After having fallen off my radar (and according to Grant Jones off a CLIFF) following “Superdope” in 2014, I thought Soulja Boy’s 15 minutes of fame in had finally come to an end. Late in 2018 though DeAndre Way re-entered the public consciousness in a surprising way — he positioned himself as an entrepreneur selling video game consoles through his personal website. Unfortunately for Soulja Boy this wasn’t a well conceived plan. The consoles were nothing more than drop shipped Chinese products from Ali Express rebranded with his own name. To make matters worse they were loaded with bootleg, unlicensed video games which he didn’t have the rights to sell or distribute. Reviewers were quick to roast him for it.
Despite the fact this brought Soulja Boy unwanted legal attention from Nintendo (one of his websites now redirects to them as part of a settlement) it did garner Mr. Way the kind of mainstream attention he hadn’t had in years. My intention going into this write up was to review Soulja Boy’s 2019 album “How Can You Blame Me?” I felt that this had to be Soulja’s natural response to being the name in everybody’s mouths again. If the cliched phrase “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” has any value, then it was 100% time for Mr. Way to cash in on his newfound notoriety. Unfortunately that album was “postponed indefinitely” last year and there’s no sign it will be released any time soon. I turned to SB’s 2015 album “Loyalty” instead, a release that came AFTER our own writer had declared his career DOA.
The MPC Cartel produced “Hurricane” is both the album’s first track and lead single. Soulja raps slowly and methodically, repeating the phrase “diamonds in my watch”, “diamonds in my chain” and “whip whip whip whip hurricane” to the point they are drilled into your brain. I’m not sure any one ever accused Mr. Way of lyrical depth, but he’s clearly not mining deep enough for these “diamonds covered in snow” and runs out of words at the end of his song, AutoTuning himself rapping “I don’t know” repeatedly. Credit where it’s due though — Cartel’s track thumps hard and Soulja Boy certainly looks stylish in the accompanying video. That’s by and large his modus operandi — style over substance.
The MPC Cartel consistently provides smooth, bass thumping music for singles like “Designer”. It’s a little bit like enabling an addict by handing them the glass pipe and flicking the lighter on the bowl. When Mr. Way doesn’t have to put any effort into his bars to sound good he doesn’t. “Designer, designer, designer, let that money pile up on a mountain, and my shades were designer”. Then he just warbles the word “desiiiiiiiigner” like a yodeler in the Swiss Alps. He didn’t just run out of words — he ran out of syllables. You might think talking about how rich and successful you are would be the easiest thing in the world to do. You’d be wrong. The only time he comes close to getting it right is “Don’t Nothing Move But the Money”.
It’s hardly surprising in hindsight that Soulja Boy’s next hustle was to start selling bootleg “Famiclone” systems from China. Anybody that’s singularly obsessed with money to this degree really doesn’t give a damn about how he gets it or if it’s being done legally. The truth is if he hadn’t put it on his own website and publicized it he probably could have gotten away with it. The same systems he was selling are all over Amazon and eBay. You can buy one right now if you’re so inclined — it just won’t have Soulja Boy’s name on it. If he had set up a website through a third party, not bragged about his hustle on social media and then claimed “I’m just a boy with a dream” he WOULD have kept the money moving. Bootlegs pop up faster than Sega and Nintendo can swat them down no matter how hard they try.
It’s perplexing to listen to Soulja Boy’s “Loyalty” knowing he could have done so much better. He’s never had an unpleasant rap voice, and the vocal tone has actually improved as he’s aged and matured. At times he drops his one word at a time flow on songs like “Gold Bricks” and shows off an impressive breath control and ability to spit rapid fire bars with clear diction. It’s the singularity of his topic matter that holds Soulja Boy down and not his actual talent. Songs like “Hit It” with beats by Chris Brandnew could have been something nice, but all he has to say is “Niggaz is broke, niggaz is lame” and make fun of people who can’t fill their videos with champagne bottles and models pretending to be lesbians.
I tried and failed repeatedly to find any substance to DeAndre Way’s lyrics on “Loyalty“. The non-singles are the same as the singles. “Still Whippin'” is all about “riding through the city stacking millions”. “Foreign Whip” is about the expensive car he’s riding through the city with to do it. “Trap Party” is about spending those racks, stacks and bands. Those are the only things Soulja Boy seems to do — make money and spend money. You might think he spends it faster than he makes it watching his videos and/or listening to his lyrics. That may ultimately be why bootlegging games seemed like a good hustle. It’s certainly safer than whipping up the work in a Pyrex pot and avoiding the local and federal authorities selling it. I’m a gamer so to some degree I actually felt him on wanting to put out a console with classic games. Too bad it wasn’t legal. Maybe that lane can open up for him though in the future, because judging by this album, the rap one IS closed.