Snarky Behavior

Reading Between the Lines: Deconstructing Soulja Boy

November 15, 2007 · 3 Comments

Last week marked the end of Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” seven-week reign on top of the Billboard 100 charts. Before Mr. Boy follows the Italian marble-with-gold-inlay-brick road into bankrupcy and obscurity, we should take a moment to interpret the significance of his words in the historical context in which they were written.

Soulja boy off in this ho
Watch me crank it
Watch me roll
Watch me crank dat soulja boy
Then super man dat ho!

The 16-year old’s adoption of the name “Soulja Boy” in a post 9/11 environment, at a time when our country is fighting a two-front war, is somewhat of a departure from the crunk/dumb/hyphy movement that has most recently dominated the hip-hop movement, and a revisionist regression to the thug-life style that preceded it.

Consistent with the necessities of self-promotion in any introductory single, “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)” is particularly interesting in its establishment of a hyper-masculine self-identity vis-a-vis several distinct social signifiers:

Soulja Boy’s postulations of masculinity are reinforced by affiliations with an institutional terminology endemic to the military establishment, which both propagate and legitimize said identity. However, it is important to note that the term “Soldier” is not incorporated whole-sale, but piece meal: whereas a soldier is a conformed, replaceable part submersed within a larger operation, a “Soulja” emphasizes his unique identity through self-referential dandyism (”watch me crank it, watch me roll”), highlighting his individual talents, namely sexual.

Soulja Boy’s claims are confirmed by the refrain “then super man dat ho.” According to urbandictionary.com, to “superman a ho” is to “have sex with a woman from behind, after climax pull out, and [ejaculate] on her back. When she tells the guy to wipe it off, he pretends too, and when she wakes up, she has the bed sheets stuck to her back like superman’s cape.”

Nope…didnt make that up. This was the #1 song on the airwaves for seven weeks… as Dave Chappelle says about the term “skeet skeet skeet”… “White people don’t know what it means yet!”

Hip-hop has forever been charged with blatant misogyny, but codifying a degrading sexual act in otherwise innocuously mainstream terminology seems more humorous than it does derogatory. In the same sense that “dead baby jokes” evoke a dark humor with escalating levels of grotesqueness, so it seems audacious sexual acts (or claims thereof) are increasingly self-satisfying to the extent by which they cleverly embarrass and degrade the female sexual partner. Implicit to this relationship is the understanding that only complicit women would tolerate such abuse, which is in turn further reinforcement of a masculine identity that asserts its undeniable will on the opposite sex.

The term “superman” therefore seems somewhat appropriate in the Nietzschian sense– an assertion of will, a rejection of behavioral consciousness as constrained by societal norms (yes Carlo, fast and loose here, I apologize). However, let us not forget the alternate identity to Superman: the anxious and uncomfortable Clark Kent, who is utterly impotent and uncomfortable with his ego. Kent must couch himself in a cape and uniform to assume the unfaltering male characteristics of strength, bravery and chivalry.

Not to say there is anything chivalrous about clandestinely using semen as slow drying cement, but certainly there is underlying anxiety that motivates a 16-year old to so emphatically posit himself as a “Soulja Boy” who cranks dat.

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