Why RiFF RAFF Is the Greatest Artist of the 21st Century


By Graeme Turman

Eccentric artists often claim themselves to be the greatest in the world, but rarely are these claims ever actually substantiated by their output. An example of this dissonance is Kanye West, who regularly claims to rival the likes of Pablo Picasso, Stanley Kubrick, and other influential and celebrated artists. While Kanye might like to think that he’s the greatest living artist today, he would be misinformed: that title goes to Texas hip hop artist RiFF RAFF.

RiFF RAFF is a lyrical wordsmith and conceptual mastermind of the highest caliber. For example, the song “Tip Toe Wing in My Jawwdinz” off his album NEON iCON may appear to be a braggadocious announcement of his taste in fashion, specifically that of footwear, but is actually a poignant satirical jab at hip hop materialism and the culture surrounding it. In the first verse of the song (not including the hook), Mr. Raff declares that he’s “[flying] first class to Spain, [while you’re] still buying Ralph Lauren.” This is a subtle and often-missed criticism of what RiFF RAFF uses to represent the vapid and shallow consumerism that has made itself prevalent in hip hop and pop music. He says this to express displeasure with the modern hip hop-loving socialite: one that, in the absence of intellectual stimulation, would rather spend their time and money purchasing obscene amounts of expensive clothing than expand or challenge their worldview.

The second verse of the song contains a line to refer to his less-than-desirable beginnings as an artist. He exclaims that, despite no longer struggling financially, he’s “still rocking Jordans.” This short line functions as a criticism to both other rappers and players in his class, who frequently disown the products of their own past in order to seem tasteful.

RiFF RAFF still wears Jordans as a symbol of his humble beginnings as an up-and-coming artist from Houston. The footwear serves as a constant reminder not to disparage people of a lower class than him, as he once lived amongst them. RiFF RAFF is the most genuine artist in hip hop, and possibly all of music.