Review Summary: The White Neil deGrasse Tyson
After numerous delays, Riff Raff's first major-label LP Neon Icon has finally arrived. Since Neon Icon is by no stretch of the imagination a normal record, I'm going to go against my typical writing style and do my first ever track-by-track review. Normally I'm against track-by-track reviews, but I feel like its the only way to properly evaluate the balls-out insanity of Neon Icon. Without further ado, I present to you a landmark review for a landmark album.
1."Introducing the Icon": It only takes about 5 seconds into Neon Icon for the first belly laugh to occur as Riff Raff uses this stereotypical California surfer dude accent to document a conversation between two guys discussing how great of an artist Riff Raff is. As for the actual rapping, it's the perfect introduction not just for this album, but for Riff Raff in general. The verses are loaded with random pop-culture references, the bass-heavy beat is guaranteed to shake any set of speakers and the energy level is off-the-charts. "Introducing the Icon" is a top-flight Riff Raff track that perfectly sets the tone for this entire record.
Best Riffism: "Hey Julia Stiles, Save the Last Dance"
2."Kokayne": "Kokayne" is the first of the many times on Neon Icon where I began to wonder what in the sweet *** I was listening to. Electronic musician and Riff Raff's boss at Mad Decent Records, Diplo, throws down a surf rock guitar-driven beat while Riff spits bar after bar about his love for the white pony (or rice as he likes to call it.) Riff Raff rapping about cocaine over music that sounds like what I'd imagine The Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA" would sound like if it was recorded in 2014 may sound like a joke, but it's 100% real and it's 100% glorious.
Best Riffism: "I then done spent a grand on a ham steak. I should charge you ten grand for a handshake."
3."Wetter than Tsunami": Another banger with great quotes galore, an in-your-face trap beat, and perhaps the best hook of the entire album. "Wetter than Tsunami" is basically the not quite as great version of "Introducing the Icon".
Best Riffism: "Step inside the club and I smell like Power Ranger"
4."Jody 3 Moons": Basically all you need to know about this skit is that Riff Raff talks to the audience as the moon for a minute and a half about the pro's and con's of human life, being nice to everyone you meet and how it's okay to cry when life gets tough. Not since Lil B's magnum opus "I Love You" has such a powerful message been put into song.
Best Riffism: "Hey everybody, this is the moon talking to you. I'm calling in from outer space, it's a pretty far distance."
5."Versace Python": "Versace Python" is the first time on Neon Icon where Riff Raff tries his hand at combining pop and hip-hop. The clean-sung hook is actually pretty catchy and Riff's tongue-twisting rapping style sounds pretty good over a more mellow beat than he usually flows over. Out of all the pop-tinged tracks on Neon Icon, "Versace Python" is by far the most successful.
Best Riffism: "Now I'm in Chinatown, bok choi"
6."Lava Glaciers": I'd like to blame Childish Gambino for single-handily screwing up what is otherwise one of the finest tracks on the record. His overly serious verse tries to mimic Kendrick Lamar's flow and rhyme scheme from "The Art of Peer Pressure", and it's just embarrassing to listen to. Gambino's spot on this track is a brilliant example of everything I dislike about him (thinking he's far more clever than he actually is, annoying flow, references to his previous songs) on the same verse. Even though Gambino showed some improvement as a rapper on Because the Internet, I wish he would just go back to being Donald Glover and stick with his true calling in the world of comedy. That being said, Riff's hysterical verse and Harry Fraud's wild beat with the creepy 50's sample that seems to have been pulled straight off the radio from Fallout 3 are more than enough for this track to overcome the disastrous Gambino guest spot.
Best Riffism: "Ate the pork chop sandwich with the tartar sauce, in the packet that I found in my purple Prada pocket protector."
7."Tip Toe Wing in My Jawdinz": This is the first time I've ever said this about a Riff Raff song, but this *** is just too ridiculous for me to enjoy it. The hook is repetitive and annoying, the eerie beat falls incredibly flat and there just isn't enough good lines (though the 2-3 lines that do hit are absolute gold) to make this track worthwhile.
Best Riffism: "I'm at a slumber party, girls only, got you mad. But you can sleep outside, here's my Versace sleeping bag".
8."Maybe You Love Me": The most notable thing about "Maybe You Love Me" is receiving confirmation that Mike "Cooler Then Me" Posner is still alive. I thought for sure that dude died after that horrid and completely absurd guest spot on 2 Chainz's "In Town" a couple years ago. Posner's grating voice on the hook and bridge is the primary reason this cracked-out love ballad misfires. Not even Riff's references to having iguana shoelaces and taking his beau on a trip to Mississippi because her "attitude is ***ty" can cancel out the sheer aura of awfulness that Posner brings to this song.
Best Riffism: "Hot like five saunas, my shoelaces is iguana"
9. "Aquaberry Dolphin": After the underwhelming "Maybe You Love Me", Riff bounces back in a big way with "Aquaberry Dolphin"- which I found to be the crowning achievement of Neon Icon. With a runtime of just over two minutes, Riff is forced to drop a brief verse and that concise approach leads to his sharpest and most consistenly amusing verse on the entire record. Mac Miller is equally to thank for the success of "Aquaberry Dolphin"; pulling double duty on the boards and on the mic for this track. Miller's killer piano-driven beat (complete with dolphin sounds!) and goofy verse (which features brilliant quotables like "I don't mean no blasphemy, Jesus eats at Applebee's) perfectly complement Riff's absurd style. "Aquaberry Dolphin" has managed to unseat "Chop Another Rock" as my all-time favorite Riff Raff song.
Best Riffism: "Aw *** look who it is, the white Wesley Snipes."
10."The Bloomingdales at Windshire Palace": Riff shows off a level of sophistication he's never shown in the past by embodying his inner Brit on the second skit of the album. I wouldn't be surprised if the majestic beauty and charm of this bit was enough to get him immediately knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
Best Riffism: "My grandfather just knitted me some stockings. Yes he did!"
11."Time": Good lord is this song a trip. Even for someone who is as consistently strange and unpredictable as Riff Raff is, I never expected him to make a full-blown country song, but boy am I glad that he did. I had to pause this song numerous times the first time I heard it just to collect myself from laughing so hard at the intentionally cheesy lyrics. It really can't even be put into words just how odd and hilarious this track is. "Time" is legitimately more enjoyable than any of the pop trash that passes for country in the modern era.
Best Riffism: "I got no wife, I got no kids. No one to come home to, no one to cook for me. And when I'm sick, it's a catastrophe."
12."How to Be the Man": "How to Be the Man" is kind of old news now as it was the first single released off Neon Icon last fall. Nonetheless, the track is still quite enjoyable and is exactly the type of material you've come to expect from good ol' Jody Highroller over the years.
Best Riffism: "Floatin' through the sky, M-M-Mary Poppins."
13."Cool It Down": Certainly a step up from the last pop/rap hybrid "Maybe You Love Me", but it still underwhelms on the whole as Riff just kind of coasts through the verses behind a subpar beat. The out-of-place Amber Coffman hook doesn't do much to help matters either.
Best Riffism: "I done shook dice with Pete Rose"
14."VIP Pass to My Heart": Out of all the bizarre experiments on Neon Icon, none crashes and burns harder than "VIP Pass to My Heart". It's a straight-up autotuned pop song with lyrics that are corny as all hell without even being remotely funny. Not to mention, the song basically just repeats the same handful of lines for its entire three and a half minute duration. "VIP Pass to My Heart" is the only track on all of Neon Icon that I feel is truly awful.
Best Riffism: None
15."How to Be the Man" (remix): The remix term can be used loosely here as the same DJ Mustard beat and hook of the original "How to Be the Man" are used on the remix. However, this track still manages to be noteworthy thanks to guest spots from Riff's fellow Houston MC's Slim Thug and Paul Wall. Anytime 2/3 of the trio that brought the world the classic "Still Tippin" are on the same track, it's guaranteed to be Boss Hogg on candy.
Best Riffism: "Rap Game Sady Hawkins, got a ticket for jay-walking"
Even with a few misses along the way, Neon Icon manages to be an incredibly entertaining and diverse record from Riff Raff. Neon Icon is just such an over-the-top spectacle that it demands to be listened to by anyone who fancies themselves a hardcore music fun. Whether you love him or hate him, there's no denying that there is no other artist right now that makes music that's as giddily odd and irreverent as Riff Raff does. Long live the Neon Icon.