Top of the World
Before you call him a one hit wonder, Soulja Boy wants you to really listen. Did this 17-year-old rapper/producer get lucky, or is he just the online marketing genius that the new industry needs?
These days, it seems easy to discredit an artist that makes dance songs and blew up off YouTube. Still, there’s something to be said about the Atlanta-and-Alabama-raised Soulja Boy. He started off as another kid with a SoundClick page, but at the age of just 17, he’s parlayed his basic Internet self-promotion skills into a record deal and a bonifide national smash record. His YouTube videos for the mind-numbingly infectious songs, “I Got Me Some Bapes” and “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” have garnered him more than 11 million hits on MySpace, a heavy co-sign from Atlanta producer Mr. Collipark, national radio and television exposure and a spot on Interscope Records’ roster. A follow-up instructional video for the “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” dance has also received nearly six million views on YouTube in two months and fanned the flames of his smoldering success. Love him or hate him, this is viral marketing done right. XXLMag.com caught up with the kid born DeAndre Cortez Way during a month-long promotional tour for his new album, SouljaBoyTellEm.com.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?
That I’m a one-hit wonder. I know that probably comes out a lot of people’s mouths. After my album drops on October second, I think I’m going to shut a lot of folks up. They lookin’ at me right now because the song’s the number one ringtone in the country, number one song on the Billboard charts, number one video on iTunes, and they probably just seeing it as another one-hit wonder. They think it’s not going to be good, it’s not going to be a career, but it is a career. It’s going to be a long career — we got the clothing line, Soulja Boy TV, the second single’s dropping. After they see what I’m coming with, a lot of people are going to change their perception about Soulja Boy.
What’s your immediate career goal then?
It’s important for me to have longevity in the music industry to show people that it’s not just a record. The song, “Crank That,” because the name of the dance is Soulja Boy, it’s just for people who don’t know who I am. All my fans, all my 10-million-strong fans, they know Soulja Boy. They understand what’s going on. So once the album drops, they ain’t got no worries. But for other people, they’re kinda skeptical about it. But after the album drops, and after they see what’s goin on later down the line, they’ll be like, “Oh, okay. We was wrong.”
With everything going on on the Internet, how did you first catch peoples’ attention?
My MySpace page got to like 10 million views before I got my record deal with Interscope and Collipark [Records]. People don’t understand how I did it with the Internet to the point where it got to 10 million. Record sales are down right now, so everybody downloads songs for free. So I took whatever the number one song out was—if it was 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”—I’d record “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” and put the song up and rename it 50 Cent “In Da Club” and send it out. So everybody was downloading, like millions of people all over the world, but when they got it, it was me that came on —“Yuuaah!” Everybody who was downloading the song was trying to find out who I was. So they was hittin’ the MySpace page and searching Google and Yahoo and all that. It got up to 10 million before they noticed who I was and then I got my deal with Collipark, who had seen the page and hit me up. That’s how that all took place.
What’s the origin behind the line “Watch me supersoak that hoe”?
Supersoak, that’s just the poppin’ of the toes — you stand on your toes real quick. That’s another song I’m coming out with later — “Supersoak.” It’s real crazy. But that’s called the Roosevelt. We had a partner in school, his name was Roosevelt, and he used to get behind the girl to pop like that. We’d be like, “supersoak that.” That’s where it came from.
According to your bio, you used to be a straight-A student. When was that?
That was in my early years of school. I was doing my thang on the science and English. Right now, I’m on the road. I’m a senior in high school [and I] got my tutor with me.
How much learning actually gets accomplished in between the touring and press?
I mean, when it gets real, I got the online classes that I take. I’m always on my laptop, like 24/7, when I’m not [doing] an interview, video shoot, photo shoot or a show. I’m on MySpace talking to my fans; they hit me up with the e-mails, I hit ’em back on my Sidekick. So I be multi-tasking.
It must be tough, though, balancing the two.
I mean, it got to the point where I was doing shows state-to-state and I was still in school. When I got to school, I was signing autographs. Everybody was like, “Soulja Boy! Soulja Boy!” I was doing like two shows on the weekends and school Monday to Friday and I had a job at the same time. It was starting to weigh down on me.
How much of your new album did you produce?
I produced 90 percent of [it]. I had full creativity of my whole project. I’m just giving people what they want to hear; I got dance songs, R&B tracks, I got very humorous tracks to make you laugh. I got a track called “Don’t Be Mad Because the Kids Like Me.” It just expresses to the adults that I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve done big shows and really none of the adults knew who I was, but all their kids did. Like, I’ll be in the mall, signing autographs and taking pictures and stuff like that, but the grown-ups would be like, “Oh, who’s that? I ain’t never heard of him before,” but everybody knew who I was. That’s like one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s the last song on the album. It’s got a crazy beat with it. It’s just real hard. When it hits, you’re gonna be like, “Whoa.”
You did your first live show at 15-years-old. What do you remember about that night?
My first live show I did the song “I Got Me Some Bathing Apes” in Indianapolis. It was just crazy; it was live. Everybody was crunk. It was good to be my first show. I was real happy with it.
Were you nervous?
Nah. It was at a teen club. When I got there, I was like, “Whoa, this is my first show.” I was kind of nervous, but after I got on stage and did it, I just fell in love with performing after that.
What is your live show like today?
My live show right now is crazy. It’s very interactive. I talk to the fans during my show; I holler at ’em, I see what’s goin’ on with ’em. I give the crowd what they came for. I got to do everything 100 percent, [whether] it’s doing an interview, live show, making a beat or doing a song. If I come out just walking around, they’re gonna leave thinkin’ Soulja Boy’s wack. I give ’em what they came for, what they was waiting on me to do.
What's a typical day like for you right now?
Right now, [I] wake up about 4:30 a.m. [I] hit the airport. Flight lands around seven [in the] morning for the radio show [and] photo shoot. [I] get something to eat for a little bit, [then do some] radio promos, a couple photo shoots, three or four phoners, then I try to [perform] at two different spots, like at a teen club and at another spot. Then I get a couple of hours of sleep, wake up and do it all over again.
Are you happy with that lifestyle?
I mean, it’s what I got to do. It’s my job. I’m not unhappy with it. It’s the life that I chose and I’m out here doing it and having fun.
What did you do with your first paycheck you received from hip-hop?
My first check was my advance from Interscope. I was like, “Yeah, I like that.” I threw it in the bank and made my bank account real large and got my trust fund on deck so I ain’t got nothin’ to worry about. When I turn 21, it’s gonna be all done.