Riff Raff and DJ Spinstyles
The Riot Room, Kansas City
Thursday, December 19, 2013
For the full slideshow from last night's concert, go here.
See our interview with Riff Raff here.
The people who came to Riff Raff's first Kansas City show chomped at the bit for hours before he finally took the stage, around midnight, with a towel on his head. An hour-plus set of sweat, fist swirls, and rap of a Dada bent officially commenced to a manic reception. A few dozen beach balls in the back corner of the stage soon started popping around, and the party was in full swing quickly.
Three songs into the set, Riff Raff introduced "Mr. Kansas City himself," rapper Tech N9ne, whose aggressive and effortless rap chops on "See Me" quickly cast a shadow over Riff Raff's funny, weird and two-dimensional lyrical cartoons. But it makes sense: Tech N9ne is from Planet Earth, while Riff Raff seems to hail from some holographic universe.
For the entirety of Riff Raff's set, a thin guy in a shiny faux-leather jacket stood next to the faux-productive DJ, throbbing his fists and taking pictures with his phone. At one point, Riff Raff stopped a song and admonished someone in the crowd for a purse-snatching; his spiel seemed prepared, or a put-on of some kind. Maybe it was a skit, or maybe everything is real - that's part of Riff Raff's whole M.O., anyway.
One cool part of being a rapper is that you can gain street cred and engage audiences just by shouting the name of better-known rappers with whom you've worked. Riff Raff demonstrated this example by talking up Lil' Wayne, a recent collaborator with Mr. Raff on a track called "Karate Chop." At the mention of Lil' Wayne, the crowd swooned. A heavy beat dropped over the tinkle of a distant piano, and Riff Raff read the lyrics of "Karate Chop" off his phone while a man in a Darth Vader mask crowd-surfed: I can sneeze, I can change the breeze to winter season/Ballin' for no reason, ballin' szhuship for the people/I flew across Brazil with the bald eagles.
Though the force was indeed strong with the relatively small Riff Raff, covered in sweat and awesomely impulsive tattoos, there was a man of at least 6 feet 7 inches standing center-stage for the whole set, hanging out, eyes forward, protecting the stage from the party people. Somewhat ironically, and regardless of his size and job description, the large man stood by and did nothing when a few KCPD cops charged the stage in search of an "unknown person" whom they never seemed to find. They interrogated some blurry gentleman stage-left, but relented eventually. Throughout this ordeal, Mr. Raff never missed a beat or lyric - other than the ones he chose to miss, of course, to let his prerecorded beats and lyrics take over.
Seeing Riff Raff is kind of like watching Riff Raff do karaoke of Riff Raff songs. The official track plays while he hypes up the crowd and shouts along, wiggling his shoulders or wagging his braids the way rappers do. A lot of the conversation around Riff Raff asks the question: Is he serious?
But that question is asked in the middle of a YouTube session from the comfort of a couch, where Riff Raff's wider appeal - his eccentricity and visual style - can best come through. No one needs to ask the same question of authenticity when Riff Raff is onstage, whipping a crowd up, wide-eyed behind designer sunglasses. Of course
he's serious. He's absurdly serious.
"Riff Raff a true artist!" he yells, "From the heart!"
Last night's show was fun and wild at all times, peppered with a few bouts of gummed-up freestyling on the subject of Kansas City. No one seemed to mind his verbal missteps, limps or impediments. The mode was "party down," and the Riot Room had a blast, even as the venue itself seemed to be sweating with the capacity crowd. Bodies were pressed up against one another, mouths shouting lyrics that make no lick of sense.
: Early in the night, a man stuck his soggy crotch underneath the hand dryer in the men's room. "I wasn't here 10 minutes," he said, "before some bitch spilled her drink on me."
Dolce & Gabbana I
Shoulda Played for the Hawks
Dolce & Gabbana II
Ace of Space
They Figured I Worked From Mexico
Lil' Mama I'm Sorry
Untitled New Song
More photos here.