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Photos by Mike Ford.
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RIFF RAFF and THUGLI at the Hoxton. Thursday, December 6. Rating: N
Last night, Riff Raff returned to Toronto for the second time in six months to play to a crowd of rabid, fucking unruly fanboys at the Hoxton. Early this year the Texan rapper somehow - how? HOW? - managed to flip a modest online fan base into a real life following of dopey acolytes, willing to fund his narcissistic play-career and coke-and-stripper binges.
At first the spectacle was fun to observe, like, "Hey, look at this weird-looking white dude with ginger cornrows and fault lines for facial hair!" One of my favourite bar games this summer was Google Image-ing "Riff Raff" and laughing at the incredulous reactions of the uninitiated to his freaky visage. Likely stoned off good weather and carefree days, I gave his Mad Decent debut record, Birth of an Icon, an okay review.
But live, this display is nothing more than a joyless, zero-sum game. Even local openers THUGLI - DJs Tom Wrecks and DMC Canada champion Drastik, who I've seen kill other rooms - were roped into this pointless spectacle, rendering a playlist of rap radio bangers perfunctory and banal. I've never felt less jubilant while Chief Keef's Love Sosa is playing.
Riff Raff, who emerged almost an hour late in a tiger print jacket and hot curls, with a crew of one million goons in back, did nothing to alleviate the dispirited, unruly energy of the crowd. That's not to say people weren't having a good time: they were. But there was no correlation between why they were having a good time and the lazy, 40-minute pantomime - lip-syncing, and all - they'd paid to see.
I've been to my share of weird, off-kilter rap concerts that had the potential to be shit shows (most recently, Lil B and 2 Chainz come to mind) and usually always left impressed by the convivial vibes and some good-natured attempt at performance from the person on stage.
Riff Raff is an outsized character - periodically, a girl would mist his curls with hairspray to everyone's bemusement, and then there was an "intermission" where he swayed along to Fleetwood Mac's Dreams - but his music, which seems vivid and impactful on YouTube, falls flat live. As Twitter follower, @terminalave, noted, "The best part was when he just played love sosa in its entirety." That's not even his song.
Shout out Embrace, thanks for the tickets. The rest of y'all are suckers.