Interview by Joe Mueller (@JMtheIndustry)
Photography by Tasha Bleu
The Pacsun pop-up shop in SoHo, New York has seen a lot of action recently. Earlier this summer, the venue was the spot where the Diamond Supply x Been Trill collab was unveiled. This past weekend, RiFF RAFF blessed the venue with an appearance as Biz Markie spun for the crowds that showed up to cop Neff gear. The line of fans there to meet Jody Highroller seemed to never end, and the popular enigma that is RiFF RAFF spent an extra two hours signing shirts, his own portrait on his Neff collab, and at least one ass. We were lucky enough to get some time with him to chop it up and, as usual, the eccentric emcee kept us entertained as soon as he opened his diamond-encrusted mouth. Read the full interview to see his wild thoughts on the upcoming Neon Icon album, how he gets mistaken for Jay Z, and what he plans on doing with his first billion dollars.
Can you talk about the Justin Bieber Versace chain? What’s the story behind the Justin Bieber Versace chain, we need to know this.
[Pulls out chain] It smelled like Bieber at first. It lost the whole Bieber scent—it didn’t lose the power though. It has Bieber in it.
How’d you get it?
We were just hangin’ out after his show.
Are we gonna get a Bieber collabo soon?
Hey, you gotta ask him man. Don’t you think, if it was up to me, we’d have a whole album. It’s like fools sayin “oh when you and Drake gonna drop a song?” If it were up to me it’d be like “Come on, Drake. We gotta do this.” Shit like that, that person gotta take the initiative to do that. I got a song with Big Sean coming soon. Big Sean is getting on.
[Leaves room, returns after a minute] Okay, so Versace chain. Yeah, that’s Versace. Everybody wants to look at this. [Hands over ring] You wanna double check? 'Cause I mean, you should let ‘em know, because this ain’t costume jewelry. Nobody’s wearin' gold plated.
I’m potentially a Richard Branson. I’m not there yet, but I will be. Buy a spaceship and go build a whole 'nother Earth.
What are you rocking? What are you buying these days?
Umm, it depends. I just see somethin and then I’ll get it. I mean, a lot of Neff. But I don’t buy it. I make it. But shit, like these glasses. I didn’t even know they Tom Ford. I seen 'em and I was like damn them shits clean. And then once I put em on everybody started callin' me Jay Z. So then I was like, okay. Me and Jay Z walkin' down the street and it’s like “Yo, Jay Z” and then we both turn around. And now we don’t know who’s who.
What’s the number-one thing in your closet right now that you cannot live without—the one thing that you’re obsessed with?
One thing? Man. Shoes, I guess. But I just, I always buy new shit. That’s one of my main things is I don’t like to wear the same thing twice. You know what I mean? I’m not like one of these rapper guys. I’m more of like a fashion icon. That’s why I got that album Neon Icon comin' out 'cause like people laughin' and all this shit like “ha ha,” but people are so slow man. And they’re so stupid. So when I say that, it’s like they haven’t caught up to the shit I do, like I buy new shit.
I constantly buy—people are like “Damn, why you always talkin' about your jewelry and chain and all this shit?” Because, you ain’t! People ain’t about that type of stuff and I am. I’m 'bout luxury and cars and houses and all this shit. But people don’t understand that until they see it. If you just talk about it and you don’t be about it then people could be like, “oh well he might not be serious.” But there’s a lot of people who maybe wanna have new jewelry and chains and stuff like that, but they can’t afford it at the time. You know what I’m sayin'?
So the only thing I can do is just try to just—as I make more money, spend more money. That’s the only way to prove that you—I mean it’s not like I proved it, it’s just like what I want. Shit, if I had a billion dollars, I’d have a candy private plane. I’d buy an island. I’d do all that shit. I’m potentially a Richard Branson. I’m not there yet, but I will be. Buy a spaceship and go build a whole 'nother Earth.
The dream collabo would be me, Drake, and Justin Bieber to go on tour and make a whole album. And then go on tour. Back-to-back tour buses. Candy tour buses. Yeah, a world-wide tour—300 day tour. We only got 65 days off.
Have you been reached out to by any designers?
You mean like besides Neff? Like fashion designers?
Yeah, like maybe Versace?
Man, I wish. Definitely.
Would you do it?
Of course, why wouldn’t I? Don’t I do everything? I can rarely say no.
What about modeling? I could see Riff Raff on the runway.
I could do it. I just gotta stop eatin carbs and I gotta get real skinny. I gotta be like 99 pounds.
What’s your workout plan like on the road?
Damn. I do like 100 pushups.
In a row?
I mean, no. Like 20 pushups, and then eat a ham sandwich. And then smoke somethin’ and then do like 100 curls.
Could you beat Master P in one-on-one right now?
Damn, I dunno if he’s been hoopin'. Okay, let’s say if I had a month, I could. But if like I had a month to train, he had a month to train, or whatever the case is, then I could.
What’s your post game like?
I don’t have to post up. I got a cross-over. And threes. All I do is shoot threes and shoot free-throws, 'cause whenever I drive, somebody’s gonna have to foul me. So I’m like threes and free-throws.
Yeah, that’s a big song.
Yeah, it was wild. Do you have any plans with him? What’s the deal?
We’re both doin’ Rock the Bells. We might do somethin right there. He’s like a black Justin Bieber. No, but for real, every video he drops gets like a million views in, like, two days, so with somebody like him it’s crazy. I never saw nothin’ like that before.
I have a song with Mac Miller that’s crazy. I have this really big song on a DJ Mustard beat and like Snoop Dogg and 2 Chainz, so that’s gonna be a really big song.
What’s your dream collabo?
Me and Lady Gaga.
A full album?
I’d be down for that. Oh, wait. I forgot. It’d be me and Justin Bieber. No, no, wait. I’m gonna take it back again. The dream collabo would be me, Drake, and Justin Bieber to go on tour and make a whole album. And then go on tour. Back-to-back tour buses. Candy tour buses.
That covers everyone I think. That’s the entire world.
Yeah, a world-wide tour—300 day tour. We only got 65 days off.
What artists have influenced you the most, would you say?
Madonna. I dunno. It’s like, her songs pop into my head a lot.
What are the critical things you bring with you on the road? You’re on the road constantly right now, so what is the one item that you can’t live without?
An empty Louis Vuitton bag. 'Cause what I do, is just—every city, I just go buy new stuff and leave the rest.
So you constantly need new Louis bags?
No, no. I just need new clothes everyday. I don’t like to wear the same thing twice.
Can I pick your brain on a couple of things? I’m just gonna shout them out and I want you to tell me what you think about them.
What was your first tattoo? You’ve got a bunch of awesome tattoos.
This Texas one. And then I came back home that same night and it was raining and it took like—this tattoo took like a couple hours—and it was rainin' and pourin' and then when I got home, somebody had broke into my house.
Oh shit, what happened?
I dunno, they broke into my house.
I’m high maintenance in the fact that I gotta be cleaned, shaved. I gotta pick up my clothes, I wanna be matchin' head to toe.
Did they take anything?
Yeah, they stole a whole bunch of my shoes and I had like a lot of money and shit when I wasn’t home. Fuck them.
Which one’s your favorite tattoo? You got a favorite?
My favorite? The Jody Highroller one.
What’s your favorite sushi roll?
What’s in a Volcano Roll?
No! The Baked Scallop Roll. It’s like a California Roll, but then on top there’s like this creamy Alfredo-ish sauce with like baked scallops. And it’s cooked so it’s on top of the thing, so it’s like lukewarm-ish. It’s crazy.
What’s the deal with RiFF RAFF Pizza?
Jody Highroller Lobster Roll Pizza. It’s gonna be crazy.
Would you Pizza-Track it on Dominos?
Well, it could go to Dominos. But I’d probably just have a pizza truck. It’s goin' down.
Pshh. It’s the other way around. It’s like I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough time to sleep. I don’t have enough time to travel. I mean, especially when you’re flyin' from city to city. When you’re on a tour where you’re on a tour bus and whenever you’re done you can just go back and lay down and go to sleep and you wake up in another city, you get to sleep. You get to chill. When you’re flyin' from city to city, like you have to pack and make sure this and then—travelin' and gettin' the car started and stopping, and goin' through security and all that shit. If you don’t have a private plane, like, you’re dealin' with all these extra obstacles.
Do you get a lot of attention—do people recognize you in airports? It’s gotta be crazy, right?
Yeah, it’s crazy. Sometimes you get, I mean, sometimes bad anxiety.
I didn’t even have time to get my hair braided. So I’m like doin' myself an injustice.
Yeah, that’s intense.
Yeah, like I haven’t really got to chill by myself, like have a moment with myself in like a couple weeks, you know? I came straight from the damn airport right here. I just came from Ft. Lauderdale. I did the show, with the after-party. Go from there, the sun’s comin up. Hit the streets and live. The sun’s comin’ up, go to sleep, wake up and like, oh shit, catch a flight. Like anxiety, you know what I mean?
Jump in the car and just go to the damn airport and then fly here. I didn’t even have time to get my hair braided. So I’m like doin' myself an injustice. I’m not comin’ through like how I normally would, with braids. So I mean, my braider, I’m gonna have to start traveling with her. 'Cause like, I’m really high maintenance. I’m not like average—I mean, okay, like I assume a lot of musicians, or whoever, they get up and they might not even take a shower, they might not shave, they might do shit. But they’re just about music, and that’s cool. You know what I mean? But I’m not like that.
I have like four jobs in one. I have to look good. I have to smell good. I have to sound good. I’m like—like I said, I’m more than just a musician and stuff. Shit, like over these last few days, even if I didn’t do any music the shit that I’m doin' is part of me. It might not be the same thing that somebody else’s doin. So, I’m high maintenance in the fact that I gotta be cleaned, shaved. I gotta pick up my clothes, I wanna be matchin' head to toe. Like, I’m not even lookin proper right now. 'Cause, I mean, I just don’t have enough time, man. I need a tour bus with me at all times, like Will Smith travels with a trailer with a workout gym inside it, you know?
When you have comfort like that, where you have everything you need right there—I’m not there yet. I don’t have exactly everything I need. It’s like I have all the pieces, but the puzzle pieces are all over and I gotta put 'em all together, you know? Especially not being signed to a major label. Like next year, after I drop my album, then I’m gonna sign to a major label. People don’t understand where it’s goin'. It’s not even started yet. I haven’t even dropped my album yet. I haven’t even rolled around in like—man—I ain’t even ridden a tour bus, yet.
That’s what I aspire to be: in that upper elite class of individuals that you can’t even get the same sound quality as me.
Which collaboration on your new album are you most amped about?
Well the song I got with Wiz Khalifa is crazy. I did the Versace Python freestyle a while back, and then he really liked that song, and then he got on that for the album. I have a song with Mac Miller that’s crazy. I have this really big song on a DJ Mustard beat and like Snoop Dogg and 2 Chainz, so that’s gonna be a really big song. All my songs are gonna be pretty big. I mean, I got two songs with Mike Posner.
Are there any producers that you really wanna work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
Well I just linked up with Young Chop. I did this remix with somebody that was in Freebandz gang named Doe Boy, it’s called “Fuck You Mean.” Did you hear it? It dropped with Complex! So like that was on one of Chop's beats. But like, producer? I mean, I’m always into workin' with new dudes. I mean I’d wanna work with like Dr. Dre or something like that. Whoever the biggest people are, you know? Dr. Lou, right? I wanna work with somebody who has good engineering skills.
If you listen to like a Lady Gaga song or a Britney Spears, it has a different sound quality than some random average song. 'Cause once you get into that type of depth of level of quality, then you’re around people that like normal average society couldn’t be around. So that’s what I want. That’s what I aspire to be: in that upper elite class of individuals that you can’t even get the same sound quality as me. And right now, I’m almost there. It’s not about me. It’s connections. So you know, we’ll just have to see what happens.
Oh yeah, those are my homies. We’re always goin to randomly drop shit. You know? We have other bigger things comin’ out, you know like entertainment-wise. Music is secondary, 'cause we have like TV shows and movies and stuff that are getting scripted.
What type of stuff?
I can’t really talk about it. No, honestly, I can’t. But Three Loco it’s like—it’s beyond the music. The music: we’re gonna randomly do songs. We just did a song a couple weeks ago. You know, we’re always gonna do that. That’s natural.
So RiFF RAFF fans are going to see RiFF RAFF more on TV than we’ve already seen?
Oh yeah, like I have actual shows coming out. Like, not reality shows. Scripted shows, like sitcoms and shit. So it’s gonna be great. Plus workin' with Andy [Milonakis] and Dirt [Nasty], who carry their own, those guys have their own ideas. Those are a couple of guys who like, I can’t predict what they’re gonna do next. You know? Like, I know Dirt has like over a million followers on Vine. Andy is like such a great genius in his own mind, like in the way he thinks and stuff. You never know what he’s gonna do next. And Dirt’s the same way. Dirt is a workaholic! Like, psh, he’s crazy man.
I can see myself from a third perspective. So I know what level I'm on. To be in that elite field of people, it’s just like damn. Top of the food chain.
Those guys, they kinda inspire me. You know what I mean? With their success. I mean like Dirt—people don’t understand, like Dirt Nasty, he’s like, he was a damn VJ on MTV way back, and he’s been in countless movies, you know what I mean? Multi-millionaire. People are like—he’s really slept on. Whenever he drops an album, they’re always like good or quality or funny or whatever the case is, like he’s really a hidden artist that’s constantly, like repeatedly, been successful.
What’s on your iPod right now?
iPod? You meant my iPhone?
I listen to like Violent Femmes, Empire of the Sun, Billy Idol, Guns N’ Roses, Axl Rose, Madonna. Like I listen to rap so much, when I have time I usually listen to other shit. Little Dragon. I’m tryin' to think of who else I listen to. There’s so many people.
Did you grow up on all different types of music or was it mostly hip hop?
Yeah, that’s why in my songs I sing a lot of the hooks and shit. 'Cause like, certain things that I hear in my mind are a beat. And I might just have a rap beat right there. But if I had other beats—that’s why I like country songs. 'Cause that’s just—that’s in me. But people don’t understand that, so I don’t see how people could call me just a rapper or like “oh you’re tryin' to be this rapper, or da da da.” You haven’t even seen—you don’t even know what my new music is. I mean, I rap songs. Of course. That’s what I do. That’s easy. That given to me. I freestyle, it’s nothing.
You said you’ve been making your own beats?
I made a beat with Clinton Sparks. And there’s another beat I have, I made over in Germany. I made the beat in like five minutes.
Who do you think the dopest rapper out right now is, present company excluded?
Psh, Drake. He’s on it, like he constantly is improving. Every album he has is improving. I mean, I’m not even gonna call him just a rapper, but like Wayne, him too. Man, I can’t just say—I dunno.
So one of the biggest moments of your NYC show was when Action Bronson came out.
Yeah, mean. He’s—psh. Bronson, that’s another person who just on the uprise. Like, man when he does his songs he doesn’t—he remembers all that shit. He doesn’t have the actual song playing. So he does it like memorizes that shit. So that’s work. Then he has like punch-lines and he has a good vocabulary. His shit’s crazy. It’s crazy how I’m around these type of people who are just so, like, so great. So, like, it inspires me. I’m obviously great. You know that I mean? And I know it. I can see myself from a third perspective. So I know what level I'm on. To be in that elite field of people, it’s just like damn. Top of the food chain.
I mean you’ve been in it for a while now. So is it different?
Nah, it’s constantly goin' on.
Constantly improving, man. Everything. You know what I mean? Shit’s crazy. And the fact that I’m not even a rookie yet says a lot. When I drop my album, it’s like, okay, it’s game time. You know? It’s pre-season still. And I’m sellin' out shows in Australia.
Once I drop that album, I’m not droppin' nothin' else 'til I do a video for all them songs. I want all them songs, all them videos to be on MTV.
What’s the craziest place you’ve been to?
Australia was pretty crazy. I was at, I think it’s called the Opera House—the Sydney Opera House. And I sold that out. It’s crazy. I mean I was in France and people didn’t speak English, but they knew the songs. And I’m like damn. So when in the last month I’ve had a couple videos on MTV that’s in rotation. They’ll usually play the Action Bronson "Strictly For My Jeeps," and then they’ll play my "Rookie of the Year 2013." I mean, shit like that is shit you can only dream of. You can’t buy that. That just has to happen.
What do you think RiFF RAFF fans have to look forward to the most? If you had to tell them right now to get amped up about something, what would it be?
Neon Icon, the album. My first big album. It’s gonna be fully produced. Neon Icon. Neon Icon, all day. Once I drop that album, I’m not droppin' nothin' else 'til I do a video for all them songs. I want all them songs, all them videos to be on MTV.
New videos coming out?
Definitely. Every song.