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How a Boy Named Horst Became an Internet Sensation Known As Riff Raff

How a quiet kid from Copperfield morphed into today's most enigmatic rapper.

It wasn't just their rhymes that Horst admired; it was their larger-than-life personas: They draped themselves in diamonds and drove ostentatious cars. They had women, they had money.

"Baller stuff," Riff Raff remembers. "The money, nice cars, getting crazy."

Riff Raff didn't necessarily want to be a rapper: He just wanted the baller stuff for himself. "I didn't even think about music back then," he says.

At the Brisk Bodega showcase in August featuring Riff Raff and Bun B, Vice magazine was on hand to interview the two rappers...
Photos by Marco Torres
At the Brisk Bodega showcase in August featuring Riff Raff and Bun B, Vice magazine was on hand to interview the two rappers...
...before they took the stage at the Kingspoint Mullet Graffiti Warehouse in South Houston.
Photos by Marco Torres
...before they took the stage at the Kingspoint Mullet Graffiti Warehouse in South Houston.

It was around the mid-'00s that Riff Raff debuted his now-famous look. He began doing his hair up in braids, as was popular among Northsiders like Slim Thug, and shopping for bling at TV Jewelry. "He didn't look like the type of white dude you'd want to run up on," explains former roommate Vaughns.

Eventually, Horst decided that being a rapper would be the most expedient way to achieve the celebrity he craved. He began absorbing the scene, doing his best to get noticed. "I always saw him around, at Swishahouse events, or in the club parking lot," says the label's co-founder, producer OG Ron C. Many folks were put off by his look, OG Ron C adds, but his jolly personality won over others.

It was around this time that Horst began to develop his Southern street twang. "When he started to get into rap, he started to emulate the black culture," Ronald Simco says.

Vaughns adds, "Riff used to hang with only black people. When you hang with all black people, you talk black."

Around this time, in 2008, Riff Raff and Vaughns moved in together. Vaughns recalls that Riff Raff was, for a brief period, selling Ecstasy pills. (Riff Raff did not respond to questions through his publicist concerning the allegations; asked in a radio interview if he'd ever sold drugs, he said he didn't want to "incriminate" himself.)

His raps were developing. As his confidence grew, he got sillier, donning girly, press-on nails for his early video "Juice." Riff Raff began making songs and videos with talent manager DB da Boss. Before long, his low-budget clips were gaining traction on YouTube and World­star­hip­hop. "He was very driven, very ambitious. You couldn't deny his work ethic," DB says. "Underneath that shell is a very intelligent man."

He acquired a pair of slick cars, according to Vaughns: a candy green Sebring and a candy pink Infiniti. The latter's exterior had spinning rims and speakers so everyone could hear his music. But the coup de grace was the trunk, which, when popped open, revealed glowing neon lights reading RIFF RAFF.

By then Horst Simco had been fully absorbed into the Riff Raff character. He looked woefully out of place at his sister's 2008 wedding in Duluth; instead of a suit, he wore a short-sleeved, turquoise polo shirt and a black baseball cap over a do-rag. During the reception he quietly freestyled in the back of the hall while someone toasted the bride and groom.
_____________________

No one interviewed for this story professed to know much about Riff Raff's aspirations, about what was going on in his head. But his actions show a man determined to be famous.

In the late '00s he wanted, badly, to get on television, even flying to Atlanta on his own dime to try out for From G's to Gents, a show purporting to smooth out the edges of rough street guys. When he learned that he'd made the second season's cast, before taping even began, he immediately got a giant MTV logo tattooed on his neck and started calling himself MTV Riff Raff.

He was quickly voted off by his fellow contestants. But viewers were intrigued by his funny ad-libs and fashion touches. The show was his first major forum, and he undertook a bit of mythmaking, claiming to be estranged from his father and saying he'd attended school for only 11 years. Ironically, despite the show's stated purpose, he was undertaking the opposite transformation, hoping to turn from a gent into a G.

Upon the show's debut in early 2009, the reaction was immediate. Suddenly he was getting tens of thousands of clicks on his MySpace profile. His name was spreading. Hipped to him by producer Alchemist, former MTV VJ and rapper Simon Rex called him. Before long, Riff Raff was visiting L.A. and sleeping on Rex's couch. The pair later formed a rap group called Three Loco with comedian Andy Milonakis.

In 2011, Riff Raff arrived in L.A. to stay. He won over critics with collaborations with hot artists such as Action Bronson, Chief Keef, Kitty Pryde and Lil B, as well as solo tracks.

Last year he surprised everyone by signing a deal with electro imprint Mad Decent. Its chief, super-producer Diplo, compared Riff Raff to early Apple stock — strong potential upside.
_____________________

Riff Raff's brother, Viktor, is a vision of what Horst Simco might have become: He has a narrow, handsome face and a tall, athletic build, but his clean-cut look lacks easily visible tattoos. Horst also might have followed the path to graduate school, like his older sister, Amber, who has a pair of master's degrees.

Improbably, he has instead achieved celebrity, and perhaps riches as well. He speaks gleefully of the Las Vegas home he's outfitting with a Jacuzzi in the living room, and lists off the cars he says he owns, including a Porsche Panamera.

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7 comments
RiffRaffFan
RiffRaffFan

You don't have to believe me, but this is true. After the ninth grade riff raff moved  to a small mostly farming town called meadowlands in Minnesota. Very close to my hometown toivola. He lived above the grocery store in a small apartment where one of my friends just so happens to live now. He played on the toivola-meadowlands highschool basketball team and was quote from one of the locals, "a scatter-brain, but a good ballplayer." My sources are one of my good friends brothers who actually went to school with him and my uncle's sister who did so as well. His haircuts ranged from a bowl-cut, to a buzz cut, and bald. He was known for always having a basketball with him in the halls and in class and would shoot for hours in the gym whenever given the chance. Hes in the 1999 toivola-meadowlands yearbook as a junior named horst simco. Looking similar to how he does today with a broad face minus the zig zag beard and braids. It was crazy for me to find this out but I just literally put together all the pieces. Nowadays the only business in meadowlands is a bar, the school is closed, and that old grocery store is all living quarters. But, no disrespect to Riff Raff and his hustle, hes worked hard for what he has now, and he really hasn't lyed about his past. He just doesn't elaborate on it. but I thought this would be worth someones time to read. Honestly how could I make this stuff up.

bjthreet1
bjthreet1

The criticism of Riff-Raff is a blatant double standard!  What he is doing is absolutely NO DIFFERENT than what, I would estimate, 75% of black Americans do every day in the business and work world.  In order for most black Americans to be accepted in today's business and work culture, they must dress the way White society have traditionally dressed and go by the rules that have been set up by white society, regardless of how they were raised and where they came from.  If they were raised in the ghetto or low-income neighborhoods and spoke in Ebonics their entire life, while wearing sagging clothes, pimped-out bling and said "nigga" and "knoam-sayin" with every other phrase, they had to conform to what was expected of them to "fit in."  They had to leave their roots and culture behind, and in the workplace, assimilate to what is expected of them.  They had to dress in suits and ties, and speak in proper English and grammar, and behave according to the rules set forth by said white society. In essence, they too, had to "fake it until they make it."  

Now, flip the script and ask yourselves this:  Would anyone pay one second of attention to a white rapper who walked around in button-down collars or Polo shirts tucked inside their Levi jeans, sportin' leather loafers, while spittin' out lyrics in proper English and grammatical syntax??  Ya'll already know the answer to that.  Should we tell blacks who attempt to assimilate and who want to succeed in the workplace that they are just fake-ass, white-wannabe Nigg**s??  That would ridiculous and cause mass outrage, right?  Of course it would.  So where is the outrage when Horst Simco is attacked for trying to assimilate to what is expected of him to fit in with Hip Hop culture and the Rap industry by transforming himself into Riff Raff?  Everyone preaches that we want everyone to be "as one," to have a melting pot of cultures and let everyone have a chance to be whatever their dreams tell them to be...but I guess when it comes to a White kid who dares to dream to be a rapper in the Hip Hop/Rap world, that talk is comin' "out the side of yo neck!"  Think about it!  Peace!

pete229
pete229

Wow, what a waste of print. That's 10 minutes of my life I will never get back, thanks TMZ...err…. I mean Houston” rag mag" Press

LaZeR_RiFF
LaZeR_RiFF

He is not black and will always be white no matter where he comes from or how he acts. He gets a lot of hate, it will just make him more real.

DeathBreath
DeathBreath

God, I am laughing.  I suppose he considers himself to be really "gangsta."  I believe he is a shapeshifter of Vanilla Ice.  LOL. 

DannyTanner
DannyTanner

A lot of people take themselves or a music genre way too seriously. His outlandish style isn't an insult to "hiphop" or a reflection of his audience's intelligence... RiFF represents everyone's subconcious desire to withdraw from society's circular expectations and still find happiness or success. He actually did it. As if he was one of them real boys

RiffRaffFan
RiffRaffFan

@bjthreet1 You don't have to believe me, but this is true. After the ninth grade riff raff moved  to a small mostly farming town called meadowlands in Minnesota. Very close to my hometown toivola. He lived above the grocery store in a small apartment where one of my friends just so happens to live now. He played on the toivola-meadowlands highschool basketball team and was quote from one of the locals, "a scatter-brain, but a good ballplayer." My sources are one of my good friends brothers who actually went to school with him and my uncle's sister who did so as well. His haircuts ranged from a bowl-cut, to a buzz cut, and bald. He was known for always having a basketball with him in the halls and in class and would shoot for hours in the gym whenever given the chance. Hes in the 1999 toivola-meadowlands yearbook as a junior named horst simco. Looking similar to how he does today with a broad face minus the zig zag beard and braids. It was crazy for me to find this out but I just literally put together all the pieces. Nowadays the only business in meadowlands is a bar, the school is closed, and that old grocery store is all living quarters. But, no disrespect to Riff Raff and his hustle, hes worked hard for what he has now, and he really hasn't lyed about his past. He just doesn't elaborate on it. but I thought this would be worth someones time to read. Honestly how could I make this stuff up.

 
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