Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether RiFF RAFF is a real person or music’s Most Valuable Troll tip toeing in his Air Jordans. The Neon iCon has given media members fits over the course of his baffling rise, trying to make sense of his perceived senselessness. Is he a genius? Is he the luckiest buffoon in entertainment? Is he a walking reality show? Maybe all of the above. Maybe none of the above. Maybe, somehow, both.
Whatever’s whatever when it comes to Jody Highroller. But what’s certain is that RiFF RAFF has leveled-up since “Gz & Gents.” Approaching the release of his cinematic project, Peach Panther, the Houston native is set to unveil 12 tracks with 12 videos that add up to the trailer to his upcoming movie of the same name. Sitting in #DXHQ dressed in a peach Marc Jacobs suit and bowtie, flanked by his “Peach Princesses” who fall somewhere between Heroin Chique and Mad Max, Jody Highroller sounds more strategic than ever. If his plan pans out, RiFF RAFF will have multiple movies showing at the same time, his own talk show, his own slot on QVC—the works. He’s remarkably candid in this conversation, answering tough questions about his penchant for living carefree yet his tendency to reach through back channels to complain about poor media coverage, whether he’s ever used steroids, and whether he pimped Hip Hop to achieve his broader aspirations.
“It’s like if you’re in 9th grade and you’re given a Honda, but you wanted a Lamborghini,” He tells HipHopDX. “Then you get the Lamborghini in college and it’s like, ‘Wait, I thought you drove a Honda. You’re driving a Lamborghini now.’ Well, ‘Yeah, I wanted a Lamborghini from day one but I was forced to drive a Honda.’ I’ll drive the Honda until I get the Lamborghini. So if I see an opportunity, I’m gonna take it. It might be because I have to.”
There’s also a cool anecdote about the time he scored 51 points in a summer league basketball game, a nuanced discussion on how the NBA should determine its Most Valuable Player each year, an earnest detour into monetary policy that makes sense even if it doesn’t and a tidal wave of details on his new album-slash-trailer-slash-film, Peach Panther. This is RiFF RAFF at his most genuine. It’s time to take him seriously.
RiFF RAFF’s Writing Process
HipHopDX: I remember being in a studio session with you in Houston back in 2013. It was for a T-Wayne track that you hopped on. I remember you closed your verse with “I sold 8 grams at the rodeo.” You were at very different point in your career.
RiFF RAFF: I don’t really remember everything I do. The songs I make, people play them and I don’t remember when I did that. But I remember that day, but I don’t remember that song.
DX: What’s Peach Panther going to be about?
RiFF RAFF: I had Neon iCon. Now this is a step above—Peach Panther. We got the movie coming out. I have my own label and everything now. It’s just more the direction I’m going. The next thing I do, hopefully it’ll be 10 times better than Peach Panther.
DX: You’re already looking that far ahead.
RiFF RAFF: We’re dropping an album every year. I don’t do mixtapes.
DX: Would you classify this as a rap album? A party album? A dance album?
RiFF RAFF: It feels more like my first album because Neon iCon was real versatile. This is more my album.
DX: Do you write often?
RiFF RAFF: I write all my music.
DX: That’s one thing that blew my mind during that studio session. Frankly, I always felt you were an off-the-top [train-of-thought] type of rapper. In that session, you had a pad of paper and a pen. It blew my that you write your lyrics down. And not even in a phone, but on a piece of paper.
RiFF RAFF: What I do is, even if I have the beat, I won’t write it at home. Sometimes I might get bits or pieces of certain words I want. But then when I actually go to the studio and am listening to the beat that’s when I freestyle. But I freestyle write. So instead of writing a verse and then seeing what beat this verse goes with—I see people do that. I don’t do that. I freestyle write. I freestyle, too.
DX: You’re so outside what people typically consider song writers or song structure, but it still translates. No one can say “TiP TOE WiNG iN MY JAWWDiNZ” didn’t make an impact.
RiFF RAFF: It could’ve done more, but it did what it was supposed to do.
DX: Did it? If it could’ve done more, did it do what it was supposed to do?
RiFF RAFF: It should’ve done more. It should’ve been in the Jordan commercials but I’m not in control of that.
DX: I always admire how you look like you’re having fun most of the time.
RiFF RAFF: Most of the time. [Turns to #DXHQ’s Wall Of Fame] Is my picture up there?
DX: Of course not. These are rap legends.
RiFF RAFF: I see Action Bronson on the wall.
DX: Excluding Bronson. He’s not a legend. It always seems like you don’t care what people think about you. Is that true?
RiFF RAFF: If somebody is messing with my money, then maybe you’ll see a different side. Otherwise, I just have fun.
DX: I remember after we published our Neon iCon album review, your Twitter account DM’d us. You weren’t happy about the review. I was surprised you reached out caring what critics said about your work.
RiFF RAFF: Who knows, man. If it’s something that took time, then maybe I care. If it’s something where I’m just having fun then… I never ask for people’s opinion. It’s just when something happens or I see someone stopping something or putting out bad information, it depends on what the basis is. It depends on the moment. If it seems like I don’t like it then I might say something.
DX: There was an LA Weekly profile piece that came out a few years ago about you. You had a similar response to that piece. Looking back at that story, which was what I believe to be the most complete profile ever done on you…
RiFF RAFF: I don’t like to just keep up with the bad news. I only like to look forward.
DX: Do you think it was bad news? I thought it was [a great piece].
RiFF RAFF: Arguing is bad. If it’s someone you care about and you’re arguing, then that could become a compromising situation and you come to a compromise and you move on. If you’re arguing with someone that you don’t have to deal with, then that’s bad because it can bother you because you don’t have to deal with them on a daily basis. If you don’t care about them that much then you shouldn’t engage in that. That’s how I feel. Talking about pasts or talking about something that’s bad that doesn’t benefit anything financially, I don’t think it’s even worth it. You can argue about money but then work something out because that’s something that’s beneficial. Arguing over the sake of arguing or proving your point, that doesn’t really appeal to me.
DX: The “Carlos Slim” video was cinematic. I couldn’t tell where it was going initially.
RiFF RAFF: That was basically the first snippet of the trailer. It’s 12 tracks so it’s 12 videos that are all pieces in continuation of the trailer. Then once all 12 have dropped, then we’ll drop the full length movie, which isn’t 12 videos all just pieced together. What you’re seeing in the videos is snippets of the movie.
DX: How long have you been writing the movie?
RiFF RAFF: We had the basic script months ago. When we get there and start actually doing it, then I might switch things to however feels best. We’re gonna come up with ideas as we go.
The RiFF RAFF Strategy
DX: I’ll be candid with you. I’ve gone through different emotions reconciling your music and your rise. You’ve been able to be so nimble and fluid and on the zeitgeist. It’s interesting. You talk about wrestling. You were on a reality show.
RiFF RAFF: With the movie and this next album, I didn’t have somebody telling me or directing me on exactly what to do. I didn’t have anyone say, “This is my homie right here. Watch him.” Then they put me on tour. Everything I do is what I do. It’s bad in a sense, but it’s good in a sense because I can do whatever I want. When you have that freedom, it’s like the freedom of like, let’s say you’re flat, 100% zero dollars broke. Yeah, that’s bad, but you realize that when that happens you have a freedom, too. It’s like, “Well, I’m gonna do whatever I want then.” You don’t have certain things that certain want. I’ve always had that mentality.
DX: Do you still plan on wrestling professionally?
RiFF RAFF: We’re in talks and contracts with WWE. That, then movies and TV shows—all that is still in talks. If I was where I was supposed to be, I’d be on billboards up and down Hollywood and being in back-to-back movies. We’re still building on that.
DX: How much time do you spend in the gym? You’ve bulked up considerably.
RiFF RAFF: I’ve put on weight. Lately, just four or five days a week. Summer’s coming so I’m just going to be relaxing and getting drunk.
DX: I remember when Timbaland bulked up, Dr. Dre bulked up, 50 Cent might’ve been one of the first ones [depending on who you talk to]—all of them were presumed to have done steroids or performance enhancers. Do you do steroids or performance enhancers?
RiFF RAFF: No. I’m not that big. I’m like 230 or 240. Actually, I was 245 last summer. I was eating. When I was skinny, I’d go two or three days without eating because I’m just partying. Once I stopped partying so much, I’d go on tour and then come home from tour and still be partying and doing drugs and drinking everyday as if I was on tour. Now, when I’m not on tour, I’m eating and lifting weights. People think I’m big. To me, I feel like I’m regular size. When I was 245 last summer, that was too big. I could barely tie my shoes. I had to switch it up. Now I might go vegetarian for two or three weeks at a time. Now I’m 230 so I lost like 15 lbs.
DX: You said earlier in the conversation that there’s freedom to be able to do whatever you want. Your career path doesn’t seem like it’s been based off of armchair decisions. It seems like there’s been real strategy for a while.
RiFF RAFF: What I was lacking in the very very beginning was a structure or a label. Once I saw how it should be, I always had in my mind how it should be. I’m gonna drop one album a year. Whenever I drop an album, I’m gonna drop an album for every single one. For Neon iCon, we didn’t do that. We waited like six months before I even dropped the “TiP TOE WiNG…” video. I was supposed to drop Peach Panther last June and now it’s two years later. People are probably like, “What the fuck?” They probably don’t even know the album’s coming out. Two years is too long to me. I’m gonna drop an album every June. I don’t do mixtapes. I’ve done it before, I just don’t like them. I’m gonna drop an album and then I’m gonna drop a video for every song. We didn’t do that last year. This is like my first album to me because it’s really focused and structured. We’re shooting a video for every single one and then dropping a movie. That’s how it should be every year. I’m playing catch up right now.
DX: Why the delay?
RiFF RAFF: Some clearances didn’t go through. Just random stuff. The album didn’t seem done. I don’t like to just go into the studio straight back-to-back. I don’t work like that. I work like I get beats while I’m on tour and I might get a song pieced together. After six months, I might have 10 or 12 tracks. I’ve got 40 tracks that didn’t go on the album. So I have two or three albums on deck. I’m gonna throw songs out through the year because that’s what happens. I’m just gonna make sure now it’s more structured. So it’s like what you’re saying about being strategic, yeah it’s not all the way the way I want it to be, but the reason I do everything is to have fun. That’s my main focus. Not sitting in the fucking studio for two weeks and being forced to record songs people think sound good. That takes time to get the best out of different producers. If I like the beat, I can write the verse in 10 minutes. That’s what’s more important to me: Getting beats that I like. If I don’t like the beat then as soon as the beat comes on, I don’t like it. That’s just how I operate. I’m not making a song so that someone else likes it. I make the music I want then if people like it then they do. If they don’t, then they’ll listen to something else, I guess. I just want to make songs that I want.
DX: I’ve seen a lot of people on social media who are really inspired by you and talk about how you’ve been able to help them feel more free. Do those type of comments resonate with you?
RiFF RAFF: That’s part of music, right? It’s vibes. If I feel certain vibes based on a song or a beat or something I made, when someone else also feels that way, that’s kind of the point.
DX: I think it’s bigger than music. At the Sunset Strip Music Festival (2014), there was a segment of your show where you were getting your hair braided on stage. It was completely “I don’t give a fuck” and yet completely “This is how much of a fuck I give” at the same time. There’s a blurred line that I believe connects.
RiFF RAFF: I do care about what I care about. I don’t care about how somebody perceives it. I do care, but until everything is exactly the way I want it, I won’t fully care about it. My face should be on billboards up and down the strip. I should be in two or three movies at once. That’s what I care about. Until that happens, then someone’s gonna see what I care about.
Exploiting Hip Hop?
DX: At one point you said you wanted to separate yourself from rap or move past being known simply as a rapper.
RiFF RAFF: Yeah.
DX: Have you ever thought the rap community might feel exploited by that? You came up through Hip Hop heavy.
RiFF RAFF: I don’t think I have a lot of diehard rap Hip Hop fans. I just have fans. I don’t think that. I think I’m in my own lane and my own genre.
DX: I think so, too. But when I look at the show “Gz & Gents,” that’s a show that was targeted towards the Hip Hop community.
RiFF RAFF: I didn’t make that show. I should’ve had my own show from the first time I stepped on there. I could be on QVC. I could have my own talk show. I could do any of those. Until then, it’s like if you’re in 9th grade and you’re given a Honda, but you wanted a Lamborghini. Then you get the Lamborghini in college and it’s like, “Wait, I thought you drove a Honda. You’re driving a Lamborghini now.” Well, “Yeah, I wanted a Lamborghini from day one but I was forced to drive a Honda.” I’ll drive the Honda until I get the Lamborghini. So if I see an opportunity, I’m gonna take it. It might be because I have to.
DX: Do you feel like at any point you decided that it would be easier to get into movies if you go through Hip Hop or rap music and leverage the audience to gain those opportunities?
RiFF RAFF: I have rock & roll songs. I have country songs. If somebody gravitates towards that… if Garth Brooks called me and said “I want you to come on tour,” I’m gonna do that. Is that exploiting country music?
RiFF RAFF: I look at it like if someone fucks with me, they fucks with me and I appreciate that. That doesn’t mean that everybody has to fuck with me. If somebody who’s Hip Hop music or a super Hip Hop head and they do something to help me out, then I’ll appreciate it. If they don’t then what’s the point of arguing.
DX: Your visuals are incredible. We talked about the video earlier, but your style now, the color blasts through every screen I’ve seen you on this week. I was watching you on HighSnobriety and you were talking to fans on Youtube live stream. All I could see was this peach suit and the energy you put into your art direction. The concept again, why the color peach?
RiFF RAFF: The peach suit is by Marc Jacobs. It’s just like my ideas when I’m writing. Someone might be like, “Oh that’s nonsense.” Yeah, its nonsense to you because if you don’t have any imagination, if you’re not reading word for word [you won’t understand it]. It’s like an audio and visual movie. If my music was classified, it wouldn’t just be documentary reality style. It’s like a sci-fi thriller. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to make music or have the imagination that I have. It’s not my fault if someone doesn’t have the imagination I have. It’s not my fault. I’m not gonna sit here and debate about what’s going on in someone else’s brain. From Peach Panther, what do you perceive it to be? What do I see when I see that? Then you try to put artwork in there and then it comes out with the movie. When you see the actual album in stores, when you see the fold-out movie poster, that’s Peach Panther. You can’t see it until it’s actually in front of you. That’s what the artist is: You take a concept that you made up and then you bring it to life. Isn’t that art? Picasso will paint something and then boom, $20 million. Well then it’s like, “Why is it $20 million?” Because you take from it what you want to take from it. “I’m not paying $20 million!” Well that’s one person’s perception and they don’t have $1 billion. It’s what you perceive of it and how it makes you feel. It’s like vibes.
Prince, Donald Trump & Scoring 51 Points
DX: Who’s your favorite person that you’ve never met?
RiFF RAFF: Elvis. I’d love to meet Elvis. That would be cool. Him and Michael Jackson. I think a lot of people misperceive something based on how the media displayed it, but I can see through that. Let’s say this phone’s here and I hear 100 people say that’s blue, but I know it’s purple. I can see a lot of things that people can’t see.
DX: Did Prince’s passing affect you? Were you moved by that?
RiFF RAFF: Yeah, that was horrible. I had just seen the movie Purple Rain. I had always heard about it, but then when you watch the movie, it’s actually a really good movie and you don’t know which way it’s going. I could see that he strongly directed that because I see his artistic ways. I’m not sure if he directed it, I didn’t see the credits or anything, but I know he directed it because it was really impactful. I look for things in an artist or when I see something, I can see it right away. I think a lot of times people like something just because everyone else likes it. When I see something, I try to look for the good in it. I could see why he’s Prince. It’s horrible what happened.
DX: Have you been following basketball lately?
RiFF RAFF: I watch the highlights.
DX: What do you think about the Houston Rockets these days?
DX: There’s a lot of conversations that Steph might be the best player in the NBA.
RiFF RAFF: There’s so many levels to saying that somebody’s the best player. The NBA is a five-on-five game. If somebody’s playing one-on-one… Lebron versus Steph Curry and they’re playing 21 and Steph hits seven threes, you could still debate and say, “Yeah, but they weren’t playing full court.” Then what about passing? Everybody’s something different so it depends on their team. What if you put Lebron on the Warriors or Steph on Cleveland with the exact same team and then they played one season. Then the next season they switch back. Then you combined the record on what they did on those teams, that could potentially be a way to test to see who’s the best or most valuable player. “Valuable” is a crucial word. It depends who’s value it’s to. Is it this team or this player or vibes? Could he do that on another team? There’s a lot of ins-and-outs that goes into saying who’s the most valuable player. Are you saying the most valuable player on a team or the most valuable player in the whole NBA? If it’s most valuable player in the NBA, then you base it all on stats. But it’s not. You kind of can’t say who the most valuable player is until whoever wins the championship. You can say most valuable player in the regular season and then the post season. I think it should be most valuable player and it’s after the whole season’s done. Then which ever team won the championship, that’s the most valuable player. How can you be most valuable player if your team didn’t win the championship because they didn’t even have that yet?
DX: That’s a great point. I’ve never thought about that. Maybe the awards should have two different names.
RiFF RAFF: What if your team is 50% throughout the year, then they make the playoffs, then they get swept in the playoffs first round? There’s a lot of ins-and-outs. If you’re most valuable, shouldn’t you be valuable enough to make sure your team wins the championship?
DX: What’s the most number of points you ever scored in a game?
RiFF RAFF: 51 points. I had 13 three-pointers. When I was playing basketball, you had school, then you had to go to lunch, you gotta ride the bus, you gotta do this. You’re not even comfortable. In summertime, after two weeks, I’d get up at 7am and go play basketball, go back to the house for 30 minutes then go back and play. Then I’d go to the summer league game, I might’ve already played four or five times then went back to the house then went and lifted weights three or four times before my summer league game was at 5pm or something. People are just waking up so I had an advantage. When you’re in school, you have to ride the bus and then the coach might have you doing a damn three-man-weave or something or practice without a basketball. Coaches take the fun out of sports for me. Summer league games, you don’t have a coach. So yeah, 51 points. I wish I had a video tape of that.
DX: If Donald Trump becomes President of the United States, would you be happy with that?
RiFF RAFF: I’m about results. Everybody can say this or that. I want to see the stats. I want to see results. I’ve never voted and I’m not gonna start voting now. I’ve never had a President come knock on my door and hand me a check for $1 million. I’ve never seen results from any President. I want to see some positive results. It’s not up to me. I wouldn’t want to be President anyway. I don’t see anyone benefitting me or not benefitting me. Either way, I’m gonna have to do what I have to do so worrying about what the hell’s going on a million miles away when I still have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes [doesn’t make sense to me]. Now, if whatever President says, “If you make over $1 million or X amount of dollars, then you still just pay 8% tax,” because when you buy a pack of gum, aren’t you paying taxes right there?
DX: Depending on the state.
RiFF RAFF: If the pack costs $1 and you’re paying $1.08, that’s tax right there. Now that’s me paying taxes and I’m paying the 8% for tax. Now, when I make money, you’re saying I made too much money so at the end of the year I’ve gotta give you back hundreds of thousands of dollars? That’s like, OK, I’ve got a kid right here. Here’s $20, kid. That’s on Friday. Then Wednesday the next week I say, “Remember that $20 I gave you? Give me $12 of that back.” The fuck? That’s not nice to give someone something then take it back after they worked for it. So a President comes in with that mentality, that’s wrong. I don’t understand that. This person made money so they have to give money back so we can give money to someone else. Don’t you have a fucking money printing machine? If you supposedly care about all these other people, why don’t you give them money for that? Or give money to these people in this country instead of spending money on artillery and ammunition and sending people overseas to die. You’re not worried about your country. You’re worried about killing other people. Fix your shit at your house before you start fixing the windows at other people’s shit. Whatever President has that mentality [I’ll support]. Don’t worry about my money. Go print that fucking money with that money machine you have in the basement at the White House or wherever the fuck it’s at and give it to whoever you want. You’re in charge of the money machine. Don’t come knocking on my door. The fuck. That doesn’t make sense.