Music

Soulja Boy Tell 'Em: iSouljaBoyTellem

Meme-cum-pop-rapstar Soulja Boy returns for another outing, sans novelty value.


Soulja Boy Tell 'Em

iSouljaBoyTellem

Label: Interscope
UK Release Date: Available as import
US Release Date: 2008-12-16
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

So it’s come to this -- a followup from Soulja Boy that would have felt too soon if it came out in 2018, called iSouljaBoyTellem, overflowing with reminders that Soulja Boy is young (a scant 18 years) and wealthy, as are his friends. He’s got a lot of money, a house you (the average listener) probably couldn’t afford, and Mr. Collipark behind him. He’s sold records and he has millions of MySpace and YouTube friends.

And what about music? From the sound of iSouljaBoyTellem, he could care less. After listening to hours of snooze-inducing braggadocio from Soulja Boy, I’m hard-pressed to have an inkling that he really needs to be making music. In an era where pop stars become bad actors and authors (and vice versa) by default, it’s hard to believe that Soulja Boy wouldn’t be just as happy being a horrible actor or a clumsy writer, instead of the embarrassing monotone entertainer that he is.

Let’s back up a minute, because this is starting to sound like the curmudgeonly tirade readers might expect from music critics. I’m not breaking any new ground by pointing out that Soulja Boy isn’t a great MC -- he’s received far more damning criticisms from rap luminaries like Ice-T and Snoop Dogg, and I’m not going to add anything more credible to the well-deserved bile. Further, “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” is an infectious single, possessing the kind of dumb fun appeal that’s hard to deny. A fun single, but it didn’t necessitate an album the first time around (2007’s filler-ridden Souljaboytellem.com), and iSouljaBoyTellem does one worse by lacking anything equal to “Crank That”.

By now, Soulja Boy is used to hearing that he’s the bane of rap music, a symbol of its over-commercialization and creative drought. On “Soulja Boy Tell’em”, he throws money and MySpace stats at critics: “Three times platinum yeah I broke the record / If you can’t respect that tell me what is you respectin’?” The obvious answers here -- creativity, art, passion, and music with a soul -- seem to evade Soulja Boy. He’s a depressing end game for any genre: he only sees industry, refusing to place value on anything that doesn’t relate to album sales or online social network popularity. If Soulja Boy could turn a profit from defecating into a microphone and selling it, I’m pretty sure “Shit That” would be his next single.

Touching on the music, iSouljaBoyTellem features the mediocre snap production we’ve come to expect from Mr. Collipark’s protégés. Booming basses, tinny snares and snaps, and some keyboard lines that maybe took five minutes to loop are the M.O. here. In some demented way it’s an original style, but a boring and endlessly derivative one. Still, given that “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” was crafted from stock samples in Fruity Loops, anything further removed from pressing a “demo” button is a comparative step up.

iSouljaBoyTellem is that rare record which makes the listener tired just from listening to it. Soulja Boy’s verses are delivered in a grating, off-key sing-song drawl, with the resulting effect that he sounds like he’d rather be doing anything at the moment but laying down a track. Given his youth, Soulja Boy has precious few meaningful experiences to draw on for his lyrics -- “I Pray (Outro)” is the only cut to take baby steps toward depth. Recounting growing up in a broken home, Soulja Boy for the first time sounds relatable. The track is still full of yawn-inducing repetitions of “Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em” -- isn’t there a verbal disorder that causes people to repeat the same phrase inappropriately? -- but for the first time, it’s feasible that Soulja Boy has something substantive to rap about. Comparatively, the intro track, “I’m Bout Tha Stax”, has him declaring allegiance to swag, ice, and cars. If only he could also be about the music.

iSouljaBoyTellem ultimately fails because it’s barely memorable, lacking any kind of successor to “Crank That” to keep Soulja Boy relevant. The press material for the album tellingly refers to a yet-to-be-released video as “viral”, symptomatic of the grating lolrapper that Soulja Boy has become. After being told to “eat a dick” by Ice-T, Soulja Boy responded by dissing Ice for having been born before the Internet was around, as though the rap industry couldn’t have existed without it. Soulja Boy needs the most inane social data of the Internet to justify his continued existence as a rapper, but even the online reception to iSouljaBoyTellem has thus far been tepid. Perhaps a lack of more platinum singles will convince the industry-minded Soulja Boy to hang it up, or at least go back to the drawing board.

2

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.