Soulja Boy: Pioneer of rap, internet, internet rap, and videogames.
Take yourself back to a more innocent time. A time when the final Harry Potter book had yet to be released, when Bob Barker was still hosting The Price Is Right, and when wearing a long white short sleeve t-shirt was still considered fashionable. It was 2007, and DeAndre Way was 17 years old. Looking to get his talent out of Atlanta and in front of millions of potential fans, DeAnre recorded a music video equipped with a catchy dance routine. It worked. DeAndre Way went on to become Soulja Boy and Soulja Boy went on to become the most polarizing figure in rap music since Vanilla Ice.
While certain old people criticize him for ruining hip-hop and being on their lawn, others laud him for embracing the reinvigoration of the “Singles Era,” where a string of catchy songs could lay as the foundation of your career. It’s the ages-old pop formula, applied to rap and done so perfectly. Soulja Boy's debut was literally everywhere in 2007, but he also followed it up with a number of hits off all of his first three albums after that. Even though these days he seems more interested in making weird, occasionally wonderful mixtapes than sculpting bangers that both soccer moms and teenage girls know the words to, Soulja Boy has done more than just release potentially some of the greatest albums ever. Here are five things that Soulja Boy invented by himself with no help from anybody!
BEING AN EARLY ADOPTER
Up until 2007, artists were mainly using MySpace to spread their talents around. Soulja Boy was one of these MySpace users but he also saw the opportunity present in using YouTube—then only two years old—to release not only his music video, but also an instructional video where he explained how to preform the dance in an abandoned swimming pool. Before “Crank Dat” took over YouTube, the faux-marketing concept of a viral video didn't even exist. In addition to helping YouTube become the multimedia giant that they are today, Soulja Boy continues to be one of the first users to successfully grasp how a new app works. Twitter, Instagram and Vine were blessed with Soulja Boy's presence in their infancy, making DeAndre the biggest celebrity in Silicon valley since that time the guys at Twitter made Kanye West preform in exchange for a verified check mark.
INTRICATE AND WIDELY-ACCEPTED DANCE ROUTINES
The thing that never gets mentioned when criticizing the Crank Dat dance is just how damn difficult it was. Jump-cross-jump-uncross-right-foot-to-left-hand-stomp-right-knee-tap-superman-pushoff? Are you fucking kidding me? It brought together the popular snap dance craze, was made better when preformed with a long t-shit and looked great when properly executed on a high-school gymnasium floor. Compare that to the Gangnam Style Pony Dance or the newfangled, no-guideline bullshits like the Harlem Shake and the flailing invisible pull-up monstrosity that is “Rap Hands,” and marvel at the amount of coordination the general population had in 2007. There's a good chance that everyone that has ever said anything negative about Soulja Boy has only done so because they were unable to pull off the Crank Dat dance. Those people deserve all of your pity.
What do Lil B, Chief Keef, Riff Raff and Migos have in common? All of them honed their talents in the SODMG incubator. And although Soulja Boy may not have been able to keep some of these bridges from being burnt as time went on, he's still discovered more made-for-the-internet rappers than Lyor Cohen or Tumblr. It's almost become a weird rite of passage for upstart talent that looks to make popular music that pisses purists off. Making a song with Soulja Boy is the audio equivalent of Hollywood's casting couch: off-putting but necessary.
BEING A BAD INFLUENCE ON JUSTIN BIEBER
Before Lil Twist taught Justin how to roll a joint and turned him into Biebervelli, the foundation had already been set by DeAndre. Justin couldn't help falling under Soulja's influence and has done some very Soulja-like things since his floppy-haired days. The tattoos, the explosion of attitude, the pet monkey. All of these events stem from listening to too much Pretty Boy Swag.
A RENAISSANCE IN INDIE GAMING
Braid was the critically-acclaimed independent video game that was very popular to a small group of people when it was released on the Xbox Live Arcade. But praise from critics can only take you so far and positive reviews don't pay the rent, so the game's creator needed someone to help bring the joy of Braid to the masses. Fortunately, Soulja Boy downloaded it and thought it was fucking brilliant. He posted a video where he praised the time-travel mechanism and Braid sales climbed as a result. The financial success that the game’s creator Jonathan Blow received caused a number of game developers to begin working on their own dream-game. This renaissance in gaming even went on to inspire a documentary called Indie Game: The Movie. Unfortunately, in the movie Jonathan Blow says that Soulja Boy's praise of the game's top layer (the mechanics and the aesthetics) may have caused people to not look beyond the surface and see the true meaning of Braid. I'm not sure what the true meaning is, but it obviously doesn't revolve around being grateful because JONATHAN BLOW IS A GIANT SACK OF SHIT FOR NOT UNDERSTANDING THE GIFT HE HAS RECEIVED.
Slava Pastuk eats food and has a beard and lives in Canada. He's on Twitter - @SlavaP