In honor of our 15-year anniversary this month, DJBooth will be publishing a series of "lost" interviews from 2006 through 2011, including Kanye West, J. Cole, Kid Cudi, Wiz Khalifa, LL Cool J, Killer Mike, Bun B and more.
"I’m the next generation of hip-hop," Soulja Boy told me. "It’s a movement, what I’m startin’ right now."
At the time Soulja Boy made this proclamation, I didn't believe him. There was no way a 16-year-old kid who went viral on YouTube and landed a record deal from Interscope was the future of hip-hop. No way.
11 years later, I can confirm that, while Soulja Boy, born DeAndre Cortez Way, isn't still a part of hip-hop—at least musically—his contributions did play a major role in ushering the genre into the internet era, which has helped to birth countless acts (Lil B, Brockhampton, all of "SoundCloud rap").
On August 27, 2007, one week before the release of his major label debut, Souljaboytellem.com, I sat down for a one-on-one with the Chicago-born native of Atlanta, during which we discussed the claims that his music was "ruining hip-hop" (sound familiar?), his decision to add dance moves to his songs, the prospect of outselling 50 Cent and the development of his style.
Our interview, edited for content, clarity, and length, follows.
DJBooth: It’s never as easy as it appears, but your sudden rise to fame suggests sometimes it is. Is that the case here?
Soulja Boy: Ah, it was really not that easy. I been doin’ what I do for a long time, I been on the internet—[that] was a big part of my success throughout the years. I been on that real hard, and finally, Mr. Collipark see me and hit me up and we did the deal, and the rest is history.
Prior to becoming a national phenomenon with “Crank That Soulja Boy,” did you believe that this song and dance would catapult you to fame?
No, I didn’t know because before the deal I was pushin’ another single—I got many songs, but like when I landed a deal we just had to go with this one, but I didn’t know this one was just gonna be the one [or] that was just gonna be a real breakthrough for me.
Is this dance entirely Soulja Boy’s creative invention?
Umm, I would say half of it is, and half of it I give a shout out to my dancer Cash Camp who came up with the first part of the dance, and the end part, that’s all me, all Soulja Boy.
The single's popularity is due, in part, to the accompaniment of the dance. Will all of your material be somewhat similar?
All of my songs gonna be like dances or have a dance to it, but all my songs you can relate to or something can spread like a word or a fan or a dance, or something that you can do with the song.
Beyoncé has included your song and dance in her concert routine. What are the chances we'll see an Oprah or a George Bush doin’ a “Crank That” in the near future?
The chances are really high because Samuel L. Jackson was doin’ it live on 106 and Park. Keyshia Cole doin’ it live at her concert in New York, her band played it, Beyoncé did it, Omarion, Bow Wow, so it’s really spreading. The chances of that are really likely right now.
Your website has approximately 6,000 members and most of them have created profiles with links to YouTube where they’ve uploaded their own videos of themselves doing the “Crank That” dance. Most of them are awful. Have you considered doing dance instruction as a side hustle?
I’m doin’ my rapping thing right now, and also I did the instructional DVD, so that’s gonna bring in money. That DVD is gonna be on sale, so that’s gonna be like a big role part of the dance, to show people who not doin’ it correctly how to do it properly.
I’m a white guy Chicago. Am I a lost cause or do you think that even I could learn how to do this dance?
I mean, even you can learn how to do the dance if you just watch this instructional DVD and pay attention to it step by step. Even if you have no rhythm, there’s still a chance for you.
I have rhythm.
If you got rhythm then there’s a big chance for you!
Your style is unique and trendy—just the other day I saw someone at the mall who had their name, I presume, written on their sunglasses. How did you go about developing a style?
I always liked to do something different, like I had my name on my clothes and my shoes. I thought about it one day, “I’ve got my name on my hat and everything—I’m gonna put it on my shades.” People said, “Can you see outta those?” Yes, I can. It’s official and is very new, and there’s gonna be a lot of people doin’ it.
Your debut album is entitled, Souljaboytellem.com. What message do you hope to deliver with this album?
I’m trying to tell the people to look out for me—I’m the next generation of hip-hop, it’s a movement what I’m startin’ right now. The album is gonna be crazy—it covers every base of good music: hip-hop, R&B, it’s got humor on there. It’s a very powerful album. And what I’m telling you—you have to listen. When you pay attention to what I’m saying and my lyrics, the things that I do, the trends that I set, the following that I have… it’s like, “Damn,” it gonna be crazy.
When someone says, “Soulja Boy’s music is garbage, he’s ruining hip-hop,” what do you say in your defense?
My defense, I say, they’re probably used to hearing a type of music, and it’s different from mine, and they’re brought up, and they’ve listened to this type of music for so long, and when they hear something like a Soulja Boy, they scared, and they like, “What is this? This is so different!” But so many people like it, so they don’t get it. It really confuses them. They automatically on the defense, they attack. They like, “This is not hip-hop, and this is not what I’m used to listening to.” But it’s so different, and so many people are listenin’ to it.
What can you do now, as a teenager, that will help you achieve longevity in the rap game?
I can set my foot down—right now, I’m really hot. So right now when I’m hot I’m gonna take advantage of everything that I can do possible that can help me out, so later in my career, I may not have a single that’s as hot as, “Crank That Soulja Boy,” but what I have right now, I’m going to use to set my boundaries. Later on, when I don’t have a single that’s so hot, I still have the relationships that are helpin’ me on my single that I have out in the future.
Time for a prediction. 50 Cent drops his new album on September 11, you drop yours on October 2. Who’s gonna sell more copies?
You said who’s gonna sell more, me or 50 Cent?
You or 50 Cent. You’re pretty big right now, everybody’s doin’ that dance…
I think I’m gonna sell more, definitely.
Bold, I like it.
It’s a new generation of hip-hop—it’s a movement, so join.