Album of the Week: Riff Raff's Peach Panther

On June 27, 2016

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Each week, we tell you about an album we think you need to hear. This week's album is Riff Raff's Peach Panther


Despite the fact that he’s now put two retail albums on store shelves, despite the fact that he’s proven himself a successful touring act, and despite us living in a world where Lil Dicky is somehow treated as an artist worth having his own #hive, there are still people pondering over whether or not Riff Raff is “for real.” The answer to that question has been answered definitively. Is he a dude with actual rapping chops (listen to the layered #bars in “4 Million” off Peach Panther and tell me 10 current rappers who can machine gun verses better than Riff)? Yes. Does he have the single worst style aesthetic and the worst tattoos to ever be on a person in modern popular culture? Yes. Is he the funniest MC out right now, non Kanye division? Yes. Is he a funhouse mirror of rap culture that is probably at least a little problematic? Yes.


Yet, in a week when a Future tape with an OJ Simpson sample drops, in a week when it would be ripe to write about if Desiigner is a flash in the pan or not, here I am, staking the claim that Riff Raff’s Peach Panther is the best thing released in the last week.


Peach Panther is the first Riff Raff project you could reasonably claim as “grown up.” Instead of songs from the perspective of the moon, or garage rock songs extolling the virtues of cocaine, we instead get songs about making $4 million in fiscal year 2015 (“$4 Million”), the benefits of smoking weed to avoid your thoughts (“I Don’t Like to Think”), living the American dream (“Only in America”), and going to the mall to spend like a basketball player (“Chris Paul”). Peach Panther is also more subdued than any Riff Raff release till now; where he used to be shooting dice with Larry Bird in Barcelona, here he’s rapping (twice!) about how his mouth “looks like ice hockey.” He’s rapping better than ever before, and he’s filed down a lot of the neon valleys that made his past projects less than perfect.    


Peach Panther peaks with “I Drive By,” a song with the two best guest verses on a Riff Raff Project since he talked gear with Chief Keef. Gucci Mane comes through on the hook--I don’t know if he recorded it from jail or if he cut that as soon as he was out, but a Gucci hook is a major coup for Riff here--and Danny Brown, in his most high profile verse in a year, cuts through Peach Panther like Arya Stark beheading a Frey (SPOILER ALERT).


Peach Panther arrives at probably the low point in Riff Raff’s time as a lightning rod. The hot takes that accompanied the release of Neon Icon are nowhere to be found this time out. Post Malone is more odious. There isn’t any money in knocking Riff Raff down anymore, and this is where his career gets interesting. The music has always been a necessary loss leader, but he’s also making technically better music than he’s ever made; he’s rapping better than ever before. If he’s allowed to make his weirdo rap albums with references to Mario Kart courses without being a lightning rod, what’s left? Riff Raff has been fun to listen to and think about for a solid four years, raising more questions than he answers. Will he ever be a superstar? Will he disappear back to Houston? Is Peach Panther it?

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Andrew Winistorfer

Andrew Winistorfer is VMP’s Classics & Country Director, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need In Your Collection and The Best Record Stores In The United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 20 VMP releases, and co-produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Philadelphia International Records, The Story of Quincy Jones, The Story of Impulse and the VMP Classics release of Nat Turner Rebellion's Laugh to Keep From Crying, and executive produced the VMP Anthology The Story of Vanguard. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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