On Thursday night, Riff Raff had one request for the crowd: “Don’t think of this as a concert, think of it as a party.” The several-hundred-strong in attendance were more than happy to oblige him, but as the night wore on, what was meant as an invitation to go crazy felt more like an appeal for lower expectations.
Equal parts Vanilla Ice and Juicy J, Riff Raff is a 32-year-old white rapper who is perhaps better known for his brief reality TV career, his impressive Web presence and for partially inspiring James Franco’s character in “Spring Breakers.” His look — tightly braided cornrows, jewel-encrusted grill, heavy chain, tattoo-covered skin — almost seems like a parody of a Southern rapper, but by all accounts, Riff Raff is for real. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.
At the Fillmore Silver Spring, with a headset microphone added to his distinctly eccentric get-up, Riff Raff performed all or part of about 20 songs. As is standard at rap shows, he was aided by background vocal tracks, his nasal drawl chiming in with bizarre lyrics about high fashion and fast cars. The amped-up crowd, heavy on young bros in tank tops and backward hats, seemed to know all the words to YouTube hits such as “Jose Canseco” and “Cuz My Gear,” but previously unheard material from Riff Raff’s oft-delayed album “Neon Icon” barely registered — not even after he coached them on the hook (“We were up all night on cocaine”) to a new hair-metal-meets-rap track.
As promised, Riff Raff’s show is a party (if a freshman-year frat one) with no shortage of spectacle. While he strutted and gesticulated across the stage, his entourage bounced around with blown-up cutouts of his album cover, his face and the face of his rumored girlfriend, pop superstar Katy Perry. Overhead, a screen played clips of ’90s cartoons, found footage and sports highlights. They were all edited like his Vine videos, the micro-clips that constitute another piece of Riff Raff’s online success.
But like Vine, Riff Raff can’t hold your attention — or even his own — for long. About halfway through the hour-long set, Riff Raff’s boredom started to show as he posed for photos, greeted fans in the crowd and generally seemed uninterested in rapping. By the time he returned for an encore of fan favorite “Dolce & Gabbana,” he couldn’t even be bothered to rap at all. Shockingly, the crowd didn’t seem to mind, with the diehards singing along even as Riff Raff headed backstage without thanking the audience. Apparently, you can have a party even when the guest of honor doesn’t want to be there.
Kelly is a freelance writer.