Riff Raff revolves around a gravitational pool of eccentricity. It's made up of many components: his social media accounts, tattoos (including the logos of MTV and BET), stacks of racks, a wardrobe composed of the finest neon apparel, his music videos and Diplo. And regardless of his ubiquity the guy continues to be a mystery to everyone he appeals to, treading a thin, Versace-made line between performance art irony and meme-based entertainment.
Riff Raff's show at NYC's Highline Ballroom last night (July 20) was a four hour spectacle of excited teenagers, and a rapper that is very much in a league of his own. The night's festivities began with New York-based rappers Lakutis and Heems. The former is less refined than the latter, dropping half-baked lines that are immediately entertaining but hardly memorable. When Lakutis appeared onstage it was as if he were a part of the audience. Shirtless and projecting a guttural roar into his microphone, the crowd didn't know whether to be excited or frightened. And it only got weirder from there. Lakutis can rap but it's as if he chooses not to. Unlike Riff Raff, Lakutis' unusual persona doesn't make up for his mediocre raps. (Which is unfortunate because most of the production for the guy's music is enjoyable.)
Shortly after Lakutis finished, Heems came onstage. Heems is not only refined in his lyrical wit but in his onstage persona. The guy knows how to please an audience (which is to be expected considering his time in rap group Das Racist), energizing the crowd with typical live hip-hop show antics (waving of the hands, call-and-response). Lakutis would occasionally join Heems onstage and fellow rapper Mayhem Lauren made a guest appearance as well. But Heems followed in suit with the show's weirdness, ending his set with a cover of The-Dream's "Rockin' That Shit." (What was most weird about this moment was how the crowd reacted: by moshing.)