FEATURE: Soulja Boy,The Kid Stays In The Picture

Photography David Walter Banks

Photography David Walter Banks

The boy genius sits at a desk with his laptop open, compulsively refreshing his Gmail account. He is the boy genius who, according to Ice-T, single-handedly killed hip-hop. He has three cuts in each eyebrow. He wears a gaudy pinky ring on his right hand, a Superman chain that dangles down to his naval, and really big earrings. He ignores the upmarket Chinese takeout on the glass table. He’s too busy on the computer. E-mailing. Chatting. MySpacing. YouTubing. Working, basically. After all, this is how the boy became the boy genius. But he’s distracted. This 21st-century digital boy just got offended by something so analog, so 20th century—a magazine.

The boy genius’s hype man, a friend from Mississippi nicknamed Arab (pronounced Ayy-rab, like the ethnic slur), flips through the December 2008 issue of XXL magazine. It features 10 young rappers. “The 10 Freshmen: Hip-Hop’s Class of ’09 Attacks” screams the cover line. He is not one of those 10 freshmen. And the boy genius, DeAndre “Soulja Boy” Way, 18, is perplexed, upset even, over the snub.

“That was a big fuck up, XXL,” he says. “What the fuck? Nah, I’m just fuckin’ with y’all.” Is he really?
He continues. “My first album dropped on October 2, 2007. They did the ‘Leaders of the New School’ edition last year, and I didn’t make that. This year, Soulja Boy is still not on the cover. What’s the deal? Over a million records sold. Over five million ringtones. Most controversial rapper, period, in the game. I can’t get a slot on the cover, man?”

Would you really want to share the cover with nine people?

“Fuck no. I want to be on there by myself.”

Why do you think you’re not on the cover?

“Because XXL is hating. That’s the only logical explanation. I thought it was because I hadn’t sold enough records—but then I went platinum. Then I thought it was because of my lyrics. I didn’t really have that much depth or content. Now that I stepped my game up, and I’m looking at the dudes on the cover—I’m taking niggas out. Let me see that cover.”

Arab passes him the magazine. “I’m not calling names, because I don’t want to start nothing. But I know at least four or five of these niggas I would take out. At the same time—I’m not knocking none of them; they’re doing their thing—I haven’t heard of half of those dudes. But Soulja Boy isn’t on the XXL cover. What the fuck? It’s not that I’m bitching. I’m not on no Kanye West cocky-type shit.”

Actually, it sounds just like some Kanye West cocky-type shit.
“All the stuff that I’m doing in the industry, and I’m not getting recognized for it. I got money. I got millions.”

Millions?

“Yeah.”

You have millions in your back account?

“Yeah, I got millions. I sold millions. I did a lot of things in the industry.”
Like it or not, Soulja Boy is right. He states nothing but the facts. His debut album, Souljaboytellem.com, was released on October 2, 2007. It sold more than a million copies. His first single, “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” sold more than five million ringtones. And he is the most controversial rapper, period, in the game. He is also a music-industry pioneer. Without Soulja Boy, there would be no Diddy Blog,
thisis50.com or Kanye University. “I consider myself an artist of the new school who re-, rev-… What’s that word? That big-ass R word?”

Revolutionized.

“There you go. I know how to say it, but you pronounce it better… Who revolutionized the game. I think I reinnovated the game.” He thinks for a moment, brow scrunched. “I didn’t reinnovate shit. I’m not a pioneer of shit. I just brought to light what artists should be doing. The computer, the Internet, period, is the key to selling records right now.”

No other rapper has ever adapted to technology like Soulja Boy. He didn’t need a Roc-A-Fella chain or Dr. Dre co-sign to get put on. His co-signs came from YouTube and MySpace. He recorded cute songs and dances, made them viral, and the kids ate ’em up. They were the embodiment of youth culture in America in 2007. “It wasn’t the music, it was the lifestyle,” says Mr. Collipark, who signed Soulja Boy to his Collipark Music that spring. “Everything he does has a purpose.”

The ultimate independent success story begins in the sticks of northwestern Mississippi, in the town of Batesville, population 7,776. During the summer of 2001, an 11-year-old DeAndre moved from his cash-strapped mother’s place in Atlanta to live with his father, Tracey Jenkins, an engineer technician, in Batesville. DeAndre was interested in hip-hop and computers. His favorite rappers were Master P and Birdman, and he dreamed of working as a video-game designer, Flash animator or computer programmer.

After school, DeAndre cut records in his bedroom using the FruityLoops program on his computer, a microphone and other equipment his dad bought from Wal-Mart. In late 2006, he posted the songs on soundclick.com and asked his father’s friend from college, Miami Mike, to book shows for him. Soon, he was onstage and itching to quit his job manning the grill at Burger King. “When I came back from [my first concert], I had a grip, dog,” he says. “I was going to quit Burger King. They used to hate me so bad. They weren’t feeling my music. In 30 minutes, I made more than I made in a whole year at Burger King. I was like, ‘Fuck Burger King. I don’t need this job.’”

He continued performing on the weekends and, most importantly, shouting out his MySpace page at concerts. “The Internet is working 24 hours a day,” says Miami Mike, who is now Soulja Boy’s tour manager. “This dude had this Internet presence, and the Internet is bigger than radio and TV. He put my numbers up on his MySpace page, and from there it was crazy.”

Strangely, Soulja Boy remained anonymous at his own high school. “Don’t nobody know who I am in Mississippi, because not everybody have computers,” he says. “But in Georgia, Chicago, Minnesota, St. Louis, New York, all the kids knew Soulja Boy.”

Anonymity wouldn’t last long, though. And neither would high school. With a closet full of Bathing Apes, a Superman chain and an eight-row grill (which he says earned him a suspension), he was bounced from a sophomore-year biology class for sleeping. “The teacher was like, ‘You must not care about school,’” he remembers. “‘You must not care about your education.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t care about school. I don’t care about education.’ My mom was one of those bookworm, nerdy muthafuckas that went to school, got her degree and got out of college and made no money and got no job. That shit hurt me. I’m like, ‘Why the fuck am I going to school when she didn’t even get no job?’ If you were going to make your whole life dedicated to school, it should be worth it. And to me, it wasn’t worth it to [graduate] and be making some shit like $100,000 a year. That ain’t shit. I’m thinking, Fuck that. And I walked out.” -THOMAS GOLIANOPOULOS

For more of the Kid Stays In The Picture Interview make sure to pick up XXL’s March issue on newsstands now.

  • Dub Sac

    This kid better know how to save money if he’s not even going to bother finishing high school. He should have at least stuck around til he learned the word “revolutionized.”

    • Devon

      THis nigga make me wish I wouldnt Born In Mississippi Fuck!!!!!

  • http://seattleraps.net RaPman

    NO excuses for dropping out of school; & $100k a/yr = 8,000 a month! guess he wasn’t good in math either.

  • http://xxl.mag HillTop

    The boy is weak he gives GA.a bad rep.
    what he spits gives GA.rappers a bad name make that little nigga kick rocks.

  • CAPT. OBVIOUS

    danm sad things is burger king won’t even hire him back without a diploma

  • NAWLEDGE

    Thank God Obama made into office. My little brother only has THIS ignorant motherfucker to look up to?

    YOUR MOTHER PROBABLY DIDNT PREPARE HARD ENOUGH YOU DUMB FUCK! IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO JUST GO TO SCHOOL, YOU NEED EXPERIENCE!! SHE MOST LIKELY DIDNT KNOW THAT!!

    You didnt revolutionize shit!! Eat a dick and die!!

    This nigga actually thinks he can fuck with The Freshman 09?? Blu?? Kid Cudi?? B.O.B?? Mickey Factz?? This nigga couldnt even take out Charlie Hamilton OR Asher Roth!!

    • http://XXLMAG.COM INTERNET BULLY

      INTENET BULLY IS SO FAR FROM A DICK RIDER THAT HE WOULD WALK TO CHINA WITH A DIVER SUIT ON FIRST. BUT SHOUT OUT TO NAWLEDGE. THIS NIGGA KNOW WHAT THE FUCK HE TALKING ABOUT. FUCK THIS RINGTONE RAPPING ASS BATHING APE CLOWN. SOULJA BOY TELLEM CAREER IS A LIMP DICK ON A HONEYMOON.

  • Smel

    That’s crazy that he thinks $100,000 isn’t a respectable annual salary.

    Just reflects his frame of reference. Sitting where he’s sitting right now, $100,000 ian’t alot of money… And he’s only….18? That’s wild.

  • droopey

    People may hate the way Soulja Boy got his riches, but he trully knows what he is doing all he needs is a financial adviser and he could bring more youngsters like himself into the game.

    Just don’t blow the money on cars. Invest theres money to be made in this recession!

  • adrian smith

    xxlmag stop fucking around put ice t and souljah boy on front cover of xxlmag and do a interview that be good get shit off your chest

  • dusty boy

    Yall check this out!!

    http://www.myspace.com/dustyboyclick

    Maan Hol’ Up!!

    Wreckin’ Flows!!!

  • E20

    Wow! This whole article needs to be in the Negro Please section of XXL. Maybe if lil dude finished high school he coulda figured out how to sell more copies of his sophmore CD.

    But on the reals,

    2 Live Crew – “throw the D”
    Sir mix alot – “baby got back”
    Tag team – “Whoomp” (there it is)
    69 boyz – “tootsie roll”
    Quad City DJs – “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train)”

    and now there is

    Soulja Boy – “Crank That”

    Put Soulja Boy on the cover with his musical forefathers. Miami Bass Music fathered his sytle.

    When Soulja Boys career is over, his name will come after the 69 boyz and Tag Team, not next to Nas, Rakim, Snoop, and Pac.

    • Jamal7Mile

      Excellent point!

      However, I loved the 2 Live Crew! Sorry man, I can’t lie. The sheer balls it took to make “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” and the grief they went through during the obsenity court cases earned them mad props.

      2 Live Crew = ENJOYABLE!!

      S.boy iSellum = re-rre-regurgitate my liquor!

      I can recite a lot of 2 Live Crew’s lyrics 20 years after the fact.. without shame. Hell, I at least remember the hook for Tag Team and 69 Boyz, too.

      I couldn’t quote one iSellum rhyme to save my Momma’s life.

      Cheers!

      • e20

        Im with you I still know most of 2 Lives Crew lyrics (just incase Uncle Luke needs an extra hypeman at his concerts!)

        But I couldn’t talk about Miami Bass Music without mentioning 2 Live Crew the kings of that sound!

        2 Live Crew is still miles ahead of Soulja Boy.

  • Chonessey

    As an artist and media personality, I hate Soulja Boy. I have to give respect where respect is due, though. He “rev… rev…revolutionized” the market. Not hip hop, not the game, not art. The market. White CEO’s and A&R’s should give him props. We as hip hop fans should have nothing to do with this little prick.

  • Arcey

    “moved from his cash-strapped mother’s place in Atlanta to live with his father, Tracey Jenkins, an engineer technician, in Batesville”
    “My mom was one of those bookworm, nerdy muthafuckas that went to school, got her degree and got out of college and made no money and got no job.”

    I forbid his music at home whenever BET is on and his video comes up !!!
    he’s just that dumb! plus his parents probably met at school, she gave him life & he sounds kinda like an ingrate mothefucker

    this little fuck thinks that commercial success is equal to talent GTFOH!!!!
    and how can he take on anybody from the cover with this :
    “I consider myself an artist of the new school who re-, rev-… What’s that word? That big-ass R word?”

    plus he’s a liar, he heard of all these niggas since he’s on the internet all the time and that’s the only place where they’re talked about

  • Rob Digi

    Wow…. This lil dude was probably riding the shortbus to school. He had to be. I mean the arrogance at which he wears his ignorance is mind boggling. I’m not giving him a pass for his age either. Cube, OutKast, Nas,Tribe were all around his age when they started there albums.

  • What the ?

    Dudes dumb as fuck $100k is a very good life, but he’s correct in a way. Guess what ? if everyone had a university degree like the government preaches there isn’t enough jobs available anyway, not even close, definitely not enough good jobs. What’s next ? a masters degree to work a McDonald’s ?

    The shits a huge industry, all schools care about now is profit like everyone else, it’s big business, they know damn well theres no jobs available for at least half of the graduates.

    There’s a reason the Army does on the job training. Why go to school ? when you can be at an actual job being trained, experiance is everything not theoretical knowledge by reading books your whole life. the whole system is fucked, it truly does come down to who you know and it only helps to actually know.

  • http://www.classandgrime.com RCV

    The reason why this ignorant little kid is not on the cover of XXL is because he ain’t real Hip-Hop. He makes pop music and should be in the cover of Teen Beat or some shit.

  • no hate

    Sho’ wish I could say $100,000 a year ain’t sh*t! Now, that’s just ignorant. It ain’t the money you make, but he debt you build up that cause you to be or appear to not have…

  • 2nose

    thank god for barack obama…finally a black man that can give these kids in the inner cities something else to strive for besides ignorant, brain-dead motherfuckers like this fool. Can’t even pronounce revolutionize? come onnnn now.

  • ultVIOdre

    nobody gonna clown him on using the non existent word reinnovate? or not knowing how to say revolutionized? Fame is a hell of a drug and this kid is gonna O.D. on it in a couple of years. once all the hype around him is gone he’s gonna be one lonely ass individual.

  • NE WHERE GANG

    THIS SHOULD BE A FULL NEGRO PLEASE IN THE NEXT XXL

    he was bounced from a sophomore-year biology class for sleeping. “The teacher was like, ‘You must not care about school,’” he remembers. “‘You must not care about your education.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t care about school. I don’t care about education.’ My mom was one of those bookworm, nerdy muthafuckas that went to school, got her degree and got out of college and made no money and got no job. That shit hurt me. I’m like, ‘Why the fuck am I going to school when she didn’t even get no job?’ If you were going to make your whole life dedicated to school, it should be worth it. And to me, it wasn’t worth it to [graduate] and be making some shit like $100,000 a year. That ain’t shit. I’m thinking, Fuck that. And I walked out.”

  • jrap

    ignorance at its finest. Classic souljboy dumbshit.