It was easy to dismiss any follow-up music from Soulja Boy. “Crank That” was a smash for the young, dance craze-obsessed market in late 2007, but it was meant to end there. One and done. Nothing else to see here. Little did the world know that DeAndre Way's knack for social media marketing meant people across the world were watching his growth and anticipating his next big move. By the next summer, we had a mini evolution.
“Teen of the South” is the most significant mixtape in Soulja Boy's vast discography. The 2008 release marked the first of dozens of style switches, this time after he'd made a name for himself, made new friends and honed in on a street-pleasing alternative to his mainstream releases. Excusing the dances that didn’t catch on (“The Dre, “iDance”), Soulja asserts that he's here to stay with experimental self-produced tracks and link ups with the South's bubbling underground superstars.
“Gucci Bandana” is a great place to start. Soulja energises his slow flowing cohorts – Gucci Mane and Shawty Lo – with a clumsily bouncy instrumental. Standing beside Trap heavyweights, we see a marked shift in the young rapper's direction. Swapping out synchronised dance routines for the flossiest verse of the year. It’s a complete changeround to that misstep of a debt album.
While the rest of Atlanta was trying to hone in on a new sound everyone could get down with, Soulja Boy leant on a familiar one that led to its clubs breakthrough: Crunk. We're not talking that playful synth version either; Soulja Boy's in it full force when he places “Go Ham on ‘Em” midway through the tracklist and follows it up with his collaboration with then-associates Show Stoppaz on “Whoop Rico”.
You would assume the immediate Snap predecessors – Dem Franchize Boyz, Yung Joc and BHI – had a heavy influence, but instead Soulja uses this release to demonstrate how to nail that primal call and response style that had recent gone out of style. At the other end, he toys with a more playful style on “Zooted” and even gets he singing on with “Senorita”. He won’t get credit for it, but Soulja Boy made a time machine for the sounds of Atlanta half a decade later.
“Photo Shoot”, “Shoppin' Spree” and the Bow Wow collab “Marco Polo” have Soulja Boy adjusting to newfound fame with ease. He settles into this flashy lifestyle and laps up all of the benefits that come along with it. Sonically, he straddles the was making tunes fit for kid-friendly 106 & Park, while still having his foot in with those that made Trap before it could get you a Jimmy Fallon slot.
The mixtape is a highlight in the sea of late '00s Southern Rap releases. It revealed unexpectedly familiar influences from the '90s baby generation on the rise. Heavy with the bass, boasy with the rhymes, plenty more than a couple dance crazes.
“Teen of the South” is a pure release from one of Rap's most undervalued talents.
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