Say what you will of the much-maligned rapper Soulja Boy, but the dude makes hits. Right now, however, he seems to be saving new ones for his coming album, “Promise,” due this year, because they’re nowhere to be found on his new mix tape “50/13.”
The 15-track offering is the rapper’s second mix tape in as many weeks, which gives a clue to its quality. Soulja Boy, who has a strong, protective teenage fan base and the luxury of a major label deal — increasingly a rarity in the rap world — seems to be five to 10 years behind in his approach to making mix tapes. They’re no longer hastily thrown-together promo tools for albums but complete, well-plotted projects in and of themselves. Not that Soulja Boy has ever put out a painstakingly crafted project, through a label or not. The guy has made millions from vapid, dirtied-up pop-rap songs (See “Pretty Boy Swag,” “Turn My Swag On,” “Speakers Going Hammer”).
But “50/13” is devoid of even low-brow delicacies, and it seems to be testing the loyalties of fans who apparently love 21-year-old DeAndre Way unconditionally.
Lately, Soulja Boy has faced criticism that he’s become nothing more than a collage of traits borrowed from a slew of more interesting rappers, and “50/13” supports that argument. Even the project’s art, as the Twitterverse has been pointing out, seems to be a direct rip-off of A$AP Rocky’s “LIVELOVEA$AP” mix tape cover. Soulja lifts Lil Wayne’s Martian gimmick on “Alien,” rhyming about being from outer space, and again on “Work,” where he calls himself a “pretty boy goblin.” And more than a year after his “Pretty Boy Millionaires” project with Lil B, he’s still smitten with the Based God’s off-kilter flow and attempting to mimic it, as on “Grinding.” A funny, bright-ish spot is “Karl Lagerfield,” where Soulja Boy compares himself with legendary Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld (while misspelling the fashion icon’s name) and almost seems to be poking fun at the identity theft allegations he’s faced lately. But perhaps that is giving Soulja Boy too much credit.