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Horst Christian Simco (born January 29, 1982), better known by the stage name Riff Raff (often stylized as RiFF RAFF), is an American rapper from Houston, Texas. He was originally managed by Swishahouse co-founder OG Ron C. Then after being associated with Soulja Boy's imprint S.O.D. Money Gang Inc., Riff Raff is now signed to producer Diplo's record label Mad Decent. He was formerly a member of the rap group Three Loco along with Andy Milonakis and Dirt Nasty. His debut studio album Neon Icon was released on June 24, 2014 on Mad Decent.
Riff Raff was born Horst Simco in Houston, Texas, on January 29, 1982 to parents Anita Simco, a maid, and Ronald Simco, a Vietnam War veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder who worked various jobs including a police officer and Walmart manager. His mother grew up in Ohio, descending from a family of German and Lithuanian Jews that included several survivors, and victims, of the Holocaust. Riff Raff was the second of four siblings. He and his family lived in Copperfield, a suburb 25 miles northwest of Houston. Growing up he was obsessed with basketball, playing frequently with other children in his neighborhood. By the middle of the decade, the Simcos had moved to nearby Stone Creek, which had recently developed a gang problem. He attended Langham Creek High School, where he was shooting guard on his school's basketball team, before dropping out in his senior year. Shortly thereafter he obtained his GED.
Soon afterward, his parents divorced, and around the same time his father was diagnosed with tonsil cancer, moving to Duluth, Minnesota to get out of the heat. For a time, Riff Raff and his siblings were shuttled back and forth between Duluth and Houston, where their mother remained. In 2001, he enrolled at Hibbing Community College in Hibbing, Minnesota, where he played on the basketball team for a month and majored in liberal arts. Feeling out of place, he dropped out in 2003 and moved back to Houston, where he painted cars in the in-vogue "candy-colored" style and gradually built his new identity. He eventually relocated to Los Angeles and began to take his rapping career seriously.
Riff Raff started rapping in 2005, making homemade CDs of his rapping over other artists' beats, and passing them out at various malls in Houston. He credited his early influences being Texas veteran rappers Devin the Dude and Paul Wall. Riff Raff took advantage of social media on Myspace, YouTube and WorldStarHipHop in late 2008, releasing songs, freestyle-videos, and sketch clips, which showcased his talent slapstick and performance art. He did this with the help of his first talent manager, DB da Boss, whose studio provided recording and video services. DB spoke with LA Weekly about the rapper, saying "He was very driven, very ambitious. You couldn't deny his work ethic," going on to say, "Underneath that shell is a very intelligent man." He looked up to Northside Houston rappers from label Swishahouse, who were blowing up around that time, including Paul Wall, Chamillionaire and Slim Thug. He began doing his hair up in braids popular among "Northsiders" like Slim Thug and shopping for bling at TV Jewelry, a store co-owned by Paul Wall and charismatic Vietnamese immigrant "TV" Johnny Dang, from whom Riff Raff also purchased gold grills. Like many other artists from Houston, Riff Raff also spent much of his time selling CDs at colleges and malls, occasionally alongside other local talent such at Fat Tony and Freestyle Bully.
In an effort to get on television he went on many auditions, including for a part in a peanut butter commercial intended for a teenager. He and his friend also tried out for P. Diddy's Making the Band, to no avail. He was so determined to become famous that he flew to Atlanta to try out for MTV's reality show From G's to Gents. When he learned that he had made the cast for the program's second season, before taping had even begun, he immediately got a giant MTV logo tattooed on his neck and adjusted his stage name to "MTV Riff Raff". Though he was eliminated from the series on the second episode, he left an impression on viewers through his extravagant way of dressing and funny ad-libs. Upon the season's debut in early 2009 appearance on the show would garner and immediate reaction to him, and catapulted his career.
The same year actor, comedian and rapper Simon Rex noticed Riff Raff after being shown to him by notable producer The Alchemist. Rex contacted Riff Raff after watching one of his freestyle videos in which he revealed his phone number, and soon enough the two became friends and began recording as Riff Raff and Dirt Nasty. The pair later formed a rap group Three Loco along with comedian Andy Milonakis, increasing Riff Raff's popularity by tapping into the two celebrities' fan bases.
2010–12: SODMG, Mad Decent, Various mixtapes
Beginning in 2011, Riff Raff begun to be managed by OG Ron C of Swishahouse fame, and moved to Los Angeles. Riff Raff then started releasing more music videos that furthered the artist's internet fame. Those include songs such as "Jose Canseco", and "Marc Jacobs". Then in mid-2011, Riff Raff signed to Soulja Boy's label S.O.D. Money Gang Inc.. Riff Raff joined Soulja Boy's SODMG label before they met in person; no paperwork was ever signed. However, Riff Raff still wore the imprint's chain, got its logo tattooed, and again adjusted his stage name, this time to Riff Raff SODMG. They would remain affiliated for around a year, but the label did not push or pay Riff Raff, which would result in him leaving the label. Soulja Boy publicly called Riff Raff a "cokehead" following their split.
Some time before the official split Riff Raff affiliated with producers such as Diplo and Harry Fraud, as well as with Queens rapper Action Bronson. The music video he released for his collaboration with Fraud and Bronson, "Bird on a Wire," hit the one million plays-mark in roughly two months. "Bird on a Wire" was listed as the 27th best song of 2012 by Complex Music.
In early 2012 he would release music videos for the songs, "Larry Bird", "Time" and the Chief Keef collaboration "Cuz My Gear", among others. In April 2012, Riff Raff also announced a collaborative album with Diplo tentatively titled Jody Highroller with guests Skrillex, Usher, Soulja Boy, Gucci Mane, Mystikal and Rusko. In June 2012, Riff Raff released the Summer of Surf mixtape. He signed with Diplo's label Mad Decent in June 2012. The same year he released the album, The Golden Alien, independently in July as well as Rap Game Bon Jovi which feature tracks produced by MikeChekMusic, "Freeze Dried", "Obtuse Angle". It was followed by the release of the mixtape, Birth of an Icon, in August, which was listed by Stereogum as their "Mixtape of the Week."
2013–2014: Neon Icon
Following the release of his mixtape Hologram Panda with producer Dame Grease, Riff Raff told MTV that his upcoming Mad Decent second studio album would be titled Riff Raff, The Neon Icon, later shortened to Neon Icon. In February 2013 he told Complex that his second studio album is due out some time during the third quarter of 2013.
On June 25, 2013 he released a single titled "Dolce & Gabbana" , produced by DJ Carnage as the first single from Neon Icon, however two days later he announced that the song wouldn't be included on the album. He was also featured on Far East Movement's single "The Illest" around the same time. Then on July 12, 2013 he released another non album single titled "Mr. Popular", and four days later released the music video for the song. In August 2013, Riff Raff announced that he would be releasing a collaboration album with Action Bronson titled Galaxy Gladiators in 2014.
On November 26, 2013 he released the first official single for Neon Icon titled "How To Be the Man" and produced by DJ Mustard. That same month, Riff Raff told Rolling Stone in an interview that leading up to the album's release he would release various "left-over" tracks from the album's recording sessions These notably included the Boi-1da produced "Real Boyz", featuring rappers OJ da Juiceman and Cap 1, as well as "Suckas Askin' Questions" with Lil Debbie and "Shoulda Won a Grammy" with Action Bronson. In March 2014, prior to the album's release, Rolling Stone included the album on their list of "27 Must-Hear Albums of 2014". On May 20, 2014, Riff Raff announced through his Twitter that after much delay, Neon Icon was scheduled for a June 24, 2014 release date. The same day the official track listing for the album was revealed, which included previously announced collaborations Mac Miller, Childish Gambino, Paul Wall, Mike Posner and Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors as well as Slim Thug.
On the 2015 Vans Warped Tour, Riff Raff hired We Came As Romans' bassist Andy Glass to play bass for him on the tour.
2015–present: Peach Panther
Riff Raff announced his intention to release his second studio album Peach Panther on June 1, 2015. The first single, "Spazz Out" featuring production from Travis Barker was released around this time, however the album itself would end up being delayed until 2016. He then released an EP entitled Trench Coat Towers in early November 2015. He extended the release date for Peach Panther several times, with early 2016 being cited on his Instagram as the current date. He was also featured on several singles during 2015, including "Doctor Pepper" with Diplo, CL, and OG Maco, and Flux Pavilion's single "Who Wants to Rock". In early 2016 he released the first single from Peach Panther, "Carlos Slim". The album was eventually released on June 24, 2016.
In April 2016, Riff Raff announced a partnership with Stampede Management and BMG, raising $4 million USD for his Neon Nation Corporation to invest in music as well as in "movies and talent across the globe to build an entertainment empire."
On "Double Cup", an episode of FXX's Major Lazer, he made a guest appearance as Double Cup, The Codeine Scientist.
Spring Breakers controversy
On February 15, 2012, film director Harmony Korine contacted Riff Raff about appearing in an upcoming movie of his which would turn out to be Spring Breakers. Once the details of the movie came out, there was speculation that the main character Alien was based on Riff Raff. However, according to James Franco, his character was based on the underground rap artist Dangeruss. He said "Of course Harmony and I looked at some of Riff Raff's videos as inspiration, but he was one of a number of people we looked at. I would say the biggest influence on the role was this local Florida rapper named Dangeruss. He's fairly unknown, but he was down there in the place, living the life, and he became the biggest model for me, and he's in the movie."
There was much back and forth between both camps about the issue, including Riff Raff appearing in a cameo for One Life to Live playing a character called "Jamie Franko". Then during July 2013 Riff Raff announced he was suing the creators of Spring Breakers for 10 million dollars for sampling his life without his permission or a proper producer credit. However, a search for court documents by LA Weekly in September 2013 resulted in no findings.
Riff Raff has a large number of tattoos, including the logos for WorldStarHipHop, NBA, and MTV, which he had acquired during auditions for the 2009 reality TV show From G's to Gents. Previously, he had a BET tattoo on the front of his right shoulder, which was later covered up with a tattoo of his dog, "Jody Husky". He is a fan of The Simpsons, with a tattoo of Bart holding test tubes that reads "The Freestyle Scientist" on his chest. He also has a large gothic cross below his left shoulder, framed by a prayer that reads, "Dear Jesus, Please Let Me In. Your Child, Horst Simco."
On August 11, 2013, Riff Raff was arrested in Greensboro, North Carolina after police allegedly found an open container of alcohol, marijuana, another unspecified illegal substance and drug paraphernalia in his vehicle. Riff Raff was booked into jail along with the two passengers in his vehicle, and was released without bail later that night.