When the rumored death of R&B legend Teena Marie hit Twitter last December 26, Atlanta-based comedian Roland "Lil Duval" Powell sought confirmation by tweeting the source directly:
"@MsTeenaMarie hey are u dead?"
As it turned out, she was. The resulting Twitter rage, and Duval's foolhardy defense, made him equally popular and polarizing.
#Unfollowlilduval became a trending topic, hyped by Duval himself. He even received death threats by tweet. The entire episode was the perfect example of the kind of stuff one wouldn't dare dignify with an LOL or STFU in the presence of real company. But on the Internets, we're all heckling trolls.
Yet Lil Duval is more than a viral asshole phenom. While most comedians tweet to promote product or stoke their audience between live gigs, Duval treats Twitter as if it is the gig, turning his ghetto snaps and hashtagged hood rationale into virtual performance art.
His crass comedic style has earned him more than 600,000 followers — many of whom are totally enamored when he alerts them of their personal failings and #basicbitch behavior.
Even dude's mom is fair game:
"My momma just called & asked me to get up wit her 3am for the black Friday sale. I told her to GTFOH basic ass."
And when his sobering relationship advice and personal sexploits get tangled, the result can be downright ignorant:
"I was bout to slip my dick in my ol lady while she's sleep then this bitch farted. Now I'm soft."
Managed by the comedy arm of T.I.'s Grand Hustle label, the Jacksonville, Fla., native has been building underground awareness with traditional stage shows, DVDs, and rap video cameos since the early 2000s, but no medium has exposed his real-time rawness to the masses like Twitter. He's parlayed the resulting buzz into a featured commentator spot on the new MTV2 show, "Guy Code," alongside collaborator and N.Y. radio personality Charlamagne Tha God, which premiered two weeks ago.
The @unfollowDUVAL page started by those critical of his tactless sense of humor hasn't fared as well. It has 611,837 fewer followers than he does.