Imagine, if you will, the fictionalized account of struggling Atlanta stage actor DeAndre Way: raised in the ATL, this product of urban ennui always longed to escape his existence by treading the boards. Blessed with a sonorous baritone, piercing, unblinking eyes, and a Shakespearean sense of dramatic heft that could bring to life even the dense, entendre-laden work of the Bard’s finest prose, DeAndre knew that he was born for the stage. Surely, even as all of his friends and contemporaries busied themselves contributing lazy ABAB rhymes to a series of go-nowhere mixtapes, Way would escape the buffoonery of mocking, meaningless chants, oversized chains, and glossy, pedestrian beats.
But Broadway was a long way north. DeAndre Way had to escape his impoverished surroundings; what better way to do this than with subtle, razor-sharp satire? He looked at fellow local performers Arab and i15, and realized that rap music may well be his only ticket out. Thus, he took out a loan to pay for a series of increasingly silly chains, absurdly large sunglasses, and colorful hoodies, and Soulja Boy was born. Riffing on the poor enunciation of his high school classmates, jack-of-all-trades DeAndre – an impeccable mimic of diction, as evidenced by his crisp Cardiff dialect in his one-man reimagining of “Richard III” – adopted and exaggerated the garbled slang and mangled diction of the rappers he sought to lampoon. He toned down his natural gift for similes in favor of a more direct approach. Working hours in his bedroom on what he assumed would be his satiric masterwork – the damning character of “Soulja Boy” – Way forged ahead with his feigned idiocy, assured that this pitch-perfect mockery would truly display his diversity as a performer, and serve as a one-way ticket to artistic legitimacy.
But DeAndre Way’s dream was not to be. In carefully calibrating the limber mannerisms and slurred, simplistic rhyme schemes of Soulja Boy, he neglected to account for one thing: the idiocy of the listening public at large. And so, much like Larry the Cable Guy before him, DeAndre Way had created an ironic character that the public ate up unironically; faced with the eternal dilemma of art vs. commerce, Way chose the road less traveled, and simply ceased to exist, leaving behind the hollow, artless cartoon character that is Soulja Boy behind. A tragic tale of commercial success trampling dreams of credibility; a young man’s thespian hopes dashed, simply by virtue of the artist being almost too good at his craft.
There are two things to be gleaned by the cautionary tale of DeAndre Way and The Soldier Boy: one, I completely fabricated this Soulja Boy origin story, even though there’s a part of me that wishes it were true. And two, Soulja Boy’s rarely-heard third single “Yahhh!” remains the nadir of Soulja Boy’s distinctly… well… unexciting career.
Friends, I am a DJ. Ideally, that means that I bring my distinct flair for deep cuts and my love of a good groove to a captive audience of dancers on a nightly basis; in practice, it means that I end up sneaking a few tunes that I genuinely enjoy into an increasingly insipid rotation of requested songs. And while Soulja Boy may have died a quick commercial death after his briefly-popular dance fad, “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)”, enjoyed its fifteen minutes, I’m here to tell you that he’s still quite popular in clubs
for idiots. They enjoy the mindless mannerisms of “Crank That”, ignoring the incontrovertible fact that its chorus is about violently climaxing on a sleeping young lady (the “ho” that gets “supermanned”, if you will) and then throwing a blanket over the offending area (thus creating a cape… you know, I don’t even like talking about this anymore). They enjoy “Donk”, where Soulja Boy and his cohorts proclaim loudly “SHE GOT A DONK! SHE GOT A DONK!” over a pulsating, boneheaded rhythm. (See, “donk” is short for “donkey”, which is often referred to as an “ass”, a term often used to describe the healthy curves of a woman’s butt, or “donk”. Circle of life.) They even enjoy “Report Card”, wherein Soulja Boy, somehow shocked that he’s received a report card full of F’s, demands that his teacher “throw some D’s on that bitch” (appropriating Rich Boy’s far nastier tune), because a report card full of D’s is something to be far prouder of.
And yet, somehow, out of all of these maddeningly popular Soulja Boy songs, “Yahhh!” strikes me as the most reprehensible. Even moreso than “Crank That” – which, let’s just be clear, amounts to you all dancing merrily along to casual sexual assault – “Yahhh!” simply postulates that when people want to congratulate you, show appreciation for your art, or simply bask in the warm glow of your company, you should scream nonsense syllables in their face and run away. The song’s chorus, reconstructed as a dramatic one-act:
SOULJA BOY FAN: Hey Soulja Boy, can I–
SOULJA BOY: YAAAHHHH, TRICK, YAAAHHHH!
COMPLIMENTARY ARAB [Soulja Boy’s rhyming partner] FAN: Yo, Arab, I really like–
ARAB: YAAAHHH, TRICK, YAAAHHHH!
COLLIPARK [Soulja Boy’s occasional producer] ADMIRER: Collipark–
SOULJA BOY: (a series of frustrated nonsense syllables)
INNOCENT BYSTANDER: Ah, man, I was just wondering–
SOULJA BOY: YAAAAHHH, YAAAHHH, TRICK!
And scene. Here, Soulja Boy and his own personal Spliff Star, Arab, theorize that the only way to get rid of pesky people like fans, admirers, autograph-seekers, and human beings, is to scream rudely, and run. Essentially, the song’s lyrics can be boiled down to the following:
PERSON: Why, hello, Soulja Boy. Listen, I was just wondering if you’d be willing to behave like a human being for a moment.
SOULJA BOY: Listen, I’m gonna stop you right there. Honestly, humanity and basic human kindness are not my strong suit. Therefore, I rudely invite you to suck it, and will abruptly leave after the end of this sentence.
PERSON: You know what? You’re right. It was rude of me to interrupt your intricate rhyme scheme to ask for a modicum of decency from an artist as revered as yourself. I feel just awful about this – oh, what do you know, he has walked off after all. How about that.
Now, given the chorus’ actual lyrics and subsequent translation, I don’t want to underestimate your intelligence and assume that you haven’t heard enough to realize that this song is a true atrocity of modern popular culture. But, lest you still doubt my hypothesis, there’s more where that came from. Consider Soulja Boy sideman Arab, who delivers the song’s first proper verse, and sounds virtually indistinguishable from Soulja Boy except for the notion that he may actually be dumber. (Don’t attempt to process that information for too long – it may crack the very fiber of the universe as we know it.) After rhyming “star” with “car” and “jive” with “five” (as in a high-five that a naive fan hopes Arab will return, before Arab actually takes more time to scream nonsense in his face than it would have taken to just return the damn high five), Arab delivers the final blow in the form of this scintillating couplet: “I ain’t got time for chit-chat, I’m tryin’ to get this money; so get up out my face, you doo-doo head dummy.”
Doo-doo head dummy.
DOO-DOO HEAD DUMMY.
AS A RAPPER, HE GETS MONEY FOR DELIVERING LYRICS, AND HE DISMISSES HIS OPPONENT AS A “DOO-DOO HEAD DUMMY”.
Meanwhile, in the second verse, Soulja Boy ruminates on the trappings of fame, clearly offended by such ghastly notions as fans asking for autographs and admirers inquiring about the street date of his newest CD. Where fellow Southern rapper Ludacris once invited aggressors to get back because they don’t know him like that with wit and verve, Soulja Boy merely strings together syllables about haters and tricks, and offers to punch them in the face if they cannot respect his personal space. An understandable (if unnecessarily reactionary) sentiment, but Soulja Boy seems to consider everything a violation of his precious personal space.
And, listen, I’ve been there. I’ve worked a great deal of mundane jobs, for example, where I found myself kowtowing to idiots in order to keep my meager paychecks coming in. I’ve pumped gas for rednecks who insist on smoking while standing directly next to a machine that pumps out volatile chemicals. I’ve served drinks for morons that have insisted on withholding my tips because, and I quote, “y’all must make like 18 dollars an hour with drink prices like this.” And yet, even with such paltry wages at stake, I never cut them off, screamed “YAHHH, TRICK, YAHHH!” in their face, smashed a glass and exited the establishment. Certainly a rapper pulling millions can put up with an eager fan or two, right? I mean, if he’s screaming at people who insist on approaching him only to tell him that his music sucks, I’d understand. (I’d understand both sides, really, but that’s another story entirely.) But by all measurable lyrical content, he’s venting his frustrations on those who LIKE what he does, and merely want to tell him that, and congratulate him on his success. It’s a stupid song, yes, but it’s also unnecessarily vile and hostile.
And my current job? Well, I deal with my fair share of idiots, to be sure, but I also generally treat them with respect. With basic human decency. For example, when an inebriated fratboy stumbles up to my booth and insists that I play some Soulja Boy, I don’t make fun of him. I don’t mourn the death of his brain cells, or ruthlessly mock his poor taste in music. I simply sigh, plaster on a smile, and answer him.
“Yes, trick. Yes.”