“Crank That”. You’ve probably heard it somewhere. In a club. Out of a passing car. On YouTube (or, even better, on YouTube while mixed with video clips from children’s TV shows). It has become a rap mega-hit, and, perhaps most impressively, the 17-year-old rapper Soulja Boy produced it all by himself. As the song gradually picked up steam, it was inevitable that Soulja Boy would be hearing the knockings of record labels at his door, and as soon as he signed with ColliPark/Interscope, an album would have to be rush-released to meet up with the massive digital demand. Souljaboytellem.com is Soulja Boy’s debut offering, and while it is predictably mediocre, few could have ever expected it to be so utterly bizarre. As a matter of fact, it borders on unintentionally hilarious.
The most amazing part of Souljaboytellem.com is how Soulja Boy not only produced his mega-hit, but that he handles production duties on virtually every song here. As a matter of fact, the outside producers that are brought in provide some of the disc’s weakest moments. “Sidekick” (produced by The Package Store) is a melody-free advertisement for the Sidekick cell phone, rife with keyboard blips that test the patience of even the most ardent of rap fans. The Package Store also produce “Don’t Get Mad”, a painfully redundant song where Soulja Boy tells the parents of rap fans to not get mad that their kids like listening to Soulja Boy (of course, this is assuming that the parents in question could survive through the 13 tracks preceding it). The only outside producer who scores any sort of originality is Los Vegas with the carefree pop-rap ballad “Soulja Girl”. It ultimately winds up being nothing more than a tepid rewrite of LL Cool J’s “I Need Love”, but with a melody this strong, it’s no wonder that it was slated as the album’s second single.
Yet a second single also implies there might be a third. A third single might even lead to another album. Yet Soulja Boy shows no signs of being an artist that’s actually aiming for a lasting career. He’s a rapper who exists solely for his singles, not for his contemplative, witty albums. As a matter of fact, Souljaboytellem.com‘s cleverest lyrical moment is during “Bapes” when he refers to sideman Arab’s shoe collection as being filled with “more colors than a bag of Skittles”. Otherwise, Soulja Boy seems totally content with making nothing more than innocuous club songs and PG-rated photocopies of 2 Live Crew’s back catalog. Yet fear not, worried parents, the most explicit line on the whole album is “girl, shake that booty meat”. Of course, the line was vaguely humorous when “booty meat” was replaced with “Laffy Taffy” and was sung by D4L. Here, it epitomizes the term “filler track”.
Though Soulja Boy can still crank out a good production here and there (particularly with the blazing dance-craze-in-the-making guitar lick on “Snap and Roll”), he ultimately comes off as a less-imaginative Lil’ Jon, relying more on hook than actual melody. The most grating aspect of the entire album is simply how Soulja Boy feels that a chorus can constitute of nothing more than a single spoken phrase repeated roughly 50 times within the span of a three-minute song. Aside from the fact that every track on the album can be trimmed down by at least a minute, this repeated vocal sample technique is used mainly to distract from the fact that as a rapper, Soulja Boy’s talents are unbelievably weak (see: any track). Plus, while it is customary for rap albums to have at least a couple of “boasting” tracks, Soulja Boy takes the notion to the extreme on “Yahhh!”, where he warns fans seeking autographs to stay away from him or else he’ll “hafta knock your lights out”, before screaming incoherent, angry phrases at his followers. Way to build a fan base Soulja Boy.
On “Report Card”, Soulja Boy laments how his report card is filled with F’s, soon turning to his teacher and asking that she “throw some D’s on that”, using the exact same sample that Rich Boy used on his own “Throw Some D’s” song. Soulja Boy thinks that this is funny, and for a moment it actually is. Yet when he samples the phrase “I pull out my report card” into a chorus (that’s, you guessed it, repeated dozens of times), envisioning it turning into a catchphrase or viral dance sensation becomes something of a “what the hell were you thinking?” kind of moment. Yes, it’s still only Soulja Boy’s debut effort, and at the ripe age of seventeen, we need to at least give him some time to develop. Still, it’s not too hard to envision Souljaboytellem.com in some discount clearance bin a few years from now. It’s the encapsulation of where rap production sits right now at the tail end of 2007, and it will serve little purpose beyond that of a time capsule for hip-hop nostalgia junkies. Yet no matter what legacy Soulja Boy ultimately leaves on music history, he at least gave us a rapping Dora the Explorer, and for that we can truly be thankful.