Soulja Boy Tell Em — “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”

Released: 5.2.07

Peak: #1

Have you heard? Soulja Boy killed hip-hop. Unlike all those meaningful dance crazes of the past–“The Locomotion,” say, or “Pee Wee’s Dance”–the Soulja Boy Dance lacked artistic merit. Or something. I heard as much from Ice-T, who channeled his inner Steve Allen in response to DeAndre Way’s rise to fame. I’d have expected as much from Chuck D, whose dogged resistance to pleasure has always been part of his cranky charm. But a dude who’s pissed his talent away on a police procedural for the past, what, forty years, wants to lecture kids on Big Daddy Kane? Tell it to Munch, dude.

Call “Crank That” teenybopper rap if you like, but ask yourself what would make that a dis. Integral to the long, if spotty tradition of teenybopper rap is a callow smugness that’d beg for a smack if a full-fledged grown-up fronted with it, but can be endearing in a kid. Soulja Boy and his little pal Arab hardly add up to Kris Kross in their prime, but they’re as clearly an evolutionary advance over the Fresh Prince as Backstreet and NSYNC were over NKOTB. And Bow Wow, Romeo — those kids don’t even compete.

Or call “Crank That” “ringtone rap,” and file your softening brain away under “what the men don’t know…” Not only was that chintzy steel-drum synth the hook of the year, but perhaps no other hip-hop lyrics inspired such meaningful discourse in 2007. We pondered whether to “superman that ho” meant what we thought it did (geez, your jizz is that superadhesive?), or whether he was exclaiming “Superman dat, oh!” Like the best teen crazes, “Crank That” confused the sort of grown-ups who deserve nothing less. In a world where “grown-up rap” means Rick Ross, I’d rather kick it with Peter Pan myself.

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