* out of *****
Who is DeAndre Way? If the name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s because Mr. Way is better known as Soulja Boy, the emerging 17-year-old rap superstar currently riding a wave of popularity brought on by his hit single “Crank That.”
A favorite jam among drunken college students everywhere, “Crank That” is three-and-a-half minutes of repetitive, lowbrow misogyny. In other words, it has all the makings of a great hip-hop smash.
But there’s another reason for Soulja Boy’s sudden burst of success. With infectious steel drums, irrepressible back-up vocals and a decidedly spare arrangement, “Crank That” doesn’t quite sound like anything else playing on urban radio. And that’s a very good thing.
Now, Soulja Boy has complemented his hit single with a full-length album: “SouljaBoyTellem.com.”
No, that’s not a typo; in what could be considered either a stroke of marketing genius or a sign of the impending apocalypse, the title of Soulja Boy’s debut is an embedded advertisement for his official website.
Unfortunately, the title is the most forward-thinking part of “SouljaBoyTellem.com.” Despite showing occasional signs of promise, the album quickly devolves into a pale imitation of better rap artists, all the while appealing to the lowest common denominator.
This is evident on songs such as “Booty Meat,” where Soulja Boy drones “girl, shake that booty meat, that booty meat, that booty meat,” again and again over the type of uninspired synths, hand-claps, and echoes that dominate the album’s sound.
Even worse is the treacly and derivative “Soulja Girl,” the album’s requisite ballad. Meanwhile, the premise of “Sidekick” is so ridiculous. Soulja himself seems to struggle with it: “man, I can’t believe that I’m rapping ’bout a phone / but what you won’t believe is I wrote this song.”
In all fairness, the “SouljaBoyTellem.com” does have its moments. “Snap and Roll” features a fierce, exhilarating electric guitar and “Don’t Get Mad” has the type of chorus that could get stuck in your head for days.
But even during the few instances when the music hits home, Soulja Boy’s vocal performance can’t stack up. His rhymes are slurred lazily and his singing voice is mediocre at best.
All of this begs the question, just how seriously is Soulja Boy taking himself? Who can call someone a “doo-doo head” in one song and describe his musical success as a “movement” in the next? Does Soulja Boy really think that he’s “super-fresh” or is this all part of his act, his marketing gimmick?
Listeners are ultimately left with the question: who is DeAndre Way?
As unrevealing as it is insipid, “SouljaBoyTellem.com” certainly does not provide an answer.
Until Soulja Boy starts taking his music as seriously as he takes his footwear, he will never be worth more than a couple spins at a party.