Soulja Boy is the Rap Game Donald Trump
Rappers and politicians have more in common than you think
Image: Jenny Scales
For the past few weeks, Soulja Boy, a rapper who years ago used to ask girls to kiss him through the phone, had found his way to every corner of my digital existence. I had fallen into a Soulja Boy content wormhole.
On YouTube, I found myself transfixed by his tales of a shooting he committed in self-defense. On Twitter, I learned Chris Brown and him are from the same hood: Bompton (a dubious point, as they respectively hail from Virginia and Atlanta). On Instagram, I heard that Big Soulja was still good in the hood. “Ain’t that right?” Soulja said before being pushed by someone who clearly thought that he was not, in fact, as “good in the hood“ as he may have thought.
I didn’t look away and even if I wanted to, there was nowhere to look. It seemed everyone in my sphere of influence was either commenting on him or mocking him, but it didn’t matter.
With each misstep, what remained of Soulja’s reputation seemed to be unraveling, post by post. And yet, even as the collective FOH and SMH meters of the internet redlined, it seemed like he was drawing a larger and larger circle of digital ubiquity.
Everywhere I looked, he was there. Soulja bears an unmistakable resemblance to the soon-to-be leader of the United States of Amerikkka.
Soulja Boy is the rap game Donald Trump. Both of these men spent their entire career in the limelight for creations of dubious quality. Stoking the embers of their fading careers in the nascent age of social media, they picked battles with much more relevant individuals. For Trump, it was the racist conspiracy he pushed surrounding Obama’s birth certificate that kickstarted his political career. And for Soulja, an internet conflict with Lil’ Yachty propelled him into the forefront of the blogosphere’s headlines.
The outcome of these battles is almost irrelevant. There is no winning or losing in this age (at least not in the traditional sense). Trump’s attempt to delegitimize the nation’s first black president should have ended his career, but instead it attracted a whole new fan base, that later would help propel him to the most powerful position in the world.
There is no line too far to be crossed, there is no embarrassment too great, no lie that cannot be told and then later implausibly denied. These moments of controversy may in turn be impermanent. But these moments have a snowball effect: each new shitstorm creates more and more shitstorms. There are so many moments of disgust, it’s nearly impossible to focus on their most outrageous claims for that day. Meanwhile, Soulja and Donald double down on the crazy, move on, and make sure that those eyeballs keep watching and the commentators continue to comment.
This is how social media was designed to work; it’s an echo chamber. Algorithms set in place ensure that whatever you search for and whatever you spend your time looking at will find its way more often to you. So if you like seeing lavish jewelry, fake asses and starter pack memes, you’re going to find that wherever you look.
Celebrities, politicians and corporations understand the power of these eyeballs, and they use it the way any good, red-blooded American has in the past: to sell shit. Whether its a boxing match against Chris Brown or a United States presidency as Vladimir Putin’s puppet, there’s money to be made and ego’s to be fed.
Soulja and Donald trace the same archetype. The individual is what matters in today’s world. The concept of 15 minutes of fame seems like some oddly quaint trope in the world of Instagram models, alt-right Twitter trolls and sponsored content. And once the individual put their hooks into their audience, there’s no turning away.
They can sell whatever it is they want to sell.
You’re going to have to watch, after all, everyone loves a good train wreck.