Dr. Boyce: Soulja Boy Has Become the New Flava Flav

soulja boy has become the new flava flav

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World

In his latest and most interesting act of what I shall refer to as an “on-going masterpiece of unadulterated ignorance,” the rapper Soulja Boy wrote some lyrics that were clearly disrespectful of American troops risking their lives fighting overseas.    In his song, “Let’s Be Real,” the rapper says:

[Bleep] the FBI and [bleep] all the Army troops/ Fighting for what? [Bleep] be your own man,”

Of course the lyrics didn’t win Soulja Boy too many new fans.  There are groups calling for a boycott of his music and also asking that he be banned from military bases.  It also led him to issue an immediate apology:

“Sometimes there are things that we feel, things that we want to express, and when we put them on paper and speak them out loud, they can come out wrong,” he said.

In fact, I think that we should hear him out:

As an artist, I let my words get the best of me. Sometimes there are things that we feel, things that we want to express, and when we put them on paper and speak them out loud, they can come out wrong. When I expressed my frustration with the US Army, not only did my words come out wrong, I was wrong to even speak them. So, I write this to give my sincerest apology to all members of the United States military services, as well as their families that were offended by my most recent lyrics.

As a young man who grew up in the post-9/11 era, I have watched our country fight two wars that seem like they are never going to end. I have seen thousands and thousands of our brave men and women get killed in battle and often times, I think for what? A lot of people in this country are struggling to make ends meet and I think a lot about what if we had never gone to war. Where would our economy be? Our schools, our after-school and work programs, our streets? I mean, damn, 48 people got shot in New York City just this past weekend … in 3 days … I’m not saying that it is just because of a bad economy, but at a certain point we have to take care of our own people.

In no way would I ever want to offend those who are protecting our freedoms … a lot of homeboys who I grew up with, a lot of people who come from the neighborhoods we live in … In no way do I want to hurt any of our honorable soldiers who put their lives at risk, regardless of how they feel about the two wars we fight in. I am just frustrated that we haven’t been able to bring you all home quick enough and my frustration got the best of me. I am deeply sorry.

I love the fact that with all of his ridiculous behavior, Soulja Boy is smart enough to have a publicist who can write statements in clear English.  His peer Bow Wow issued a far more interesting statement after the birth of his daughter, using phrases like “With out yall i wudda been left the game. For the past 3 years i been batteling life.”  Statements like these serve as clear reflections of where young black men are headed today – I really hate having to “go Bill Cosby,” but some would say there are a slew of non-racial reasons that we have the highest unemployment rate in the entire United States. Yes, that last statement might get me into trouble with those who think that white folks are the only reason that we choose to do some of the silly things we do, but we’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit that some of us have bought into the recipe for our own self-destruction.

Now, we can’t quite correlate intelligence with grammatical skills, at least I can’t.  I found myself on the failing end of far too many English classes during high school.  But we have to take a moment of pause when we see brothers embracing ignorance in a world where the cost of ignorance is slavery, humiliation and death.  Yes, the school system, modern media and American racism serve to glamorize a life of marginalization, hoop dreams and incarceration, but we also have the opportunity to decide if we are going to make ourselves into the clowns of our society.

With that said, it has been Soulja Boy’s commitment to ignorance which leads me to continuously shake my head in exasperation.  It started with his statement in 2008 glorifying slave masters for bringing his ancestors to America.   Then, there was the remote control, diamond-encrusted car that he bought a couple of years ago.   Oh yea, the car also doubles as a massive chain that he can put around his neck.   Soulja Boy is clearly  a living, breathing manifestation of the counter-productive, anti-intellectual behavior that has come to characterize an entire generation.   We have Bob and Sheila Johnson at BET to thank for much of that.

But I’ll admit that I see potential in Soulja Boy.  During his public feud with the rapper Ice-T, Soulja Boy had been accused by older artists (perhaps correctly) of helping to degrade the value of hip-hop in American society.  Personally, I felt that it was a bit harsh to blame a 17-year old kid for the destruction of hip-hop.   I also sought to remind folks that just a year earlier, Soulja Boy was a struggling young man trying to feed his family.  After receiving his attacks from Ice-T, Soulja Boy actually defended himself quite well, and even explained that older artists should spend their time mentoring young rappers rather than chastising them.

My point is that in spite of what others may think, Soulja Boy is not dumb.  However, like so many other young men in black America, Soulja Boy has chosen deliberate buffoonery, because being an intelligent black man has simply gone out of style.  In fact, I would argue that you have to be a genius to act as ignorant as Soulja Boy does on a daily basis.   This is a sad and pathetic waste of energy.

But in keeping with Soulja Boy’s request that older men supplement their criticism with sound advice, I thought I would share a few thoughts with the annoying little kid that my daughters seem to love so much.  In fact, I have nightmares that I could end up becoming his father-in-law.  On the night that Soulja Boy marries one of my daughters, here are a few things I would say:

1) Don’t say things that make white people mad. They have a lot of power, and can destroy your career.  Black people might get upset, but they even forgive artists like R. Kelly, so their attention span tends to be incredibly short.  Angering white folks, on the other hand, might put you in the poor house.   By speaking against the troops, you are really hitting a very sensitive issue, like when Michael Vick killed some puppies and a host on Fox News wanted to give him the death penalty.   Also, you may have all the fans and some of the money, but like other hip-hop artists, there is some white man out there who owns you.  Unfortunately, many of us so-called “powerful black public figures” think we have independence, when the glaring reality is that we do not.

2) Go pick up a book and take on the responsibility that God has given you with your public platform. You are shaping millions of minds with your repetitive, artistically-weak, yet incredibly catchy music.  If you are affecting so many minds, it is up to you make sure you are influencing them in the right direction.   Important issues such as mass incarceration, poverty and educational inequality are destroying black families across America, and the last thing they want is for you to rap about bling that most black people can’t even afford.  I understand that being young creates a natural inclination toward social deviance….so, use that social deviance to change the world for the better and to liberate your people from the bondage of oppression.  In fact, go make up a corny song about it; it could be your next hit.

3) Stop wasting all your money on airplanes, jewelry and other stupid stuff. Most rappers don’t last very long in the industry, and it’s hard to go back to Burger King after being one of the hottest artists in the world.  Find a way to make better decisions and stop embarrassing yourself and your family in public.  You, my brother, are becoming the new Flava Flav.  That’s not cool, and it’s not even “gangsta.”  It’s just stupid.  Do you really want to be like Flava Flav when you get older?  I didn’t think so.

OK, I’m done with my tough love lesson for Soulja Boy.  But in the event that Soulja Boy isn’t hearing this (money tends to make us deaf, dumb and blind), I encourage other young black men to reclaim and reshape their destiny into an image of their choosing, and not some manifestation of corporate-created coonishness.   Just like Soulja Boy, our potential is infinite.  But it doesn’t mean a thing if we don’t wake ourselves up collectively.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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    • BuckwheatsMomma
    • September 7th, 2011

    Soulja Boy is ignorant and is an embarrassment to the human race, period!

    • G. C. Wright
    • September 7th, 2011

    The characterizations are spot-on. Soulja Boy is not a hip hop “artist” or even a rapper. He is a hook-act, who has catchy, kitschy, commercial-like jingles that are easy enough for even our narrow-minded youth to recall and repeat. He is coonery and buffoonery all wrapped up into a BET burrito of ignorance that is force-fed to our children every day as parents allow Bob and Sheila Johnson to babysit their children. Kudos, Dr. Watkins.

    • John Henry
    • September 7th, 2011

    The wars are bogus. White people and their Tom-ass allies need to get it through their thick freaking heads.

    I wish we had the draft so people would be more hesitant to send us off to some far off, abstract part of the world to murder men, women, and children. A draft would definitely expose our UNJUST military state because you better believe there are decent people who say no to “Democracy at the barrel of gun” and would protest in the spirit of MLK, who agreed that America is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.

    • Waiting on Black Folks to stand up and Fight
    • September 8th, 2011

    Nice article, but to live your life trying not to make white people mad is foolish and the reason why Obama hasn’t really got anything done. It’s also the reason why blacks are still being killed by bad cops, and why we are still marching to the tunes of we shall overcome 30 years later while one of our brothers and sisters are dying in prison while serving an unjust sentence. What ever happen to black power? Oh I forgot they made white people mad and now many of them are political prisoners. That sounds just as ignorant as what Souljah Boy said. Black people suffer in this country because too many of our own cater to the feelings of white folks that will destroy you anyway. No black leaders were ever afraid. Oh boy look at us now. Souljah Boy can offend Ice T, a man who has Cleary made his mark in the entertainment field, and knows more about hip hop than the writer of this article, but you can’t offend the white man. No sir master. I’m truly bugging. That’s not a way to live. That’s not a way to permit others to live. If he reads some of these books that speak about poverty and prison, he will clearly see that white people are behind a lot of that. If this is what we are taught to believe, then the world is going to hate the rappers to come. They are forming as we speak. They are not buffoonish at all. And they don’t compromise the truth to spare anyone’s feelings. I can’t believe that was even said, but I learn something new every day from my own people. Now that’s tough love. Please learn from It.

      • Anonymous
      • September 14th, 2011

      EXCELLENT RHETORIC FROM SLICK ROYAL. IN THE GUISE OF A WHITE MAN, WATCH WHAT YOU READ AND SAY..

    • Slick Royal
    • September 9th, 2011

    I am amazed that Soulja Boy actually had some significant political lyrics, instead of saying some wack garbage over and over again… As a white man I would NEVER join the military, as it a mass institution of propaganda and brainwashing, period. To attack the troops on a personal level is stupid, though, because the whole military industrial complex is the true evil. The government uses minorities and poor people as cannon fodder under the guise of “freedom.” What you are actually fighting for is corporate greed and maintaining a status quo for a bunch of rich assholes. How many senators or congressmen have kids in the military? Even a lame like Soulja can recognize the sickness, and Dr. Boyce is scared of him offending Whitey? I applaud that kid for getting it off his chest, he just said it the wrong way… P.S. When you celebrate the 9/11 anniversary, just remember it was a false-flag attack orchestated to destroy our Constitution and turn us ALL into slaves…. and who do you think they are going to attack first? Stand up, be proactive and realize there are a lot of white people who will stand with you in solidarity until we have equality!
    God Bless You!

  1. no joke????

  2. ok

    • Anonymous
    • September 14th, 2011

    Good lesson for a lot of US. I hope we can put it into practice.

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