Soulja Boy: Hear 'Em Out

Seventeen year-old Soulja Boy gained attention through his dance routines, rap and lifestyle. Whether you love it or hate, “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)” is a ubiquitous hit, and having amassed over 21 million hits on his Myspace page, he garnered the attention of Mr. Collipark, who later inked the youngster to a deal with Interscope Records. Being a straight “A” student came in handy for the teenager, as the emerging artist studied and put his own twist on the formula for success concocted by the rapper he admires the most, 50 Cent. That formula being the first to uniquely utilize a resource—in this case, the world wide web—to maximum capacity in an attempt for self-promotion instead of copying the last successful artist’s promotional buzz. caught up with Soulja Boy shortly before the October 2 release of his debut album, The internet played a major role, but you still have to credit talent. What percentage of your popularity do you attribute to self-promotion on the internet opposed to talent? Soulja Boy: I think they are on the same lines, my talent and the internet, because the internet showed the entire world my skills. I used Youtube and Myspace to showcase my talent. 80 percent on the talent side and 20 percent on the marketing side. Soulja Boy isn’t a big buzz or fad. I am Soulja Boy with a talent and a “life” style.AllHipHop: You mentioned in previous interviews that you were lacking exposure on the streets, would you say the internet is a better alternative or just as good alternative to mixtapes?Soulja Boy: The internet is a much more productive tool than mixtapes or the streets because I was hired for shows before I even signed a deal with a record label based on internet popularity. Everyone in the club, arena or stage where I performed knew word for word all of my lyrics to my songs off the strength of the internet. I wasn’t featured on any mixtapes or radio stations.AllHipHop: Who was your inspiration?Soulja Boy: My inspiration coming in the rap game was 50 Cent. He was the only person I was looking up to musically. He influenced me to keep pushing hard every day doing what I’m doing. AllHipHop: Most new rappers are inspired by 50 cent. But both of you are the first to promote yourself successfully with different resources, him with mixtapes, and yourself with the internet. Did you notice the connection? Soulja Boy: Yea, I did. Once we became label mates and I spoke with him, I realized we were similar in our ways in business and musically. AllHipHop: What contribution are you bringing to Hip-Hop that hasn’t been done? Soulja Boy: I am bringing a new way of getting exposure before you are signed. Other artists are big from the streets or mixtapes, I am showing people another avenue. I came up on the strength of a myspace page. From that, I had die-hard fans that wanted to hear my music no matter what it was. For me to become a star from the bedroom of my house is definitely something big. AllHipHop: How has your merchandise been selling? Soulja Boy: Merchandise is crazy. I have the Soulja Boy shades and t-shirt, which is selling like hotcakes. We are putting up new product every chance we can get because it’s selling out every time I have a show. The demand is so high they want everything that I wear. AllHipHop: Do you think people can relate more to you than other artists because regardless of their financial status, they can throw together something from their closet that resembles your attire? Soulja Boy: They look at me like someone they can be just like. That is why I dress the way I do. If I come into your city, you can have on the same or similar attire that I have. I keep it really simple and my fans can be just like me.AllHipHop: Do you think having an affiliation with someone that has been in the game and is successful a necessary asset for the success of emerging artists? For example, Rich Boy had Polow Da Don, Eminem, Snoop and 50 Cent had Dr. Dre, you have Mr. Collipark. Soulja Boy: I think it is a big asset. Everyone who focuses on my career and keeps me pushing everyday is a blessing. Just as 50 Cent had Dr. Dre and Eminem, Soulja Boy has Mr. Collipark and the entire Interscope building. Everyone is behind me right now. It is an advantage to have an experienced person that has been doing what you are doing for a long period of time like Mr. Collipark. He has been around a long time, can teach me things before I take a wrong path in my career because he’s been there and done that already. AllHipHop: That was a clever name for your album. It’s very marketable especially if you are selling the product at retail on your website. Did you come up with that name or was it suggested because it’s fitting with your growing popularity?Soulja Boy: Interscope asked me what I think I should name my album and I said “” and they ran with it no questions asked.AllHipHop: School seems to have been a factor in your marketing decisions with regard to your music career.Soulja Boy: I always had a plan but it wasn’t always about music. At first, I wanted to go to college and once my music began, I ran with it although I always had a backup plan. School influenced me because I sat down and talked with many of my teachers, listening to what they had to say. Also, my parents gave me advice with music and everyday life. AllHipHop: At such a young age, how are you dealing with the backlash from haters against your style and movement?Soulja Boy: Haters are going to hate. I don’t pay attention to haters as opposed to my fans. I talk to my fans everyday through logging onto Myspace. They also send me emails on my Sidekick. As for my haters, Soulja Boy is not who they want to listen to and they can keep it moving. At the end of the day, I just let the numbers speak on all the haters.