I was one of those who thought that the term “Crank that Soulja Boy” would immediately mean the end of the Black race as we knew it.
Many performances in the history of entertainment in America have been at the expense of a black person’s self-respect and/or a black person’s sensitivities to being a part of such a marginalized social grouping. From blackface to coonery, and from token stereotypical black characters in early white sitcoms, to black sitcoms making fun of us on their own, entertainment has long been a platform to disrespect the race.
And when I first saw “Crank That Soulja Boy” on youtube.com, I didn’t know what to think. The video itself was pretty interesting and there was no real problem with it by itself. However, I was quickly directed to an instructional video, followed by dozens and then hundreds of videos with people dancing to this beat, doing outrageous things like picking up guns, and doing stereotypical things like popping collars and pointing to their shoes, and I honestly thought to myself:
“Black people might not be able to live this one down.”
But with “Crank That Soulja Boy” so engrossed into today’s pop culture, I’m not sure how to judge it. Afterall, it is a song, dance and video, that has made a young 17-year old man, artist and Creator “Soulja Boy”, into at least a “well-off” individual. His song is now the highest selling digital song ever. “Crank That Soulja Boy” was #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks. It has sold 3 million ring tones, and has produced 600,000 album sells. It was nominated for a Grammy, and sells over 100,000 digital versions (iTunes, Zune, etc.) a week. And then there is their web space traffic, where they have multiple videos tallying over 25 million views, and a litany of homemade videomakers performing the “Crank That Soulja Boy” dance.
So is “Crank That Soulja Boy” just a modern day blackface performance, or nothing more than cult phenomenon for loves of dancing and music?
Given its business success, one might be tempted to say that it is nothing more than entertainment and that its acceptance by the masses is evidence of that. However, Black minstrel shows were popular and profitable, too, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t come at one’s detriment.
I personally think that the video itself is fine. Its catchy beat, innovative dance ancillary, and digital focus are the makings of great entertainment and business initiatives. The song, of course, is very typical of a young rapper. Its self promotional, and uses unbecoming and stereotypical language. From “why me crank that Roosevelt” to “superman dat hoe”, the language just does an injustice to the race by promoting every negative term you can find on urbandictionary.com. The lyrics and video together promote violence and demeaning behavior, and have inspired many adults to teach their kids to dance to these lyrics. You can find countless people on YouTube dancing to this, while unbeknown to them, they are rebroadcasting black stereotypes and looking quite silly.
It’s embarrassing, and yet I can’t blame someone who is old enough, smart enough, and responsible enough, for appreciating the catchy beat and creative dance, because in the end, it’s just a song. So when I see common sensed, learned people dancing to this, I have no problem. It’s the young, ignorant and stupid that scare me everytime I hear “crank that soulja boy.”