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Album Review: RIFF RAFF, 'NEON ICON' (Mad Decent)

Beau Blackstock, For The Oklahoman Published: July 11, 2014

More people are likely familiar with Riff Raff the character than Riff Raff the rapper. His second LP, “Neon Icon,” works to change that. With his first album on Diplo’s Mad Decent label, Riff Raff takes an a la carte approach by switching production styles and genres from track to track. Unfortunately, it makes for a spotty album with great songs juxtaposed with stale ones.

“Neon Icon” begins on a great note with “Introducing the Icon,” where Riff Raff flows for 31/2 minutes straight with no hook over a hip-hop beat that feels ripped from the ’90s. It has Riff Raff firing on all cylinders, shooting rapid-fire hilarity, with a pause in the middle where he makes fun of Diplo, telling him that he needs to focus on his lyrics. In the midst of the song, it’s easy to join Riff Raff in dismissing the warning. But later in the album, it is apparent Diplo was making a valid point. Many of the great lines Riff Raff uses in his intro are recycled throughout “Neon Icon” (comparisons to Allen Iverson and Randy Moss specifically), and they begin to lose their potency.

Childish Gambino and Mac Miller show up to support Riff Raff to varying degrees of success. Gambino questioning emojis on “Lava Glaciers” pales in comparison to Miller’s well-timed line in “Aquaberry Dolphin” about Daenarys from “Game of Thrones.” They’re both refreshing additions late in the album, as Riff Raff tackling random beats becomes dry. He brings it back around with the triumphant lead single “How to Be the Man” near the end, but it feels like an anomaly as it follows the head-scratching, country-leaning “Time.”

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