The old adage is simple: All publicity is good publicity. Lately, rappers have been putting that concept to the test with a myriad of social media tools and outlandish publicity stunts. Their goal isn’t immediately clear, whether they’re trying to goose album sales, raise their online presence or simply want to stroke their egos, but what is clear is it’s not working. In the end, these stunts are only seeing everybody come out worse on the other side, as fans are privy to the silliness and seem unwilling to entertain it. So the question begs asking: why do rappers continue to embarrass themselves or fake the funk on purpose?
These types of PR stunts are hardly a new addition to the genre, and have proven just as outlandish in the past. Cam’ron was famously shot in Washington D.C. in 2005, and many wondered if the shooting was staged so loudly that Cam eventually had to address the accusation publicly. After saying “I got shot three times and my album comes out November 22nd,” during a press conference shortly after the shooting he told MTV “I don’t know anybody who’s stupid enough to use getting shot as a publicity stunt.” The Harlem rapper shot a video while still in a cast healing from his wounds, and later linked the shooting to his Jay Z beef by claiming the shooter threw up the Roc sign before shooting.
As strange as that entire incident was, the stunts of today are somehow just as nonsensical as maybe purposely taking a few bullets in the arms.
Take Troy Ave for example, who, depending on who you believe, either had his sex tape leaked, or leaked it himself and in either case he eventually used clips of the video in his new song and NSFW video, the unfortunately aptly-titled “Sex Tape.”
That is all beyond stupid, but maybe par the course for Troy, whomocks suicide and finds himself in shootouts at crowded concert venues and shot at on random intersections in the middle of a New York afternoon.
Even that can’t match the absurdity that is Soulja Boy and all his Instagram aloofness. Whether he’s randomly beefing with rappers like Quavo and Lil Yachty, or cussing Chris Brown out, shooting the Draco in Michael Bay-style shootouts or getting into fights on the street. It seems to never stop with Soulja.
Here’s the rub though, it hasn’t helped anything. Not for these established but ultimately minor stars. In reality, the stunts are only making these guys laughingstocks. Troy Ave’s video “Sex Tape” has received less than half the views as his video for “Appreciate Me” has received, and the latter was released just two days before.
For Soulja, the interview on Vlad TV that spawned the Soulja Boy Challenge has over 1.6 million views. His latest video has less than 10 percent of that, and the views for that video are eclipsed by Soulja Boy Challenge videos from comedians Mike Epps andDC Young Fly. Soulja’s own version of the Soulja Boy Challenge mocking himself has over a half a million views, topping all but two of the videos he’s uploaded on his official Youtube page since December of 2015. The mixtape that all of this was meant to promote, King Soulja 7, has just over 41,000 listens on Datpiff.com, less than the one third of the views that Joe Budden received for his Soulja Boy Challenge on Instagram. Clearly people are tuning in for the foolery but not the music.
For lesser known artist like Blac Youngsta, the stunts can raise them to a certain level of prominence, but ultimately they’re known more for those same stunts and their social media chicanery than any actual music they release. Even big name stars like Drake, who made a show of his cozying up with Jennifer Lopez, the stunts backfire as fans quickly identified that as nothing more than some sort of cry for attention and quickly moved on.
Another established artist, The Game, chose to promote his latest album 1992 with a slew of beefs a diss tracks, most notably a spat with Meek Mill, and all he got for all that trouble was the lowest first-week sales of his career as the album sold only 25,000 units and 32,000 equivalent albums.
Meanwhile, upstarts lik Dave East, Lil Yachty, Chance The Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert, Vince Staples and more have established themselves as stars on the rise without having to resort to such lowbrow tactics. Already established stars like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Big Sean, Schoolboy Q and others have elevated themselves to stadium status by being above the silliness that Soulja Boy, Troy Ave and the like revel in, going to great lengths to avoid any similar infractions.
Yachty in particular seems to be especially immune to all of the social media foolishness in an era starved for it. He’s bumped shoulders with Soulja, only to make a mockery out of the entire thing with his Soulja Boy Challenge. Spats with the likes of Ebro over his content and ability were also shrugged off, as well as a much publicized “controversy” about his opinions on The Notorious B.I.G. that garnered so much attention even his dad chimed in. In each situation he rose above any sort of scandal, and racked up a Top 5, double platinum hit and endorsements with the likes of Sprite and Nautica for his — or for his lack of — troubles.
Self-degradation is a strange way to promote oneself but it seems some have turned to this as a tool to propel whatever attention they receive. Unfortunately that attention isn’t translating into views, listens or buys for those artists. What they get is temporary and fleeting social media attention and little else beyond the laughter, and that laughter is the at you and not with you kind.
Either Soulja Boy, Blac Youngsta, Troy Ave, Drake and a million others indulging in the same foolishness don’t know we’re laughing at them, or simply don’t care. The worst part is I don’t even know which is worse, but whatever the case it won’t stop any time soon. Even if it doesn’t help a damn thing.