Soulja Boy has already defied the odds. Few 2007 skeptics could have imagined the Georgia “Crank Dat” sensation ever making it to a third album with a major label. As he swags his way past the one-hit wonder expectations, Soulja delivers The DeAndre Way. Much like the title suggests Soulja doesn’t change the way he approaches album-making. Though he has grown to enjoy the luxuries of the Rock & Roll lifestyle, it’s clear not much has changed on the musical front in the last four years. Soulja Boy delivers high-energy, infectious music with little substance.
“First Day of School” is indicatives of what Soulja Boy brings to his third album. He embraces the fame for all it is worth and attempts to justify his swagger at every given opportunity. The hook is catchy, be it silly, and no one would mistake the lyrical performance for anyone but Soulja Boy. It’s on tracks, like this and “Pretty Boy Swag” where the artist is most effective. Hooks have always carried Soulja into the mainstream, and they continue to aid his success. Unfortunately, for every hit hook, he has one that fails miserably. “Touchdown” sounds like Ying Yang Twins outtake without the energy, while, “30 Thousand 100 Million” lacks any evidence of creativity or revision.
The album features guest spots from Trey Songz and 50 Cent. Both are rather impressive collaborations for Soulja’s resume, but unfortunately they aren’t nearly as successful in sound as they may appear on paper. On “Hey Cutie” Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em’s sing-songy flow eliminates any opportunity for Trey to shine on the hook. “Mean Mug” features impressive production from Drumma Boy and a back-and-forth with 50 Cent. The hook attempts to be massive but falls short, and the back and forth only highlights his anemic lyrical presence. The track is a clear shot at obtaining an older fan base, but the sudden thuggish demeanor doesn’t sit well with the listener when the very next track is “Blowing Me Kisses.”
When Soulja raps “I understand the fans / Supply and demand,” on “Grammy” one has to wonder if his understanding is temporary. In a hit single climate he clearly understands how to get craft catchy hooks that receive plenty of radio spins. However, when the hook comes and it says “Is that not good enough?” the answer is a resounding no. The few moments where Soulja shines, he spends the remainder of the album crippling any effort of forward progress. Maybe efforts like “Fly” that see him rapping “Yeah, 2010 that’s my year / Yeah, 2011 that’s my year / 2012-13 and 14 and 15-16 17 and 18 I’m here” are more a testament of his youth. However, when the aforementioned line is one of the more clever lyrical moments on the LP, one has to worry.
Though The DeAndre’s Way only has 10 tracks, it feels as if it has four or five too many. Between the successful singles like “Pretty Boy Swag” and the soon to be charted moments like “First Day of School” sees plenty of tracks that have no business being released through a major label. While Soulja is absolutely a star, he still hasn’t delivered a concrete answer as to why. Much like Bow Wow, he’s hit a pivotal age where his once teenage fans are maturing and he has to decide how to grow with them. On efforts like “Mean Mug” it’s clear he’s still unsure what that looks like. It’s a difficult formula that few rappers have crafted successfully, and as for Soulja, the verdict is still out.