Why Does Riff Raff Bother You?

People tend to be intrigued or incensed by rapper Riff Raff.  Personally, I’ve been intrigued since I first saw the video for “Larry Bird”.  i can understand why some people might be initially alarmed by Riff Raff’s persona and image.  He’s a tall, skinny white guy with a bunch of tattoos (including a giant MTV logo on his neck), long cornrows, and is usually seen wearing a ton of diamond jewelry.  Hailing from Houston, he speaks with a Southern drawl and raps about some of the same things you would expect of a Houston rapper with a little bit of outlandishness thrown in to make him a unique act.  While it’s understandable that Riff is a love-it-or-hate-it type of persona and musician, some are taking it so far as to over-analyze his right to be who he is and question his credibility, even though he himself doesn’t seem to require any validation.  I don’t enjoy all of Riff Raff’s music, but he has an enjoyable verse here or there and as far as his persona, he seems to just do him and be pretty much hilarious in most interactions and interviews I’ve seen.

Riff Raff’s MTV Cribs Spoof

I can understand the concern that Riff Raff’s entire persona may be a satire of certain aspects of hip-hop culture, but when it’s proposed that he’s satirizing Blackness is where  I have a problem.  Black people do not own hip-hop any more than hip-hop defines the Black experience as a whole.  There are many Black people who do not identify with hip-hop culture just as there are many white people who authentically do.  For someone to imply that a white person dressing a certain way is an insult to their Blackness would just be indicative of the fact that someone may need to go back and re-examine their definition of Blackness because that’s trivializing the whole experience…it doesn’t boil down to hairstyles and gold chains on even the slightest level.

Even if Riff Raff is a satire of hip-hop culture…so what?  To take issue with a white person satirizing hip-hop is to imply that we own the rights to that solely, and that just isn’t the case.  Hip-hop has become so ingrained in mainstream American culture, we would be foolish to still be holding onto sole ownership as if this were still the 1980s.  If Riff Raff were an artist that I feel glorifies violence or misogyny in a satirical fashion, then I might take some issue, but he seems like a persona who’s about having fun, even if it might involve personal drug use or drinking.  Personally, what alarms me more is people like Chief Keef who come across as 100% authentic, represent a dark underbelly of Chicago youth that’s currently racking up real-life casualties, and glorify violence in a tone that is 100% serious.  Why are people focusing on satire when there’s that to address?  If we’re going to be gate-keepers for hip-hop, why are we picking and choosing who to call to task based solely on race?  If there’s a problem to be discussed about buffoonery and extravagance in hip-hop, then it should be addressed across the board as opposed to homing in on people based on how someone looks and what we think of their background and who they should identify with. 

Interview In Question: Hot 97’s Ebro Play’s Hip-Hop’s Gatekeeper vs. Riff Raff

Larry Bird x Riff Raff

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