Riff Raff Interview
That One Time Riff Raff Came to Alaska
An Interview with the Neon Icon
Words / Cody Liska
Photos / Johnny Minnery
In the winter of 2015, Riff Raff came to Anchorage, Alaska. The four days he was here is probably best categorized as a whirlwind of absurdities. On Easter Sunday, while five or six families ate dinner, Riff Raff’s crew got into a fight at a sushi restaurant with a dude who looked and acted like Riff Raff. Allegedly, the fight was instigated by a video the guy posted about Riff Raff.
On a separate occasion, Riff Raff’s fur hat was stolen at a party. The kid who stole it posted it to social media. Allegedly, Riff Raff paid close to $1,000 to get it back.
The night of his 21 and over show was no less absurd. His Alaskan doppelgänger, the guy he fought at the sushi restaurant, was an opening act. When Riff Raff eventually took the stage, his bodyguard stood onstage with him, texting and taking photos the entire show.
While he was onstage, I went to the merch booth to talk to his tour manager about getting an interview. He told me to go to Riff Raff’s room, set up and that he would be up after his set. So, along with a photographer and a videographer, I went up to the McKinley Suite at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Anchorage. While we waited, we set up two cameras, went over interview questions and drank a few beers we had brought with us. By the time Riff Raff got back to his room, he was ready to party. After a few attempts to reel him in for the interview, I said to his brother, Viktor Simco, “there’s gotta be some brother shit you can say to get his attention.” Viktor looked at his brother across the room and yelled, “square up!” And square up he did.
If you follow Riff Raff on social media, none of this should come as a surprise. It should only reinforce whatever preconceived idea you have of him. Because everything you’ve heard about him is probably true. From his sometimes nonsensical ramblings to his party boy demeanor.
Before we started the interview, Riff Raff said he needed to see my questions to check for any “bitch shit.” What follows are the questions he approved of and a few others I snuck in.
How do you feel about your career?
It’s crazy how I evolved. When I dropped that Neon Icon [album], there was nothing better that I could’ve dropped. But, right now, I have so much better songs than Neon Icon. I know which direction I’m going now. So I know what songs I wanna drop. This Peach Panther album is going to crush Neon Icon. But Neon Icon, at the time, that’s the best music I could put out. And I hear it all the time: everyone’s next album should be better than their last one. And I feel like I’ve evolved to this newer artist. As long as I keep producing hit songs for my albums, then I keep moving on.
How’s your trip to Alaska so far?
It’s my first time here. My huskies are having fun running through the snow. I didn’t see any polar bears … This is my first trip, so next time will be better. Just like I said about the Neon Icon album, as long as everything keeps getting better and better, then I’m okay, but I’m okay with the initial progress. Know what I mean? This is my first time here, so I deal with this for right now and next time maybe it’ll be better.
I don’t see things for what they are, I see it for the time being and then I just know to take it to a higher level next time.
Can you give me an example?
For example, when I book shows, anytime I come back to the same city, a year later, I make sure it’s at least twice the size of the show I did last time in the same city. Otherwise I’m not doing the show. That’s just point blank period. Let’s say I do a show in Indianapolis at a venue that has a thousand people and a year later I’m booking a show that has 2,000 plus people. If it’s not then we skip that city until them ticket sales get up. It’s not my problem, it’s y’alls problem. If I don’t sell twice the amount [of tickets] in your city, I’m not coming to your city. Point blank period.
You have a lot of pop culture tattoos—MTV, BET, Bart Simpson, Worldstar. Do you see yourself as a personification of popular culture?
I just go day by day. A simple-minded person might [say], “well, you’re just trying to be a rapper.” But, honestly, the way I’m evolving is into rock and pop, it’s not even into rap. I mean, I’m a rapper, but I don’t really listen to rap that much. I don’t mean to defer away from rap, but at the same time I have certain artists who I like or certain songs I like. I might listen to a Rich Homie Quan or Young Thug, know what I mean? But then I might go listen to a Lady Gaga or fuckin’ Taylor Swift or Katie Perry or Kacey Musgraves or Tim McGraw.
I can remember being seven, eight-years-old and I’d hear a song on the radio and in the first five seconds I could tell if it was a hit song. I remember listening to “Material Girl” by Madonna and I didn’t know who she was, but I knew it was a hit song when I was seven-years-old. I’ve always had that niche of knowing what’s a hit song. So genres of music mean nothing to me. I know what a hit song is and I know what sounds good.
What do you identify with more, entertainer or rapper?
There we go with the titles again. I’m just the Neon Icon. One year I might be dropping albums, the next year I might have a fuckin’ TV show coming out on MTV, the next year I might be in four or five movies—I might be James Bond in a movie. Somebody may tell me no, but your outside intuition is most likely wrong. That’s somebody’s intuition, that’s somebody’s opinion. Like, “oh, this is a hit song. This isn’t.” That’s an opinion. Me, I know what sounds good, since I was seven. I know what’s right and what’s wrong, in my mind. Somebody else might have a different opinion.
You’ve talked about how you really don’t like being around people…
Here’s the thing, here’s the thing: we’re in 2015, I was a kid and having fun in the 90s, it’s not the same world. Everybody doesn’t respect and have fun—fuck the respect part—it’s just the mentality isn’t to have fun and do shit. Everybody thinks they’re somebody. There’s Instagram models and there’s online rapper guys and all this stuff… like I’m always looking for new hit songs, new beats, new artists. That doesn’t mean you have to be like me or be on Worldstar.
I have a set mentality, so I’m not going for what the average person is going for. I’m not in the original world of whatever everybody’s into. You know what I mean? I try to stay away from people at all costs. I don’t know what people’s mentalities are, so when people see a dude get onstage, we’re playing NFL football—I might tackle you, he [Riff Raff’s bodyguard] might tackle you. Like, there’s no dudes allowed around me. We have a merch booth that sells meet and greets if you wanna meet me, but if you get onstage, we aren’t talking. If you get onstage, you’re volunteering yourself to play NFL football and we’re tackling. I’m Peyton Manning, I have an offensive line that will kill you. Straight up.
You’ve also talked about joining the WWE. What would be your wrestling name?
Neon Python. But I’m not going to go through channels that the normal person [goes through]. I don’t want to be a wrestler. Fuck being a wrestler. When I get to 240 [pounds] and if I go into WWE and I’m on Pay Per View, I have a set agenda and things that I’m gonna do and the merch that I’m gonna sell is going to outsell any person [in the WWE], or at least be top ten in the WWE for sure. Because right now I have Jody Husky [shirts] selling half a million dollars a year and he [Riff Raff’s husky] doesn’t say one word. He doesn’t say one word.
Do you know what your signature move is going to be?
Lamborghini Leg Lock.
Who do you see as your arch rival?
It doesn’t matter if I have an arch rival. All I want is money and to sell at least 10 million in merch. Point blank period.
What can we expect from your next album?
The Peach Panther album is going to crush the Neon Icon. I expect to have a feature on every song. It’s gonna be all hit songs with crazy beats. Mike Will [Made It], Rich Homie Quan, Young Thug, Lil Wayne, Drake, fuckin’ Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, G-Eazy, 50 Cent, Eminem, Action Bronson, so many names. I gotta get Diddy on there. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna. My album’s gonna be crazy. Diplo, Skrillex, Afrojack, Dillon Francis, Carlos Santana, Tim McGraw, Brooks & Dunn, Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith.
When you retire, if you retire, can you see yourself moving to a place more secluded?
If I retire, when I retire—whatever, that’ll be years from now—for sure. I mean, you’ve heard of Richard Branson, he bought an island, he owns planes, he owns Virgin Airlines, he has a crazy house on an island. If I retire, I’ll retire when I have that status.
What does your retirement look like?
A private island—I own a private government [that] only lets girls be residents of my fucking island.
What does your future look like? Where are you headed?
I wanna be the next Will Smith. I wanna be Mark Wahlberg. I wanna be me though. I wanna be in movies. I wanna have a sit-com on MTV. Every time I turn the TV on all I see is fuckin’ reality shows and documentaries. That’s not fun to me. I wanna be more.
Any last words?
I just appreciate everybody for coming out to Alaska. Next time I hope it’ll be at a twice as big event, with a crazier sounds system. If we can’t make that happen, then I can’t come back, you know what I mean? That’s just how that works. We’re gonna do a double-sized venue and twice as much money. That’s how I work.
This interview was possible because of Michael Dempsey and Johnny Minnery, and Hellen Payares and Ray Flores of Showdown Productions.