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RADICAL! Riggs Takes Listeners Snowboarding In The Summer With ‘SSX’

Well, this summer was a hot one, wasn’t it?

We’ve reached the 2nd anniversary of this pandemic, and it seems that since 2020, our collective appetite for surrealist art has only increased. This rabbit hole seems to go deeper and deeper, with each month’s news topping the previous’ eccentricity. The collapse of our political institutions, our understanding of currency being reframed, our tangible reality making space for the virtual kind, and most recently, our beloved celebrities breaking character (intentionally or not) and spilling the contents of their personal lives to the public, all represent the unraveling of our expectation of order, and our supposed strive for perfection.

Psycho-analysis of our weird and unprecedented times gives us the opportunity to either move forward responsibly or dismiss the now in favor of the seemingly more sensible then. The latest album from Newark, New Jersey’s Riggs, represents this crossroads, along with the general movement towards higher spirits after two especially dark years adjusting to the changes the pandemic has imposed on us all. Titled SSX, the project stands to be another great staple in Gen Z’s experimental, innovative, and undeniably nostalgic discography.

The Zoom call. Definitely a defining aspect of this post-pandemic culture. Riggs, looking quite comfortable phoning in while sitting at a wooden table in the middle of Pennsylvania’s forestry, waits patiently as I struggle to make sure the app's audio and recording features are functioning. We first met during a show two months before the East Coast’s first lockdown due to Covid-19. Riggs recalls how cheap flights were during this time, as the government’s move to quarantine the public nearly ruined the aviation industry in 2020. “I remember going to L.A. for like forty dollars.” The experience of taking advantage of this situation has taught Riggs the importance of branching out to cleanse the mind and expose it to new environments and people, providing perspective on where he stands in the world and informing him of how lucky he is in the grand scheme of things. “Being stuck in one area for a minute will leave your mind closed. You need to expand that.

The pandemic’s initial run affected people of all ages but forced all its survivors to embark on a spiritual journey usually associated with hippies and middle-aged white women. For the college student activists who sang of peace, and a newly divorced Elizabeth Gilbert portrayed by Julia Roberts, the spark for inner shadow work came from a grievance perceived to be grossly unfair. The resentment of powerlessness motivated the first moves towards seeking justice - Moves that couldn’t help but be laced with passion. Riggs’ 2020 mixtape “Do You Enjoy Living” exemplified this position, using sarcasm to aggressively fight off tears. This defense mechanism was a go-to method for many working through the angst evidenced in countless self-care posts and memes. To put it plainly, it’s the tantrum phase, which is frowned upon but necessary, since you can’t get to the next level of solving a problem without first examining it. Through traveling, Riggs certainly feels closer to this point now, and it shows in his attitude, as well as on SSX. “If you can do this in the morning, *sighs*, then you’re chillin’. Get the fuck up and go

The album, entirely produced by Pearlblade, is a ten-track roller coaster ride atop hype EDM samples and dirty bass. The original SSX video game series introduced snowboarding into millions of homes in the early 2000s, packaged with elements of snowboarding culture, from fashion to music taste. This meant grungy drum and bass, rave synths, and brightly colored tactical wear were all utilized by developers looking to sell to the 21st century’s first wave of teens. 2003 was a high point for these aesthetic choices, and with SSX 3 released for the Nintendo Gamecube the same year, a young Riggs quickly became hooked. Fast forward to 2022, and the desire to emotionally change course, after his rather depressing documentation of the pandemic’s early stages, has led him back to this childhood favorite, inspiring the mood of a new project. “I’ve gone through so much in the past years, now it’s like…'No'…This is like, turnt up. SSX…You’re going down a mountain, [and] you’re either on something or you’re not. [Either way] it’s still fun. Have fun, dance, [and] go crazy, ‘cause when we reach that finish line, we’re gonna go party even more, you feel me?

The exhilarating nature of snowboarding is built into every beat Riggs croons over, so aside from allowing the album to bear the same name, Riggs paid homage to this video game series by matching its upbeat vibrations. “When I heard Pearlblade’s beats, I was like ‘this is it.’ We did two songs [first]: Flawless and Britney Moment, put them out, and they went crazy.” This sound, with fatter drum patterns and a cohesive niche sample base, is not to be confused with more mainstream acts like Bladee and David Shawty, whose music serve as the soundtrack to the highly pitched and hi-fi age where polished Tik Tok videos and Instagram Reels force most new rap artists into a very small box regarding their marketing and presentation. SSX breaks the mold by blending cyberpunk-inspired EDM and gritty trap beats, providing the perfect canvas for Riggs’ undeniably backpack-rap-inspired lyricism.

It should be noted that while his attitude seems more enlightened this time around, Riggs never shies away from the often existential subject matter that drove his early mixtapes: “I text her right back, there might not be tomorrow.” For listeners, Riggs’ humorous and relatable interpretation of this life lesson takes the work out of accepting it.

As a creator who feels his way through the music-making process, Riggs assures me that it was not his intention to convey deep messages on the project, as the goal was to create a vibe fit for clubs and parties. Despite this, the aforementioned “Britney Moment” artfully deconstructs the Hollywood image, to a beat reminiscent of hypnotic dance records celebrities could strut to at an award show. For those unaware, this album’s crown jewel track is directly inspired by the time pop singer Britney Spears was caught by paparazzi in the streets of Tarzana, California, with a freshly shaved head and a disheveled look on her face. With internet blogs and chat rooms becoming mainstream, TV reporters began to take notice and incorporate news and images found on the internet into live broadcasts; Britney’s new look was televised, sweeping her into a world of judgment that no celebrity who predated the internet was prepared to deal with. From then on, any celebrity who broke their established character (usually entailing a wealthy life void of financial anxiety, familial squabbles, and mental illness), was considered to be in the midst of a “Britney Moment.”

America only held space for one perception of the pop star, and anything else was to be roasted to the highest degree. However, Ms. Spears was most likely doing what many people do when they want to use the changing of their appearance to spiritually cleanse themselves and start anew: “Basically I had this crazy long pink hair, and it was about to be my birthday, [so] I just shaved that shit completely off. That next week I was recording ‘Britney Moment,’ because I was having a Britney Moment. It’s not supposed to be that deep. It’s just what’s happening.” This is a refreshing take on the phrase, considering the fact that a mundane act of self-care was deemed to be evidence of Britney’s mental instability.

The sun begins to set, so before we end our video meeting, Riggs reaffirms the importance of taking “that deep breath”–Most artists begin their journey with a desire to report on things that occur in their own life as well as around them. The lens through which they see life is unique, but can sometimes become stagnant in their critique of their environment, which is inevitable based on how overbearingly influential said environment can be. If they can become powerful enough to shift their focus from the external to the internal, they’ll be that much closer to passing that finish line and winning the gold. “Just stay true to yourself, and keep working," Riggs concludes. "You’ll be good.

SSX is available on all platforms. Listen for free here.

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