RiFF RAFF & DJ Afterthought – Aquaberry Aquarius (5 Year Anniversary Review)

RiFF RAFF seems to have been lost to time at this point. Being a blog rap darling & a genuine weirdo, his career seemed to reach a boiling point with the release of NEON iCON. It proved to be his best release, finding an equal balance between his goofy persona and bringing well thought sounds together. The production was significantly better than usual, and the feature list helped immensely. In the moment, it felt like it could be only up from there.

His traction would seem to slow however, despite never steering away from releasing. Maybe that was the issue in a sense too, he released a slew of mixtapes up until the release of NEON iCON the rap style of say a color then name drop a name brand can get tiresome. Growth didn’t seem to be much of a priority for RiFF, as seemed to finally have proved his point that he could make it as a rapper from his MTV appearance years ago. His grind and eccentric choice of tattoos had paid off.

Which makes this album feel all the more like a vacation. Immediately apparent from the intro, having this guitar & bell driven instrumental with Lisa Cimorelli providing the hook. She describes driving on the coast, and RiFF comes in talking about… paying his taxes? It’s a strange start but the rest of his verses describe living a carefree lifestyle and being in the lap of luxury.

This feeling continues on “I’m Not Waiting on the Summer,” which features this ska style instrumental. Reminiscent of a drunk karaoke cover of a Sublime song, RiFF’s rough singing delivery is supported by genuine lyrics. He talks about his family not having faith in his dreams and sticking to himself despite any hardship it led to. It’s a rare moment of clarity where we see RiFF drop any and all gimmicks, dropping any shields he put up.

Majority of this album features these layered trap-styled instrumentals. “Test Drive” is a smooth instrumental but a typical RiFF affair, using the same style he’s been doing for years. Wiz Khalifa provides a flawless hook, adding to the silky feel of the track. This is contrasted with the track after it, “My Ice,” where RiFF does the same ideas conceptually but doing his own hook. However, his hook is one of the worst on the album, proving some things should be handled by others.

Even though he employs the work of Soundcloud & underground rappers like Bones, Germ & Fat Nick, he doesn’t move into their world instrumentally. It would have been much more interesting to hear him try to adopt their style of production, but instead it becomes more of an intriguing listen for the features. Hearing Bones flow and scream about his sadness over RiFF’s lightweight production & lyrics about balling out is something to behold for sure. Germ’s feature is the most explosive feature on the album, feeling entirely effortless in his flows.

Aquaberry Aquarius is mostly a retread of old ideas for RiFF. What separates this from his previous efforts is the vacation themed lyrics, feeling a trip away from the current world & into his colorful one. His lyrics don’t invoke as much hilarity as they may have for many, but he does provide a consistent feel throughout the entire runtime. The fleeting moments of transparency on tracks give a much-needed change of pace too. RiFF’s best material seems to be behind him, but his love for music never ceases.

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