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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.

He's become so well-known that the simulacrum is now a simulacrum. When acclaimed filmmaker Harmony Korine was planning his dystopian college-bacchanal film Spring Breakers, he attempted unsuccessfully to contact Riff Raff to participate. In the end, James Franco played a St. Petersburg drug dealer-cum-rapper named Alien, whose appearance and speaking style were similar to Riff Raff's. (Riff Raff influenced the character, say Korine and Franco, but so did others including a little-known Florida emcee named Dangeruss.)

In July, Riff Raff announced that he was suing the filmmakers for using his likeness. Countless outlets reported on his attempts to win $10 million, but it appears to be little more than a publicity stunt. A search of court records turned up no lawsuit.

His tawdrier exploits have only added to the Riff Raff myth. Two women publicly accused him of masturbating in front of them after he invited them into his home. (Riff Raff did not respond to a request for comment on that allegation.)

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.

Other women who claim to have hooked up with him offer lurid accounts, but at least they don't suggest he's a phony. On a site called phatfriend.com, one woman wrote that, throughout their hookup, he didn't break character: "He is him. A caricature of himself maybe. He believes it, and I guess that's what makes the myth the man."
_____________________

Riff Raff had high hopes when he showed up at behemoth New York radio station Hot 97 in May for an interview. But it was derailed by program director Ebro Darden, who harshly accused Riff Raff of perpetuating "a stereotype of a certain type of black person" and wondered if his look was a mere costume.

To Darden, it comes down to authenticity: If Riff Raff came from a hardscrabble, urban environment, he could understand the rationale for dressing as he did. Not otherwise.

Now, after being filled in on the details of Riff Raff's upbringing by a reporter, Darden is unconvinced. "I felt like it was an act, and based on the information you're giving me, it is an act," he says. "My main issue is the appropriation of what people think is black culture to gain credibility."

Following Miley Cyrus's much-derided performance at last month's MTV Video Music Awards, the pop starlet was similarly accused of crude racial appropriation. But when does a look stop being a costume and start being who you really are?

After all, maybe it was initially dress-up, but now the costume is more real than the boy who first donned it. Horst Simco was a quiet, pensive kid who turned from Horst (the one who played by the rules) into Riff Raff (the disreputable one) because hip-hop was a world where confident, sharp-dressed men succeeded. So, like countless rappers and movie stars before him, he faked it until he made it, and suddenly there was no Horst Simco anymore. There was only Riff Raff.

But Riff Raff hasn't abandoned Horst entirely. He might betray where he came from, but not the performer who inspired him.

While white rappers like Eminem and 3rd Bass both have gone out of their way to diss Vanilla Ice, Riff Raff has repeatedly professed his admiration for his childhood idol, including during the Hot 97 interview.

"To me, you're the new Vanilla Ice!" Darden said, intending it as a jab.

"I love it," Riff Raff responded.

Ben Westhoff is LA Weekly Music Editor and Senior Music Editor of Voice Media Group.

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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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