Soulja Boy: Is The Joke On Us?

noah | November 14, 2008 12:00 pm

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, 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]