It’s been 15 years, and Soulja Boy — the teen rap star-turn-mogul who was once accused of “killing hip hop” — is still creating hits, captivating the Internet, and proving naysayers wrong.
Born Andre Cortez, the 31-year-old rapper is best known for “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” the wildly successful single that launched his career as a pioneer of digital hip hop. The Chicago-born artist initially self-published the catchy song to the internet in 2007 and uploaded the corresponding “Soulja Boy dance” on YouTube, generating a tidal wave of downloads, views, and buzz at a time when aspiring rappers were still handing out mixtapes and demos in hopes of getting discovered. Nonetheless, at just 16 years old, he wrote, produced, and distributed a smash hit independently that peaked at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks. During an interview on REVOLT’s Assets Over Liabilities, Soulja Boy says he generated $10,000 a month by hacking SoundClick, an early streaming service, while also growing an organic online fan base.
“I was making 10 bands a day in high school,” he said.
He also admitted to redirecting web traffic from his SoundClick page to his MySpace account when the platform first launched. That tactic helped him to become the No. 1 artist on the social network before he jumped on the YouTube wave.
“I was the first rapper to get paid on YouTube,” Soulja Boy told BLACK ENTERPRISE in an interview.
“Crank That” went on to receive a Grammy nomination and become the first song ever to sell 3 million digital copies in the U.S. It also went platinum three times, sold millions of ring tones, and led to his million-dollar contract with Interscope records.
In addition to being an early adopter of social media platforms, Soulja Boy is one of the first artists to cultivate a direct relationship with his fans through text message subscriptions after he included a phone number in his smash hit “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” back in 2008. Although critics deemed him as a one-hit-wonder, he went on to produce and work with major artists like Nick Minaj, release multiple hits,…