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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Soulja Boy, critical darling. WTF?

All right, I admit it. I was wrong about Soulja Boy Tell 'Em. Since writing him off as a one-hit wonder and giving his latest album iSouljaBoyTellem two stars, I have played that thing more often then I'd like to admit. Especially the banger "Turn My Swag On" and his shockingly innocent/surprisingly tender ballad, "Kiss Me Thru The Phone."

No, I don't cry during the video when those old people start smooching each other remotely. Okay, maybe I do, but not that often. Okay, maybe often.

Both tracks are on Billboard's top 40 right now — "Kiss Me" peaked at number three — and the songs are finding success on iTunes as well.

In defense of my rating — I'd give it 3, maybe even 4 stars if I had it to do over — I'm far from the only critic who has recently seen the light about Soulja Boy. In fact, suddenly SBT'E is turning into a bona fide critic's darling.

"He writes unbelievably effective hooks, which he rattles off as if he were seeing them for the first time on a teleprompter," gushed Village Voice writer Zach Baron recently. All of the sudden the word "genius" is being bandied around to describe someone whom critics had absolutely no patience for during "Crank That (Soulja Boy)"'s peak.

Equally surprising is how other rappers and R&B singers are beginning to embarace him. The "Turn My Swag On" remix features Young Jeezy, Fabolous, Jim Jones, Maino, Jadakiss and Lil Wayne, for God's sake. Where before everyone from Ice T to Method Man was dissing him, suddenly he's your favorite rapper's favorite rapper. From a laudatory L.A. Times blog piece:

Since "Kiss Me Thru the Phone" began to peak, he has recorded songs with multi-platinum-selling artists including Usher and crunk hit-maker Lil Jon. And A-list R&B and hip-hop artists such as Jamie Foxx, Lil Wayne, Keri Hilson, R. Kelly and Young Jeezy are lining up to record with Soulja Boy.

"After the first album, I'm not going to lie, there was no artists that reached out," he said. "Now I have more hits, more rank and pull. Everything is changing."

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