having fun or not? That's all I care about. I just do what I want. If you wanna say that I make music, say I make music. If you wanna say I make bullshit music, say that. If you wanna say all I do is just wake up at two o'clock in the afternoon everyday and just drive around in a van, say that. Everybody’s trying to be more serious and more gangster, but that shit sucks. No disrespect to them, but that’s not the crowd I want. Women in the crowd, people getting drunk and I can see smiles on people’s faces, that’s the crowd I want to be in. Me, Andy Milonakis and Dirt Nasty have an album coming out, too.

Diplo produced your song “Rice Out.” Will you work with him again? I'm doing an album with Diplo! He hit me up. It was destined for us to start working together. He doesn't have a net around him. The album might be called Jody Highroller. We have close to 20 songs. Some of the beats are some hip-hop, some are electro house. It’s going to be as weird as the fact that it's Riff Raff and Diplo doing an album. We’re doing it in the studio, on the spot. And he's rapping on most of the songs. He raps in the same area as me, we say rap game such-and-such a lot. We’re meeting up today in LA to do some more stuff, and we did a song in Austin at SXSW, where I met Mystikal. So Mystikal is gonna be on that album, and Action Bronson too.

And you’re also working with Harry Fraud? We got a mixtape coming out right before the summer. It's called Neon Vibes. Harry Fraud’s young and he's not super professional. We can hang out and just do shit. I don't always get along with people who are super professional.

Last year you signed to Soulja Boy’s SODMG label. What’s the status of your relationship with him? We're still friends and we still talk. He put me on. I'm always gonna support him no matter what. I don't care if we get into an argument. I’m a fan and we have a video about to drop. But I don't need him to hold my hand. I'm supposed to go with him on this tour, but so much shit has picked up right now. I got all these other shows.

What's your favorite kind of sushi? I like California rolls, but then I like chicken teriyaki rolls. They aren't in every place, but also shrimp tempura rolls. Andy Milonakis showed me sushi, cause I never ate it before. At one point in time I was eating sushi like five days a week. Recently, I'm like almost over it.

Do you wear contacts or are those your real eyes? These are my real eyes.

Interview: Riff Raff