Thursday, December 2
Better Than: Every rap show I’ve covered this year. (‘Sup, Drake.)
There’s a lot of nonsense associated with Soulja Boy. Excessive use of the word “swag” aside, the guy’s most popular songs revolve around vaguely absurd hooks that are just barely coherent. He’s 20 years old and has already had a very public run-in with Kat Stacks. And what about his new voicemail-meets-Twitter idea, the latest development in his ongoing social-media takeover? Surprisingly, it’s all working for him, and after last night’s album-release party for his third album, The DeAndre Way, at Webster Hall, it’s safe to say that Soulja Boy might be the hardest-working youngster in the game.
Hot 97’s Mr. Cee was the unsung hero of the night, holding over the rowdy crowd not-so-patiently waiting for the rapper to show up. “There were a lot of people who wouldn’t do this show,” he shouted into the mic, rallying yells of approval; the intro to “We Be Steady Mobbin” cued the declaration “Fuck these DJs, I’m the best DJ.” It was that sort of self-aggrandizing banter — paired with plenty of hype-man roll-calls and an awesome mix of dancehall, reggae, and top-40 rap — that kept the three girls in front of us grinding up against the railings (and into whichever friend happened to pass by). By this time it was past 1 a.m. and Soulja Boy was still on his laptop, Tweeting links to recommended Soulja Boy websites. (Social-media king, indeed.)
Finally, around 2, Soulja bounded onstage, throwing a wad of bills into the crowd amid the chorus to “Turn My Swag On.” All smiles (and, yes, swag), the rapper, decked out in a puffy white vest, baseball cap, and two gigantic gold chains, didn’t have to do much to make the place erupt. We expected more than six songs at such an event, but what he did do, he did with enthusiasm. Choreographed dances figured heavily throughout (no “Crank Dat,” though) as the kid scurried from one side of the stage to the other, seductively body-rolling for the shrieking ladies up front, only to playfully laugh it off and move on to another gaggle.
Of the new tracks, “30 Thousand 100 Million” made the biggest impact (we’re still not sure why he didn’t do “Speakers Goin’ Hammer”), but it was the older “Donk” that really got the crowd in a tizzy. One girl managed to briefly climb onstage for a few booty-shakes (and encouraging slaps from the audience behind her) before getting pushed back down by security. Meanwhile, the shrieks were rewarded as the rapper started stripping down, shedding his vest and, soon, his shirt. At every interval, Soulja would lean into a press pit on either side of the stage for a few verses, rapping directly into a bright video camera and posing for a half dozen SLRs before scurrying over to the other side and doing the same thing. That doesn’t include the 10 or so photographers onstage as well. The dude is never not working.
The thrill was short-lived, though, as “Pretty Boy Swag” closed out the 30-minute set; cohort Lil B’s “cooking dance” was especially prevalent during this last hurrah, and while watching his hype man hopelessly try to keep up, we realized why we were enjoying ourselves so much: It’s because Soulja Boy isn’t a rapper so much as a full-on entertainer, and a sincere one at that. The Tweets, the dances, the media-hounding . . . it’s entirely forgivable and absolutely endearing when we can see how much fun he’s having onstage (a rare feat for a rap show). One more flurry of bills, a few hundred more photo-ops, one last resounding “Swag!”, and the rapper left the stage. And though the show was over, he continued to Tweet about it for the next several hours.
Random Notebook Dump: Chris Brown will be appearing at the next installment of this “hip-hop massive at Webster Hall” event. Everyone seemed very excited to hear that.
Turn My Swag On
30 Thousand 100 Million
Kush on Deck
Pretty Boy Swag