Soulja Boy is gearing up for a big day. Not only will the rap phenom born DeAndre Way say goodbye to his teens on July 28, but he’ll release his third album, Dre, which he promises will be a charm. Confident that he has the product and marketing wits to win over naysayers (again), the Atlanta-based rapper/producer/CEO is prepared for a corporate takeover. Not only is he fostering other artists, like newcomer JBar, through his Stacks On Deck Money Gang (SODMG) record label, but Soulja’s extended his movement into video games, with SODMG Gamers, and technology, with his own swagger-charged iPhone app.
In addition to these business ventures, he’s also secured roles in two of Nick Cannon’s upcoming feature films. With even more on deck, the young executive is plotting a similar path for his artist JBar, who’s causing a stir with his single “Daze.” XXLMag.com caught up with duo to speak on their forthcoming collaborations, flipping burgers for minimum wage and doing things DeAndre’s Way.
XXLMag.com: What we can expect from Dre?
Soulja Boy: My third album it’s going to be my biggest album of my career. It’s going to show the growth in me as an artist and individual. My fans are going to love it and I’m going to win over a lot of people with it.
XXLMag.com: Respect from your peers is a driving force for most artists. Last year, Kanye West gave you his nod of approval. What sparked that collaboration?
Soulja Boy: It wasn’t even intended to be working on my album. He called me and wanted me to make some beats for his album that he’s currently working on. While we were in the studio, as I made beats, we just collaborated collectively on a lot of different songs. He’s been in the game longer than me so he had a lot of advice as far as being an artist and a producer. I don’t think I told him anything that he didn’t already know but I’m pretty sure he peeped my movement.
XXLMag.com: Clearly you have access to a number of talented people, but recently you reached out to unknown producers via Twitter. What led to that decision?
Soulja Boy: I usually produce all of my own records. My most successful record was 100-percent me—I wrote and produced it. I’ve been producing for myself and I’m starting to get more respect; having parties reach out and ask me for beats. I want to change up my thing a bit and I know even with the talent I got, there are some things that I can’t do that other producers can bring to the table… I keep my ear to the street. I like to play it by ear and I don’t rate another producer because of his stats. If I hear a hot beat in the street that I can get versus a wack beat from a hot named producer; which one I’ma do?
XXLMag.com: Fair enough, so with the addition of JBar to your team, how will his skills add to your set?
Soulja Boy: JBar got a real unique voice. I heard him on a couple songs before he got with SOD and I knew that he could potentially be a superstar with or without Soulja Boy and I took him under my wing. His first single “Daze” is out right now and he got great support from radio, we’re going to drop his solo album [soon], so, you know, we’re building my empire from the ground up.
XXLMag.com: JBar, what have you learned during your time with SODMG?
JBar: It’s been a learning experience since day one. I’m learning what to do, and not to do on stage, doing interviews and all that. I’ve been watching and I think I’m ready to do it… Every time we’re not on the road we’re in the studio working on my album. I got a good 100 songs recorded for it so I’m like really kicking it to them… I get good feedback every time I’m performing as far as doing shows. I was on the Wayne tour with Soulja, and I’m real comfortable—it’s fun to me right now.
XXLMag.com: How you would you describe your style?
JBar: When I first started writing I used to try to sing and as I was growing up my voice changed, so I started rapping. Then, in a few years I was basically doing it all at once. It created this one sound… I don’t know what else to call it but JBar.
XXLMag.com: Were you surprised by the response to “Daze” so far?
JBar: I wrote “Daze” on the promo tour sitting in the back of the tour bus. As soon as we came off the road that’s the first song I recorded. I played it, everybody was loving it so that’s what we decided to go with for my first single.
XXLMag.com: Besides Soulja Boy, who else are you working with on your album?
JBar: I’m working with Super Ced, who produced Soulja and Snoop Dogg’s “Pronto.” I’m also working with a producer out of Camden named Pop, Drumma Boy, Polo, Jim Jonsin and a few others.
XXLMag.com: Soulja, you started out in a space quite the opposite from JBar. In hindsight, what was your biggest hurdle trying to make it?
Soulja Boy: I was broke, with no money, in the hood; the typical story for the average African-American growing up in poverty and working at Burger King. They were paying $200-300 every two weeks, minimum wage and that wasn’t really doing anything for me. But the biggest disadvantage was the people hatin’; the manager hatin’ on me. She was knockin’ my hustle. I had interviews with big radio stations and I couldn’t do them because I was working Burger King hours… Every successful person goes through their humbling stage in life. Now it’s different because I have millions of fans that support me, my family, and, of course, my artists… I’m in a different space in my life than I was back then. —Rosario Mercedes Velazquez