By Joe DeBonis
Wow. That’s the only word I really have for this night. Cinco De Mayo has a whole other meaning for me now. What easily was one of the weirdest, strangest and craziest nights of my life all happened because one of the biggest geniuses in the rap game, RiFF RAFF aka Jody Highroller, aka Rap Game James Franco, aka Rap Game Katy Perry came to Albuquerque. A couple of years earlier, I had become infatuated with the character he had developed and become through his Twitter account. RiFF RAFF has some ridiculous stuff to say and the way he went about living his life, with his tattoo choices, grill alterations and life mottos, made him come off as such an abnormal person that I could not help but love him and everything he did. Except I never had listened to his music before… So in the weeks that lead up to the show I tried my best to watch at least one Youtube video of his a night to better understand his music. I will be honest I was not impressed. As a musical artist RiFF RAFF leaves much to be desired, but the more I researched him, the more intrigued I became to just be in his very presence. I am just so utterly impressed with the possibility that he lives this double life or may in fact be this weird. So I knew bad music or not, seeing him live would be worth my time.
Heading to the show was a fiasco in itself though and really should have been expected seeing as whom I was going to see. I cannot believe how late we were; yet it was the best thing that could have possibly happened all night. I was at a BBQ before the show with plans of taking the city bus down town when it got close to the start time but of course, herding drunks is like herding cats and we quickly started to digress from that plan and tried to find a someone willing and able to drive. I did not have much say because I did not know too many people at the BBQ so I was nervously pacing just wanting to be down town, making sure I would miss nothing. In the end I got a ride to Broadway and Gold and had to walk the rest of the way to the Launchpad, ending up getting to the show almost an hour and a half after it was supposed to have started. I was almost in a fit of panic at this point thinking we must have missed have of RiFF RAFF’s set but when I ran into the show, I immediately had a sigh of relief when I still heard EDM music blaring through the speakers.
The Launchpad was packed to the gills, or at least it was from my view. As I slowly worked my way to the middle though I realized most people were just clustering towards the stage and in reality the entire back of the venue still had room. It was obviously a good decision to move this show from the Sunshine because at this rate, there would have maybe been enough people to fill up 1/5 of the Sunshine. Grand Theft or whatever the opening DJ’s name was, luckily seemed to only be about half way done with his set so I halfheartedly jumped up and down with the crowd, really just focused on seeing RiFF RAFF rather than some DJ playing radio remixes. I ended up waiting an hour before he even took the stage so if I had gotten there when I wanted to I would have been in a terrible mood before RAFF even took the stage. And let me tell you, a bad mood is NOT the kind of mood you want to see RiFF RAFF in.
I think there were a total of four fights within the first fifteen minutes as the coke heads and ghetto kids took offense at the slightest physical touch and the closer I pushed my way to the stage, the closer I got to being taken out by wildly swinging punches from the mass of intoxicated people jockeying for a better place to take a picture of RiFF RAFF. I will be honest, I spent a better part of the night trying to take the perfect picture to post on Instagram also, if for no other reason than that I did not know a single song he played so I needed something to occupy my time other than singing along. It was rowdy rap to be sure and I enjoyed and laughed at the people that knew every word, but I personally was there to experience a hero of mine, not necessarily listen to his music.
Really, I just spend the whole show laughing. Just watching the hilarious ghetto people get easily offended and the bros on so much coke their eyes were about to pop out was enough of a show for me. But to add RiFF RAFF to the mix, it was a whole other ball game. He had some minions holding huge Fat Heads of Jody Husky, Katy Perry and of course of himself and they jumped around on stage while he rapped and for the first ten minutes I was just laughing at that. Then I took to laughing at the love RiFF was getting, which was close to idolatry and way more intense than I ever imagined. The best part was how the male fans were yelling the loudest but as we all know, RiFF only has ears and eyes for his female fans of which there were a few in attendance but really not too many.
My favorite song and probably part of the night was when he played a song called “Instagram.” It is as it sounds, a song about taking pictures, but about half way through, he finally did his first truly “RiFF RAFF” thing: he took peoples phones from the crowd and would take selfies on them. When he didn’t know how to use someone’s phone he would just make a classic RiFF RAFF face of confusion and hand the phone back. It was the only real glimpse of his hilarious side but quite enough for me.
The other point in the show that stood out for me was when he played some rock song with a chorus that just went “COCAINE COCAINE” with driving rock chords as the backing. The whole crowd got really into chanting it, but it almost could have been an adlibbed song that’s how simple it seemed. He ended with the only two songs I could place all night, his song with Action Bronsen and “Dolce and Gabbana” and I finally felt appropriate being in the front because now I could sing along. Then he was gone, maybe 35 minutes total on stage, but still one of the most entertaining shows I had ever been to.
Crowd wise it had to be the most diverse group of people I have ever experienced. There was some of the biggest scum of Albuquerque there, the kids that have no jobs, break shit for fun and have not a common bit of decency in their bodies. I am not generalizing either, I have one specific example of a kid who fits this description that I saw there, boldly taking hits of a blunt while security tried to contain the rest of the crowd. On the other hand, my room mate, who just was admitted into UNM’s medical school was also there, bumping shoulders with people of almost the exact opposite life choices.
The coolest thing about the different kinds of people in the crowd had to be the fact that RiFF RAFF was reaching people on two completely different levels. On one end of the spectrum, there are actual people out there that actually enjoy the music he makes and think he is legitimately talented. In all honesty the man is not a great rapper, does not have a great flow and his rhymes are more comical than skilled. The thing is, some people like the sub par music he makes, but some also respect the act he is doing or at the very least respect the fact there is a very real possibility he could be doing an act. His hilarious antics have earned him quite a few fans but sometimes it seems like there are two kinds of fans, the ones that like his music and the ones that just like him.
Not to say there is anything wrong with liking his music. He normally finds ways to get decent, unique beats (I mean he does work with Dipolo) and what he says normally is pretty funny. What is so damn intriguing about the guy though, is how wacky he acts. The tattoos are really just a start, go look at this guy’s Twitter for about two seconds and you will see what I am talking about, the guy has one of the biggest imaginations in the world and isn’t afraid to say stuff that may be completely off the wall. It’s to the point that he cant possibly serious. But… what if he is? And that is what keeps people in love with his whole persona I think. The very real question if he is this crazy or this much of a genius. I personally think he is a genius, and one of the most forward thinking rappers of our time. He is completely mocking the ignorant rap that exists by overblowing his persona to such an extreme he honestly could just be the next step for ignorant rap. It is absolutely fascinating to think about the levels he reaches people and I will follow his career with great interest.