At 4:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Complex office, I watched Soulja Boy tell anyone who would listen, “I'm the hottest rapper in the game right now.”
At the time, I dismissed it as the latest exaggerated quote from the most entertaining press run in recent memory. But six hours later, as I stood in the Barclays Center and witnessed 20,000 people lose their shit over “Crank Dat” and “Pretty Boy Swag,” I believed him.
Damn, Young Drako really talked his way into the biggest comeback of 2019.
When 6ix9ine was arrested in November, he left an opportunity for someone to step in his place and troll themselves into relevance. Who would have guessed it would be the guy who says he invented that strategy in the first place? “6ix9ine isn't nothing but a Soujla Boy child," Soulja told the Breakfast Club on Monday. “He got all that shit from me when I was beefing with Chris Brown and Migos and Shia LaBeouf and everybody in the industry. 6ix9ine came out and just did the same thing I did.”
After stumbling into a viral moment last weekend (“Tyyyygaaaaaa?!?!?”), Soulja Boy knew what to do. He strapped on his Gucci headband, flew to New York, lined up as many interviews as possible, and name-dropped the biggest artists he could think of (Drake, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Donald Trump).
Speaking with Complex’s Speedy Morman, Soulja admitted that he’s trolling when he says things like record labels owe him 5% of all streaming revenue, but he’s serious about the level of influence he has on today’s biggest rappers. When he cites specific examples like Drake biting him on “Miss Me” and the fact that he created Nicki Minaj’s Twitter account for her, he makes it difficult to completely dismiss all these headlines as the ravings of an attention-starved wash-up. And that's exactly why this week was so effective.
Of course, Internet buzz is one thing, but it has yet to be seen whether all this attention will actually translate into a turnaround for Soulja’s stalling music career. He has had viral moments before that didn’t end up boosting his music success: Remember the winter of 2016?
The first sign that this year might be different for Soulja Boy came at Yams Day. On a night in which ASAP Rocky said, “Motherfuckers catch on years later, it just be like that sometimes,” in reference to the late ASAP Yams, Soulja flipped the internet chatter into real-life adoration. His antics were awarded with the most electric crowd reaction of the night (or at least a tie with an appearance from another comeback king, Meek Mill).
After taking the stage, Soulja dropped his new favorite one-liner (“I had the biggest comeback in 2018”), which was enough to convince everyone at Barclays to yell out the beginning of his first classic: “Yuuuuuuuuuu!” As he danced around the stage, I wondered if even he ever dreamed of a moment like this at this stage in his career. It was the perfect highlight for a night that ASAP Rocky designed to be an upbeat and positive celebration of Yams: “Fuck that cool shit, it's Yams Day.”
The next few weeks will be an interesting time for Young Drako.
Will he be able to keep building on this attention and land a song on the charts? It looks like he’s trying. Friday morning, after sharing links to all the interviews he’s done this week, Soulja Boy released a new music video for “New Drip” on WorldStar.
Or maybe this will be a repeat of 2016 and he’ll slide back to his position as a fun side character. Either way, I’m thankful for the entertainment so far this year, Soulja Boy. And I'll be even happier when I finally get my watch.