The Soulja Boy Syndrome

Posted by Justin Boland on Sep 17, 2010 | 0 Comments

This is a follow-up to an earlier piece, Love Thy Hater, that focused on how an artist should approach negative feedback. This piece is about a bigger issue: the haters themselves.Yeah, you know…us. You and me and everyone we know. Folks, we really need to break that loop. Not only does it make us look ugly, not only does it fill our bloodstream with stress hormones that break down our cells and reduce our actual life, but it’s also Really Stupid, because we wind up accomplishing…the exact opposite of what we want. In 2010, when you hate on something using the internet, you’re only making it stronger…

Let’s start with Andre Cortez Way.

Saying that Soulja Boy is not good at rapping is like not talking at all. There’s no information or meaning there. Everyone already knows this, it didn’t need to be said. He knows it, too, he jokes about it. He also gives no fucks, he’s making money. It’s not hip hop, folks, it’s business.

What’s remarkable about Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em the business is how much it was built on the word-of-mouth advertising and infamous name recognition that was provided entirely by his haters, online, over the radio and in print. By making Soulja Boy into the butt of every wack rapper joke we told for 2 years, by posting blogs shitting on him for 20 paragraphs, by leaving 200+ angry caps-lock comments when someone posted a new song or video, by writing up snotty articles in major national magazines about this borderline retard who somehow got a hit on YouTube, all this hatred was essentially a vast volunteer street team that literally put that kid on the map. We did it. There is nobody else to point fingers at — if we’d stopped paying attention, he really would have gone away.

Here’s the real problem: we do this a lot lately. Let’s step outside of rap for a second and check out the most recent and perfect example of Soulja Boy Syndrome: the backwoods man-walrus known as Terry Jones.

I live in a state with easily 10,000 small town, ego tripping hatemongers exactly like this particular poodle. My problem with Terry Jones has nothing to do with his plans to burn a holy book. Sure, he runs a very strange cult and he was kicked out of his last church down the road because he was stealing their money, but all his hypocrisies and sins are beside the point, too: the real problem is, he’s fucking stupid and nothing he has to say matters. Just like the utterly fictional “Ground Zero Mosque” story, there’s no actual substance here at all, just a lot of controversial issues getting thrown into a blender and spoon fed to America in single sentence soundbites.

This is why Sarah Palin and Tila Tequila got famous. This is why Lil’ B can sell out a show in New York while Fat Beats is going out of business. This is why Glenn Beck is taken seriously despite having repeated mental breakdowns on his own TV show. This is why reality TV is still going strong years after the writers strike ended, and this is why it keeps getting worse, too.

Our culture is turning into a Wal-Mart porno nightmare and we’re not going to stop this with criticism. Getting angry about all this shit only gives it power. We need to start taking the most difficult step: not engaging with bullshit at all. Our most hateful commentary is still just free advertising. The only way to break this loop is to simply walk away.

In other words…Q: Why do we have such shitty music as a culture? A: Because we love to bitch about it.

Do you know what Social Media is? Hundreds of millions of people whispering commentary in the movie theater. We didn’t make the movie, we don’t own the theater, the news is still owned by the same Old White Men who have been running show since before Al Gore invented the Internet. We’re all yelling at politicians on a TV in our living rooms, only we also get to offer commentary on one anothers commentary: then we can get into arguments about that, too.

Sure, I’ve given up my faith in humanity, but look — I don’t blame you for any of this. Humans are biologically hardwired for this, so don’t think I’m passing judgment on you for being lazy and stupid. Human beings love to gossip and talk shit about whoever is not in the room at the time because it makes us feel good, because it literally activates pleasure centers in our brain and triggers the release of endorphins into our bloodstream. Hating is a drug, basically. It won’t be easy for us to kick it, not individually and definitely not collectively.

I’m going to do it anyway. Join me if you can.

“My rule of thumb is simple - don’t like it, don’t read it. By directing hits to the sites you dislike, you’re helping them in the long run.”

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Music by Justin Boland