In a world bloated by a reverence for celebrity status, hip hop beef is more bizarre than ever.
Sporting a cream-colored Kappa tracksuit and numerous SODMG chains that clinked together like tin cans with his every movement, Soulja Boy put on a show for Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club that no doubt had The Shade Room salivating. His signature Gucci headband, wide enough to land a commercial aircraft, was almost as over-the-top as his oft-repeated “You’re not listening!” catchphrase that silenced even Charlamagne (who duly noted that their guest smelled like “the loudest kush you could find in New York”). He cackled like a hyena that had escaped the Central Park Zoo and somehow stumbled into Barneys, serving up one comedy bit after another for his obliging hosts. The long-winded, 54-minute rampage was the latest in a string of emotionally-charged interviews and radio appearances from the embattled rapper. Soulja aired his grievances for all to hear, painting himself to be an outcast who doesn’t get the recognition that he rightfully deserves, and gunning for anyone in spitting distance. Within five minutes, he had issued his first bold proclamation from on high: “I started this internet. I started the wave. I’m the reason why these new artists getting signed.” His list of internet hustler bonafides didn’t end there: “I was the first artist on social media. I was the first artist on YouTube. These record labels set their blueprint behind me. I’m the reason why they streaming right now.”
Soulja's tirade, which chaotically shuffled from politics to hood credentials, could be viewed as entirely nonsensical, and it wouldn't be the first time that the rapper was misunderstood. Though there are tidbits of truth to behold in many of his declarations, it all feels entangled in one larger lie that is impossible to ignore.
This all stems from an impassioned Instagram Live speech where he dragged the rap game and set the record straight on his newest sparring partner Tyga by emphatically insisting that “Big Draco” had “the biggest comeback of 2018.” Reminiscent of Allen Iverson’s famous “we talkin’ ‘bout practice” press conference, the stirring social media outburst has become Soulja’s go-to script: his recent theatrics on Barstool’s KFC Radio are virtually identical, taken from the same playbook and regurgitated on command. His career has been full of such moments, to the point that it’s become increasingly difficult to differentiate fact from fiction. Nothing is off limits, but everything that he says warrants a Google search for verification (especially when it comes to $400 million deals). It seems that his self-perception has become his reality; there's nothing particularly worthwhile to be gleaned from the shameless misinformation that he’s peddling to no end. When prompted by Angela Yee to give a breakdown of his “biggest comeback” claim, Soulja retorted, “the proof is in the pudding.”
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So what’s actually in the pudding? Let’s begin with his foe Tyga, an artist who has stumbled upon a new gilded era thanks in large part to his long-standing relationship with D.A. Doman, the producer responsible for the irresistible bounce of No. 1 blockbuster “Taste” and every other song that the Last King has hopped on since. This is not the dumb luck of a one-hit wonder. In fact, Tyga’s dropped one wildly depraved strip club anthem after another: an equally effective earworm in “Swish,” the deliciously simple “Dip,” and his most recent blunt-force party concoction, “Floss In The Bank.” He even took it upon himself to re-up Kodak Black’s “Zeze,” devouring the beat with patented nonchalant ease. Sonic uniformity is by no means a novel formula for T-Rawww, but it has undoubtedly revitalized his once dormant and seemingly unsalvageable career. In the process of regaining his footing on the Billboard charts, he disproved the naysayers who slated the Young Money upstart to be nothing more than a blip on the mainstream radar, and buried the mythical “Kardashian Curse” that tanked his two year run at the top of the decade. "You guys praised me when I dropped ‘Rack City.’ I had multiple hits. Y'all praised me. Y'all believe in me. Y'all followed me. Then, I got in a relationship, and y'all crucified me. Put me on the cross. Now I'm resurrected," he told Billboard.
Whether or not Tyga gives into demands for a full project or decides to forge ahead as an every-eight-weeks singles artist, hip hop’s latest and most notable guilty pleasure stuck a resounding role reversal that would make even Hollywood blush. He started 2018 by rebranding himself “under the banner of Japanese robo-furry porn” and ended it poolside with copious amounts of whipped cream. The 12-month transformation, or rather return to form, is one that even his most diehard fans couldn’t have predicted (let the record show, though, that we did). After being laid to rest through the uniquely ill-advised combination of commercial disdain, Twitter punchlines, and Hentai anthropomorphism, Tyga sprang back to life with a momentum that startled the snootiest year-end lists. Even fair weather fans that wrote him off after The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty are being drawn right back into the bass-boosted, NSFW debauchery that is Tyga’s permanent residence. With the redemption tour in full effect, listeners can expect the jiggy summer treatments to keep coming: “I know what people want from me. There’s too much going on in the world, and life is too short. Everybody has to have fun, and I’ma supply that background music for you.”
And then there’s Soulja, who ran through his early starpower and “stacks on deck” and is now wriggling his way back to relevance, albeit using an entirely different approach. While his assertion that he ushered in the era of viral rap is not entirely baseless, his decree that “All y’all record labels owe me five percent!” is perhaps a bit of a stretch (this is the same guy that shouted out his Xbox Live homie President Barack Obama and “Soulja Boy child” Tekashi 6ix9ine in the same breath). There’s no denying that he’s hot right now; Soulja knows how to whip up piping hot promo with the best of them, and with a certain rainbow-colored rapper now behind bars, he’s poised to snatch the title of king troll (even ScHoolboy Q wants to get in on the action).
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But it’s not for the reasons one might expect. His personal life is scattered, from news of his BMW being ensnared in a near-fatal Malibu mudslide (he escaped through the sunroof a la James Bond), to signing a single deal with Entertainment One. Hell, even Fashion Nova supposedly cut him a check. To top it all off, Soulja, ever the entrepreneur, recently released video game consoles that came with 800 pre-installed games. Move over, Jeff Bezos. Silicon Valley has a new tech genius in town. To no one’s surprise, the SouljaGame models were poorly made third-party emulators repackaged in his name, “in case you thought Nintendo put Pokemon on these things for free out of the goodness of their heart.” As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough, the bootleg consoles were being sold at a significant markup, easily outpricing Chinese online retailer AliExpress. The rebrands were questionable, if not outright illegal; a lawsuit from Nintendo was quickly threatened, and seems to be the likely conclusion to Soulja’s gaming crossover attempt (although he did pass around his phone at The Breakfast Club to show that he’d made a light “quarter-million” from the venture, which is unfortunately “backed-up” due to the influx of orders). It's a SouljaScam that makes other celebrity swindlers look fashionably tame.
Beyond his immediate desire for attention, it’s mighty hard to gauge Soulja’s more intimate intentions. A lot of people are clowning him, but as he said, “all publicity is good publicity.” And that right there is the self-approved Soulja slogan. No matter the situation, he always manages to put a performative spin on it. Case in point: when Meek Mill’s name popped up in the biggest comeback of 2018 conversation, Soulja made for the door before abruptly turning to deliver an Oscar-worthy display of feigned vexation. The undisputed highlight? Mistakenly calling the Drake-featured Degrassi “Degeneres.”
When asked what 2019 has in store, he claimed that he has a biopic of sorts coming out later this year through AMC theaters, which will presumably reveal even more details behind the events of his classic #SouljaBoyChallenge. “I didn’t wanna blow his brains out all over my couch,” he explained while recounting the traumatizing home invasion. Even in discussing the grisly details of “forearm meat” being plastered across his living room, there is a glimmer of humor to everything Soulja spouts. He is, after all, an entertainer, and it’s clear that he has developed an acute understanding of how to generate headlines over the course of his ten-year career. With every story told, there's always a strictly Soulja inside scoop.
So what’s the verdict? While a knockoff Apple Watch made in some godforsaken sweatshop with your name attached to it might win Donkey of the Day, it certainly doesn’t qualify you as a candidate for biggest comeback of 2018. Last night’s most recent installment saw Tyga provide some receipts via Instagram, with him posting a side-by-side comparison of both artists' Spotify streaming numbers. Not to be outdone, Soulja responded in kind over Twitter, clapping back at the Compton rapper and comically rehashing his issues with Kanye West and Toronto’s prodigal son. Still, with the unlikely rivalry heating up, Soulja admitted that he'd be down for a collab. "I love Tyga. I can't wait to do a record with him but, at the same time, you ain't have no biggest comeback, bruh." For now, the “godfather of hip hop” will have to be content with Marriage Boot Camp, more indignant (and less-than-forthright) Baller Alert stunts, and the knowledge that he had one of the most popular ringtones of the 2000s. Who knows what he’ll try to claim credit for next, or how long people will stand his antics before they’re finally Soulja’d out.