I’m not sure how I initially found the news, but when I saw the headline (I Ain’t Got Nothing Against Ice T Or Nobody For That Matter But I Gotta Ride With Soulja Boy..) on Kanye West’s blog, I had to click. And, I had to click for two reasons.
First, why would Kanye be defending (or “riding with”) Soulja Boy? And second, why would Kanye (who’s got something against everybody) say he’s got nothing against “nobody?” Neither made any sense to me. I had to read, and I’m glad I did.
Before I continue, I should note: the subject matter of the videos below is not for everybody. And by not everybody, I mean most anybody, particularly not for those who don’t enjoy hip-hop, braggadocio, considerable amounts of cursing, disrespect, and mockery. Also: laughter.
Back to the issue, Kanye fired off an opinion after watching some YouTube videos documenting the latest hip-hop Internet beef: Ice-T vs. Soulja Boy Tell Em. Turns out, Ice-T (the West Coast gangsta rapper once known for “O.G. Original Gangster” and “Cop Killer” and now known as Detective Fin Tutuola on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) decided to call out last year’s Internet and radio phenom Soulja Boy Tell Em (only known for last summer’s “Superman (Crank Dat)” dance and track) as the single-handed reason hip-hop is dead.
Ice-T’s Soulja Boy tirade
Bold words from T. Well, actually, bolder (and far more offensive) words were used, as well. Soulja Boy took some haranguing comments from Iceberg Slim on a mixtape drop promoting his new Urban Legends album. Soulja Boy heard the comments, grabbed a couple friends, hopped in front of their Mac’s high-resolution iSight camera, and responded as high school students do best: with incessant snaps about how irrelevant Ice-T was to anyone under the age of 50. Soulja Boy derides T for 7+ minutes, utilizing a Wikipedia article to fuel the flames.
He calls him out by name, references his East Coast-birthplace, 1950’s birthyear (in which he says folks were “still driving in wood cars”), and caps it with the classic “you should change your name to Lemonade cause you sweet” line. (“Sweet,” in this case, is suggesting that T’s image is a bit soft.)
Soulja Boy’s response
Ice-T, in turn, utilizes a 1980’s camcorder (likely VHS or Betamax) to capture his video retort. Unfortunately, the reply backfires, and for multiple reasons:
- T appears in what could (at best) be described as a nouveau-riche-inspired retirement community,
- T appears in a dated sports jersey (which was popular several years back),
- T repeatedly apologizes and then berates SB (and others) in a passive-aggressive mess of thoughts,
- T moves in and out of the camera’s viewfinder in a semi-nervous, “I’ve never done this before” posturing that doesn’t suggest a familiarity with self-published videos,
- T repeatedly refers to “hip-hop” as being the one who will deal Soulja Boy justice for producing “garbage,” rather than himself.
Topping it off, Ice brings his son into the fray to talk trash at the end of the tape, too. All in all, an out-dated, out-gunned response using a medium he didn’t seem comfortable leveraging.
So what does Soulja Boy do? Unleash the deathblow: a 4-minute, 55-second cartoon lambasting T as a “dinosaur-turned-gangsta rapper,” hypocrite, bad dancer, jealous has-been and crybaby. While crudely rendered, the animation repeatedly mocks T’s efforts at relevance to today’s market, and is highlighted a couple times with overdubbed, early 80’s Ice-T breakdancing footage.
Soulja Boy’s animated response
The animation, while juvenile and repetitive, proved Soulja Boy the clear winner. Having already lampooned T (particularly by having to look up T on Wikipedia to even know who he was) with 1.5-million-plus views of his video response, he upped the ante by having a cadre of folks write a script, animate it, and further shame one of the godfathers of West Coast rap.
Wanting to appear timely and relevant, Iceberg instead lived up to his moniker: slow, old, monolithic, and (in this global warming era) fading fast. SB took the beef from the rhyme arena (where Ice-T could have destroyed him in seconds) into a Web 2.0 world (where SB had already proven a grassroots, rags-to-riches success). And T sadly went along for the ride.
While watching that first Soulja Boy video, I was reminded of a wildlife documentary showing how prides of lions pass the mantle of leadership between generations. The elder lion is taunted by the younger upstart, who doesn’t quite seem to know his own power. The elder lion takes the taunts for a period of time, snapping at the young buck, but eventually hits a breaking point.
Of course, once he hits that point, he strikes, but cannot match the agility of the younger cat. Wounded, he is forced out from the pack, and left alone to die in isolation.
The saddest connection of this analogy is that Soulja Boy is hardly more than a flash in the pan, and many inside hip-hop culture would argue he’s not one of theirs (Kanye West respectfully excluded). Nonetheless, Ice-T got frustrated, picked on someone much, much younger than himself, and somehow managed to get schooled in front of the whole pride.
Certainly, he’ll retain some respect for his past achievements, but hip-hop is an entertainment-based industry… and the entertainment industry rarely focuses on or subsidizes once-was-hot artists. What today’s kids want is generally what today’s kids get.
With this beef now over, it’s pretty clear: if today’s kids didn’t previously know who Ice-T was (without checking Wikipedia), they certainly will now associate him with three things:
- being old,
- being sweet, and
- being in possession of a museum-grade camcorder that used vacuum tubes to get its video out to the Internet.