Sunday, November 23, 2008

Let's Dissect Poor Soulja Boy Some More

So just when I attack Soulja Boy for leading the rap of placelessness movement (well, not really attack, point out that that's where we're headed and he's out in front of that shit), what does Soulja do? He releases a video and song that's his most rooted in place yet. An attempt to appeal to people who aren't into all that pop shit? You bet. What do we see a mere three seconds into the video? Soulja's... Georgia license plates! On his Georgia registered black Hummer! For those of you who think that Soulja's some pop artist, let's compare his work to Britney Spears, etc., note how many uniquely hip-hop tropes get ticked off in the first minute of this song. License plates, of course, are huge in rap. See Jeezy's classic:

Minus the bullshit, life's great
Just got a camera in the PEACH in my license plate*

Or Prodigy's recent 'New York Shit' where he goes:

E'ry hoe wanna know, who the New York kid?

With the New York plates, on the bulletproof truck
Better chill or get kil't by a New Yorker**

What it is, of course, is a way to rep where you're from while at the same time saying, I'm rich, I drive expensive shit. Rap's full of all these little funny things that you don't think about that other types of music just don't have. I mean, who knows, maybe the idiots who made 'Sweet Home Alabama' talked about their Alabama plates. But I doubt it. So anyway, Soulja's pulling out the plates.

The next thing worth noticing is he's got a little crew backing him up on the dance moves. We'll come back to that. Then he's outdoors out on this weird lawn space in the autumn light that's graced so many southern rap videos of the recent past (think 'It's Goin Down,' Yung Wun's classic 'Tear It Up,' Ying Yang's justly forgotten 'What's Happenin,' Project's 'Good Googly Moogly'). What is it that southern rappers love so much about autumn light? Maybe it's just me, but I'd say because it's warm and fuzzy and summons up feelings of community. Note that all these autumn light videos feature A LOT OF PEOPLE, often including cute little children, usually supposed to represent folks from the rapper's hood. Soulja doesn't have that option, having openly shitted on his hood and exchanged it for the lavishes of Atlanta, but he's still got all these kids in the video. But, since they can't be a bunch of local Atlantans, because Soulja's not from there, they're... fans running to see a Soulja Boy show. Fans who spontaneously burst out into Soulja Boy's dance in highly organized fashion. Out on a lawn. I mean, the tensions between the "rapper in his hood surrounded by adoring neighbors proud to see a guy from their hood made it" model and the limitations of what Soulja, as a McMansion-residing transplant can actually do with any kind of honesty are just bursting at the seams.

Then Soulja starts rapping, and he starts rapping about... the different ways people in different states address him! New Yorkers tell him what's good son. Chicagoans ask him what's up joe. In Dallas they say what's up bro. In Memphis they say what's up mayne. Where have we heard this before??? Try, I'm blanking, tell me in the comments, but the idea of cataloguing the different salutations dudes in different cities and countries use to say whatup to the rapper has to have been done a hundred times. (50 liked to do this a lot.) And then, most interestingly, we learn what people say to him when he goes back to Mississippi. What is this all about? Telling you, the listener, that all hoods respect and salute Soulja Boy, and more importantly, respect him in their authentic, unique ways. (Including his home state that he just shitted on. It was just a joke.) Not all cities, all hoods. Important difference. We're not talking about, you know, white people here. The whole concert thread, by the way, has been dropped completely by this point.

We've got a political message! "VOTE NOW" t-shirts. Again, sort of a concession to the more traditional hip-hop audience. In September, when this video was shot, voting was, you know, a big deal in the black community. (This year Lil Flip could never have gotten away with the one good line he had on this '06 mixtape called I'm A Baller - namely "while y'all was talkin about Vote Or Die [Flip's voice drips with contempt as he says Vote Or Die]/I was chillin in my mansion, smokin lye." Poor John Kerry.)

Now Soulja Boy and his crew (which has grown in size from 3 to about 15 in the last minute) are playing football. Girls are cheering. A couple fleeting closeups of models but not too many to mess-up the neighborhood-but-it's-not-a-neighborhood vibe. Note that whenever a rapper does one of these football videos, it's always set up as a sandlot/high school game. More community and togetherness. Soulja promises that if we cross S.O.D. - that's the name of his crew - "we gonna knock your lights out." There's a ton of "we" going on in this video.

Now it's getting dark. Soulja's "throwing out money like your boy got a frisbee." Got that one from Chamillionaire. Also note that he's "our" boy. He's still in the stadium. Spelling his name. Says he's "for the kids like Disney." Also like Wu-Tang, if ODB is to be believed. Hundreds if not thousands of fans in the stands, all on their feet, dancing.

You can download 'Bird Walk' here.

* Stop sleeping on Jeezy's lyrics, by the way. They're good. It's cliched to say, but don't be giving Common and Kanye passes for their wack punchlines and beat up on Jeezy for his. (Today's Common and today's Jeezy - way more similarities than meet the eye. Think about it.)
** I hate Prodigy for the non-rhyming mess he's become, but that was really one of his best non-rhyming moments the past few years. Like it's one thing to be like, New York this, New York that, but saying you're a "New Yorker" - that's a whole different level of repping. Seriously. And the way he puts the emphasis on 'Yorker' makes the line what it is.


Badmon3333 said...

Hilarious. I think "donk" should be the common-use adjective to describe someone of Soulja Boy's caliber... as in... "Man, that dude just rhymed 'nice' with 'nice.' Talk about donk."

You heard '808s & Heartbreak' yet? I just reviewed it on the blog. I'm interested to see if you think it's as boring and overly-simple as I do.

• Kanye Review at Obscure Music Monthly

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

"Today's Common and today's Jeezy - way more similarities than meet the eye. Think about it."

that's all well and good, but i can't really stand much of the recent output from either of them.

i feel like west coast videos use the lawn space, too. seems like anywhere west of the Mississippi, where car culture is much bigger, guys shoot the video in what would seem to philly/ny residents as the suburbs in some way.

Anonymous said...

About this video clashing with the premise of your last entry: Could it be that Soulja Boy reads your blog? you know he's an internet savvy dude. watch out for a vlog diss at your Pay Tray a la his beef with Ice T

"but the idea of cataloguing the different salutations dudes in different cities and countries use to say whatup to the rapper has to have been done a hundred times."

I'm feeling the same way - there's like a hazy memory of atleast two rappers doing this thing, but i can't recall any details. mims "this is why i'm hot" reason keeps interupting my thought process, for some reason. - its not the same exact shtick, but vaguely related. but yeah, no luck remembering any other rappers doing it.

re: Stop sleeping on Jeezy's lyrics, by the way. They're good. It's cliched to say, but don't be giving Common and Kanye passes for their wack punchlines and beat up on Jeezy for his.(Today's Common and today's Jeezy - way more similarities than meet the eye. Think about it.)

Gonna agree with shuttlesworth on this one. Comparing today's common to today's jeezy is like simultaneously bitchslapping both of them. and i have no clue which one you hit harder there. there's no compliment there.

I'm a fan of Jeezy's albums (and have actually come around to liking the new record), but he's a decent lyricist at best imo. most of kanye's cringe inducing moments have a degree of humour and goofiness to it, whereas jeezy's clunkers seem like weak attempts at word play in general. subjective, i know, but the case for jeezy as lyricist is a hard sell.

actually , i dont even know why i ever attempt to discuss jeezy seriously coz the dude's such a perplexing figure to me. like , i like his records, but i cannot for the life of me properly articulate why he stands out. his beat selection's great but not outstanding, i really am not a fan of his 'lyricism', i dont buy the trapstar persona, he lacks a winning sense of humour, and his personality isn't all that interesting. But i like his records. I get the feeling he's successful coz unlike tons of others, he's getting a lot of little things right in his attempt to materialize his massive rap star as street motivator persona. I really have no clue though. You should probably do a post to explore his popularity.

Badmon3333 said...

Jay is right. Mims does it in "This is Why I'm Hot," but there are other examples as well.

Badmon3333 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tray said...

Yeah, it's kind of a diss to today's Jeezy, that he's like our current Common. As dude becomes more and more enchanted with the idea of being a rapper, as opposed to this voice of the dealers who talks off-beat over tracks and ad-libs a lot, he gets less interesting. And also becomes a worse rapper, actually, and way more vaguely political, and bloggerish, and better-dressed, and so on. Like Common. Though I think Jeezy's... instincts are good, just that he doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about? Whereas Common's just this hopelessly confused peace and love and equality for all type.