Soulja Boy: Is The Joke On Us?

Nov 14th, 2008 // 11 Comments

The whole “Soulja Boy loves the slavemasters” controversy continued this week, when Toure–who elicited the controversial quote from the YouTube sensation/Segway fan, responded to SB’s allegations that he was just trying to bring the lulz when he was thanking those men for paving the way toward his sparkly jewelry and body art. Toure told HipHopDX, “Let me be clear: I was looking into Soulja Boy’s eyes when he said, ‘Shout out to the slave masters. Without them we wouldn’t be here to get this ice and tattoos.’ He wasn’t joking. That said, if he thinks shouting out the slave masters who owned, whipped, and raped our ancestors is funny, then that’s even more alarming. Either way he’s clearly not mature enough for a serious conversation.” But one writer wonders if the “not-joking” stance Soulja Boy put on is actually a manifestation of the fact that, thanks in part to his catchphrase-stuffed singles and self-congratulatory YouTube videos, he’s a performance artist of sorts, acting out the worst impulses of every nouveau riche teen as a commentary of sorts on the last gasps of the nu-gilded age.



MTV News’ James Montgomery writes:

To the unaware, all of that made Soulja Boy a walking stereotype, a one-stop shop for all that is wrong with hip-hop culture: the sexism, the braggadocio, the idea of style over substance. He caused people to cringe and to lash out, because what they saw made them angry. But really, that’s only because they weren’t aware that this was all an act, that the entire concept of Soulja Boy “the character” was a rather elaborate bit of performance art designed to point out the inherent ridiculousness of all of those stereotypes. Or, at least, I hoped so. …

Now, keep in mind that Soulja — or, as I’m convinced, his alter ego, 18-year-old DeAndre Way — claimed that his comment was blown out of proportion because he was being “sarcastic,” but I’d like to think this was the final master stroke: a hip-hop artist making a comment so mind-blowingly ignorant and insensitive that even the most fervent supporters of the genre would be forced to throw their hands up in the air and say “You know what? There really is no hope.”

Of course, you are probably thinking there is no way Soulja Boy is that smart, that he is just a money-hungry kid with no respect and no talent and a blight to the entire genre. And you might be completely right. But that probably also means that you’re not in on the joke, and therefore, you’re also missing the point. Soulja Boy isn’t real; he’s a character created out of the public’s misconceptions, a brilliant bit of social commentary sprung from one of the most brilliant performance artists of our time. Or, at least, I hope he is. All I really know is that, apparently, he has a new album coming out next month, and personally, I can’t wait to see what he does next. Actually, I’m slightly terrified. And that’s great art.

Keeping in mind that Montgomery may be one of maybe 15 people in the world who are actually excited about the release of iSouljaBoy.com, he does raise a good point: What if we’re all just too old to get the metacommentary that Soulja Boy is clearly trafficking in, and what if he’s actually a Tony Clifton for the next generation? I guess we’d have to ask some actual living 18-year-olds for their reaction, but then again, the fact that I’m even writing this sentence right now–not to mention all the traffic that our first two posts on this little flare-up received–means that whatever he’s doing, it’s working on the “all press is good press” level. And at the very least, Montgomery’s theory that Soulja Boy is actually trying to parody the worst parts of popular culture, celebrity culture, and expectations about wealth in the early 21st century, puts his upcoming appearance on My Super Sweet 16 in a sorta-new light.

Soulja Boy Tell’em: The Greatest Performance Artist Of Our Generation? [MTV]
Exclusive: Toure Responds To Soulja Boy Reports [HipHopDX]
“My Super Sweet 16″ — Soulja Boy Tell’em [YouTube]

  1. Anthony Miccio

    stfu, James Montgomery.

  2. Bob Loblaw

    Not to get all Tipper G., but even if this is some big meta-joke (it isn’t), then you’ve still got to consider the audience for it. Where Clifton went after middle-aged schmucks at comedy clubs, souljaboy.org’s fucking around with kids who are too young to get the gag.

    I admire Montgomery for trying to find the good in an achingly ignorant statement, but really, “Soulja Boy as social critic” should be the premise for a David Alan Grier sketch.

  3. Nutzrpoppin

    Excuse me while I rub the bullshit out of my eyes.

  4. Gnosis

    I believe he might have been being sarcastic, but there is no way that this is some meta-commentary. I do love Montgomery’s idea though – but there would have to be a punchline at some point. Until then – I’ll be taking all of this at face value.

    YAH!

  5. Audif Jackson Winters III

    So he’s the black Kevin Federline?

  6. Maura Johnston

  7. Lax Danja House

    “I don’t understand Soulja Boy therefore it is post-modern parody.”

  8. AL

    @Lax Danja House: what is there to understand?

  9. Lax Danja House

    Oops, I meant “understand the appeal of Soulja Boy.” I’m not sure there needs to be a whole lot to understand- it’s good, fun music that makes the vast majority of people a little bit happier. Intellectually, he’s probably contributed about as much to the world as Nietzsche, which is to say not a lot, but the criticism is hardly any more intelligent.

  10. ObtuseIntolerant

    Hmmm…Why do I get the feeling this James Montgomery guy was the guy at my sister’s art school whose senior year thesis was a shelf full of mason jars of his own urine?

  11. Anonymous

    “Intellectually, he’s probably contributed about as much to the world as Nietzsche, which is to say not a lot”

    A truly risible comment. No one with even the most basic knowledge of Philosophy, Cultural History, European Literature would make such a patently absurd statement.

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