Interview by Kenneth Cappello & A-ron
From SNEEZE NO.17 fall 2012
When Harmony Korine is not fulfilling press commitments for Spring Breakers, and when RiFF RAFF isn’t uploading five new music videos tonight on YouTube, they might be seen eating together at Apple Pan or shooting hoops. Their busy schedules make it hard to find quality hang time.
Keeping RiFF company while Harmony’s away is Shelly Kapowski, his python. RiFF’s lyrics — i GOT DiAMOND BiCUSBiDS ON THE EXTERiOR COVER OF MY HOUSiNG STRUCTURE — are mind-blowingly intricate. “Rap game autistic” coins Harmony. But rap game Bon Jovi says not to label him a rapper. On Twitter, he’s got himself down as “Professional Secret Keeper,” among other things. Whatever it is, and whatever he does — like it or not — the animated RiFF pulls you into his Bart-world.
Harmony is labeled a writer, director, artist, and “Jewish dribbler.” As a writer, he first gave us New York’s Kids. As writer-director it was Gummo, filmed in his hometown of Nashville. Fifteen years and more than a dozen titles later, his latest, Spring Breakers, world-premiered in Venice on Sept 5 with heavy buzz. Its leading cast, duh, includes Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine (Harmony’s wife) and James Franco. The Disney girls are running around in bikinis up to no good. Shot in thirty days during real spring break in St. Pete., Florida, its looped scenes appear trance-like.
Harmony’s cornrow-beaded drug dealer character, “Alien,” resembles RiFF RAFF. With “RiFFmony” being spotted trying to dunk on West Hollywood’s public courts, James-Franco-to-play-RiFF-RAFF headlines ensued. Not true. Alien, says Franco for the hundredth time, was inspired by a “panache” of southern rappers prior to RiFF entering Harmony’s world. If anything, RiFF was slated to be part of Alien’s “posse” but that didn’t pan out. What’s to follow doesn’t clarify much about the Spring Breakers mystery (Gucci Mane is in it, too). It does, however, identify RiFF’s flavor of Bill Cosby Pudding Pops and confirm Harmony’s basketball skills.
A-RON: It’s crazy, both you guys living in LA right now, BFFs hanging out.
RIFF: Our favorite thing to do is go to restaurants.
A-RON: That’s cute.
CAPPELLO: RiFF RAFF, you’re from Houston?
RiFF: I’m not going to say that. I was born in Brazil. I lived in Houston, I also lived in Arizona, California, all over the place, so when people try and pinpoint and say I’m from Houston, that’s just perception. I’ve never claimed any territorial. Wherever I’m at, that’s where I’m from.
HARMONY: Basically Houston.
CAPPELLO: I see that big Texas tattoo.
HARMONY: I’ve never claimed anything (laughs).
CAPPELLO: Where did you start rapping?
RiFF: I was on the back of a bus in like, Fifth Grade, free-styling.
RiFF: It just so happened to be in (pauses) Texas.
CAPPELLO: I grew up in Houston. When I moved to New York in ’94, southern hip-hop was like UGK, Geto Boys. When I said, “I’m from Houston, have you heard of this?” people used to laugh at me. They’d say that shit’s garbage. Southern hip-hop? That’s just bullshit. And now southern hip-hop is the only thing you hear on the radio and it’s influenced everyone not from the South. So you, starting to rap from Houston, do you feel like the way you rap, the way you sound, is a southern thing?
RiFF: Apparently how the way I talk, yeah, people assume I’m from Texas. The way I try to do my style is just try to be above and beyond anything, any perception anybody have of me. I don’t try to go off of somebody else, but at the same time, everybody has their influence on me ’cause it’s by nature. My mind is like a sponge.
CAPPELLO: Did you grow up on hip-hop?
RiFF: People ask me all the time. What do you listen to? What kind of music? It could be anything, whatever sounds good. I don’t have a genre or music that I listen to.
CAPPELLO: You’re not playing guitar or singing rock music.
RiFF: But I listen to it. I try to get everything, I’m universal. That’s why you get the Harmony Korine, dealing with such an empirate pirate. I’m a pirate, but I’m an empire.
HARMONY: What was that tweet you put out about pudding? Something about pudding?
RiFF: Rap game Bill Cosby’s Pudding Pops. Banana tapioca.
CAPPELLO: So you just signed with Diplo?
RiFF: Yeah, that’s my first contract deal.
CAPPELLO: Up to now, it was all Internet, YouTube?
RiFF: It’s still Internet and YouTube and all that shit, because I still got twenty songs, twenty videos I gotta drop and get out of the way, before I do the Mad Decent shit.
CAPPELLO: So Diplo contacted you?
RiFF: Yeah, we were friends prior to dealing with business, now that he’s seen how far I’ve already progressively transferred my talents into epic proportions that conveyed into a conveyer belt of success.
CAPPELLO: And when’s this record coming out?
RiFF: Probably January, give it some time for all my other old new shit to drop.
A-RON: Harmony can you explain the genius behind RiFF RAFF?
HARMONY: RiFF is… what is it? Autism? He’s rap game autistic.
A-RON: He’s not autistic, he’s awe-tistic.
HARMONY: RiFF is the first rapper seriously to go past rhymes, to not rhyme. He’s post rhyming. It’s pretty interesting. He can make words sound like they’re rhyming that don’t really rhyme. I don’t mean like an occasional rhyme, I mean like none of it rhymes. He could rap a paragraph or two without one rhyme in it, but it sounds like it’s rhyming. Want to give me an example?
RiFF: Rap game neon rhymes. You thought it was LeAnn Rimes.
HARMONY: She’s a big fan of yours.
RiFF: I’d rather display it, than to say it.
HARMONY: That actually rhymed (laughs).
RiFF: That wasn’t a display.
HARMONY: You can’t put him on the spot.
RiFF: I mean, you can — shit’s like, whatever, I can do whatever I want.
A-RON: What about the genius of Harmony Korine?
CAPPELLO: Did you know his shit before you met him?
RiFF: I knew of the things that he had done. Obviously I didn’t know him, we never met in person. And to me, this shit that he’s about to do with Spring Breakers, this is gonna put him on the map. It’s gonna be in his face. This movie he’s about to do is not a commercial movie, but at the same time—
CAPPELLO: It’s got commercial people in it.
RiFF: Right, so now when they see it, they’ll understand his genius behind it. I don’t think some people fully expected or understood him, but this will fully transfer their minds. All his shit is about to be just dope. It’s awesome. It’s not luck. He’s not just a movie director; I don’t see him as that. We’re cool, we’re classified as friends. The shit he’s doing, that’s in his mind. It’s not a guessing game, his style can’t be duplicated. If someone’s trying to catch up to him in the director field, they watch his videos and they try to duplicate that, you’ve already lost ’cause he’s already onto the next thing. He’s actually the most anticipated director of our time.
CAPPELLO: People are always interested in what he’s doing, when he does something it’s over everyone’s head.
RiFF: This movie is going to be the movie that combines both worlds, the commercial world with the Harmony Korine world. Once you do some shit like that, then everybody’s interested in trying to make the next biggest thing and they’re gonna come to him to do it. When I start dropping my shit with Diplo, I mean, try to make another one of me, it’s not possible. You can try and look past me, try to hide me for as long as you can, but once I get on the open playing field… I’m still a rookie, I just signed like a month ago with Diplo, when you sign somebody like me, they’ve never dealt with that before.
CAPPELLO: I think why people are interested with you is they want to know. You’re a white rapper, there’s a stigma behind the white rapper, like where you’re from, did you grow up in the ’hood, did you grow up with black kids? ’Cause you also got white rappers that come from skateboarding.
HARMONY: People want to know how you got to be who you are.
RiFF: And those types of questions will be answered if you follow and research. Go do that. It’s not going to be me telling them, it’s not going to be me giving up free information. I don’t answer to anyone.
HARMONY: Only for money.
RiFF: I don’t give away free information, like, “Oh, tell me about your family, tell me about this.” No. I’m not going to tell you about my personal life. If you’re interested, then stay around long enough, you’ll find out.
A-RON: There’ll be a behind-the-scenes Hollywood or whatever, TMZ whatever, it’ll come out.
RiFF: Another thing is, if somebody look at me as a rapper, you’re at a loss, because I make songs. If you label me a rapper, well, you aren’t even a fan of mine. I do shit, whatever I feel like doing. If I do a song, I do it. If I’m writing a poem that doesn’t rhyme, I do it. If I feel like writing a book or make a comic, or whatever.
CAPPELLO: So there’s no label on you, or anything.
HARMONY: He’s writing a novel now of just his tweets. It’s a novel that’s in tweet form.
RiFF: It’s put together by this guy.
HARMONY: A-ron is putting out a novel of his—
RiFF: A-Rod. Alex Rodriguez is helping me.
A-RON: Aaron Rodriguez.
RiFF: A-ron Hubbard. Rap game Don Mattingly.
CAPPELLO: Of just your tweets?
A-RON: Of his tweets, yeah. We’re going through all his tweets, because you know, you’re only given so many characters to use, sifting through his tweets that are kind of ingenious, kind of haiku’ish.
RiFF: He’s the Dostoyevsky of the tweet.
A-RON: So at the end of the day you’re an artist or what?
RiFF: The thing is, he’s doing stuff that I don’t know if he realizes what he’s doing, which is a good thing. He’s making everything that he does as unified, it’s like one piece of artwork, the songs, the tweets, the novels.
A-RON: Unconscious conscious. It’s just flowing in. That’s what Harmony is saying, he doesn’t even know if he realizes what he’s doing. Nobody realizes what he’s doing because it’s over all our heads.
HARMONY: Right, rap game autistic.
RiFF: I mean, I just found out what trolling is. You know what trolling is? Trolling, what I define is, you’re doing something to make people mad. Like somebody asking you, what’s two plus two? And you’re like, forty or something. You’re purposely fucking with people. I just do whatever I feel like doing. At the same time, it’s like, the small-minded people is like, “Oh, you do comedy rap.” No, I don’t. Whatever you see me as is what you see me as.
HARMONY: He’s not precious about anything. He puts one music video out a day. He’ll release four or five records in a weekend. It’s pretty amazing to watch him function. He doesn’t distinguish from high, or low culture, he puts it all out there. And another thing is the music’s good. I think a lot of people can’t get past the—
A-RON: I thought trolling is like when you go out, a night on the town, and you’re going to look for nasty birds.
HARMONY: I thought trolling is when people write shit on the Internet.
A-RON: Trolling is when you’re gonna go blaze some nasty-looking birds on the street.
HARMONY: (Half-singing) You see me rollin’, patrollin’, they tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty.
RiFF & HARMONY: Tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty, tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty.
A-RON: If you had to describe Harmony’s basketball skills what would you say?
A-RON: Jewish dribbling.
RiFF: He’s got tempo, just isn’t Gervon James.
HARMONY: Come on, I have some GerBron.
RiFF: Deshaun Wade.
A-RON: So you’re saying he doesn’t get off the ground, is what you’re saying.
RiFF: He does, he’s a flagrant foul inhabiter.
A-RON: He is flagrant. What happens when Harmony gets in the paint?
RiFF: He’s gonna do some damage.
CAPPELLO: How did you get past Selena Gomez? James Franco is a no-brainer, but Selena Gomez? How did you get past the wall, to get her in a movie in bikinis, smoking a bong?
HARMONY: I can’t talk about that stuff.
A-RON: The same way Riff has secrets, he has secrets.
RiFF: Shit like that, those are undisclosed terms.
CAPPELLO: Tell us some shit about the movie.
RiFF: Sir! Sir! Scene four, section nine, when Gucci Mane comes out…
CAPPELLO: Is RiFF in it?
RiFF: We won’t disclose.
A-RON: What about music? Can we talk about that?
HARMONY: Skrillex is doing a score with Cliff Martinez. I think RiFF might have a song in there.
RiFF: Might? I thought I had like three! This interview is over. I’m not hungry anymore either. ♠