Last week I was assigned to interview bizarre-o viral rapper Riff Raff. In our constant pursuit of the local connection, the idea was to explore the Houston MC's curious Minnesota past.
Little is known about Riff Raff's short time spent living in Duluth and Hibbing. We know he studied liberal arts at Hibbing Community College; we know he even played basketball for the school. Overall, though, the rap star born Horst Simco has remained tight-lipped about that era.
While setting up the interview with Riff Raff's DJ and publicist, they seemed down for the Minnesota-centric angle. I assumed everyone was on the same page, including Riff Raff. I assumed wrong.
When I got on the phone with Riff Raff, who's playing Minneapolis' Pourhouse this Sunday, the interview started normal enough. Oddly, though, my initial questions about his time in Minnesota didn’t just frustrate him, but seemingly sent him into a panic. He tried to mask his unease with humor, telling me that while at Hibbing Community College, he studied rocket science, got straight A's, and now works for NASA. I asked him about playing hoops for the college, but he didn’t have much to say, telling me he couldn’t even remember his coach’s name.
“Is this an interview or an investigation?” Riff Raff asked abruptly. “It seems like an investigation.”
To him, it must have felt like I was trying to uncover details about his past as a way of penetrating his outrageous neon party-boy persona (which is definitely not a joke). When musicians get uncomfortable with a series of questions, it’s common for them to say they’d prefer the interviewer stick to, well, music. Riff Raff did just that but with flipped roles, as he began quizzing me about his catalog.
I’m not exactly a “Riff Raff fan," although I do enjoy his YouTube hits like “Tip Toe Wing in My Jawwdinz” and “Dolce & Gabbana.” And so, when he asked me to name my favorite song from certain mixtapes of his, I didn’t have answers for him. Disgusted, he hung up the phone after telling someone to make sure his next interviewer is actually a fan.
To anyone who, for whatever reason, wants to unearth details about Riff Raff's Minnesota years -- which now seem more mysterious than ever -- I simply say good luck.