SOULJA BOY: The Full Oct/Nov Cover Story [Pg 3]
If there’s any universal truth in today’s entertainment industry, it’s that everybody’s business is everybody’s business. While some believe Kat Stacks set up what was seen on camera, it’s evident that Soulja was entertaining a woman known for slandering celebs like Fabolous and Carmelo Anthony. (Fabo and Soulja have sparred on Twitter since the Kat Stacks run-in.) Instead of aiming for a publishing check like Karrine Steffans, Stacks kisses and tells via video uploads to the Internet. Hard to ignore the irony here: Soulja’s new-media introduction could have Dr. Frankensteined his own female monster. Still, with all the available kittens out there, why would Mr. Pretty Boy Swag choose Kat?
“You just never know somebody’s intentions,” he says, shaking his head. “I just gotta pray that the next female I’m with… I just gotta be smarter about these girls, because that one… She got my ass.”
“It’s a lot of hoes out there, and he don’t need to be involved in none of that,” says Mr. Jenkins. “If you choose to be with somebody like that you keep it private, use protection, and send her on her way.”
Though Soulja sparred briefly with Fabo on Twitter in the wake of the Kat-caine episode, Mr. Jenkins is the only reason S.B. gives the matter any energy. His Dad’s opinion of him means everything. In fact, author Malcolm Gladwell might theorize that, just as some Asians lead the world in arithmetic proficiency due to their regional ancestry, S.B. may be a superstar today because his father made him the ultimate outlier. DeAndre, raised in a single-parent home in Atlanta, knew no loves greater than rap and computers. His mother struggled financially, so when 11-year-old Dre spoke to his father for the first time and arranged a summer stay at his Battesville, Miss., home, his life changed forever.
“I asked him to write down everything he want- ed in life,” remembers Poppa Soulja, an engineer technician and welder. “He mailed it to me, and I got everything that was on the list. I didn’t miss one thing.”
No purchase on that list meant more to Tracy’s son and his future than that desktop Dell PC. With a financially comfortable father, an Internet connec- tion, and a room to himself, DeAndre decided to re- main in Mississippi. He would soon meet his uncle and fellow techie Justin, who was two years older. Justin would introduce him to the free production software Fruity Loops. While DeAndre may not be fully cognizant of the outlier he is, he does credit his dad with a sort of prophetic inspiration.
“I used to ride with my father a lot. And he would always tell me, ‘You gonna live better than me. You gonna have better things than I had.’ But I could never believe it,” he says. “Now I look at my Bent- ley, my Lamborghini, my house in L.A, my house in Georgia, my record label—just everything—and say to myself, ‘Wow, he was right.’”
NOW THAT DEANDRE WAY is no longer a teen, it’s a challenge to pinpoint exactly who Soulja Boy is. Next year, he’ll be eligible to follow Bow Wow’s and Jeezy’s precedent and drop the “Boy” from his stage name. As he nears adulthood, he faces a potential identity crisis when his public approaches a percep- tion fork in the road. On any given day he’s either one of the music biz’s most prodigious young thinkers (“Master P and Diddy did it with tapes and CDs. I’m doing it with the Internet”) or just young (“[When] I say, ‘All the girls are on me—swag,’ don’t get that misconstrued. That’s 100 percent real talk.”)
One minute King Kong ain’t got shit on him, the next he’s as harmlessly marketable as Curious George.
But right now he’s Tupac. Breaking from his VIBE shoot, he mean-mugs himself in the dressing room mirror between set changes. His black denim shorts are losing so badly to gravity that the bottoms of his boxer briefs almost crown his belt loops. A black wifebeater covers the collage of body art he’s acquired over the last couple years—face tats includ- ed. Two homies observe their buddy, mouthing lyrics to his own blaring music as if they paid admission. He makes trigger and middle-finger gestures, while three gold cables hang from his neck—the lengthiest donning a Bentley front grill in canary diamonds— swaying in rhythm with his skinny shoulders. It’s quite a scene.
More interesting, though, is the score to this scene: some pretty aggressive cuts off Dre’s upcom- ing LP. There’s no dance instruction or text flirting in these lyrics. Instead: audacity, adult posturing, bottle and model poppin’ over beats more suited for Rick Ross. It’s anybody’s guess how The DeAn- dre Way’s sweet-sixteen-ready cuts like “Blowing Me Kisses” and the Chris Brown– and Trey Songz– powered “Hey Cutie” will coexist with street cuts like “Boom” and “Big Steez,” which are replete with kush blunts, infrared beams and lofty claims (“I think I’m ’bout to make more money than 50 Cent”)—or, more importantly, how corporate America will react to the older, grittier Soulja Boy. While Interscope may be a bit nervous, management isn’t.
“Creatively I understand his genius,” says Soul- ja’s very hands-on manager Debby Coda, a late-20- something London transplant who’s one of Violator Management’s more creatively invested (Debby’s also the English voice on Busta Rhymes’ “Respect My Conglomerate”). “Even when I may not agree [with him] I feel in my gut that it will work. He knows his fan base better than anybody.”
Debby then notes who’s really running things. “We can advise and downplay certain things, but dig- itally we can’t stop him from doing anything. Soulja put ‘Pretty Boy Swag’ out, and then the label jumped on it after it blew up.”
Prince Tell ’Em is clearly not concerned with his once-pristine image. As of now there’s really no need to be. He’s conjured anticipation for his album with two commercially successful singles, his record label S.O.D (Stacks on Deck) is on the verge, with artists like Lil B murmuring in the underground; and his Hollywood career is scheduled to launch, thanks to Nick Cannon. When Mariah’s hubby was still a teenager, he wrote a movie about a juvenile delinquent who gets sent to a scared-straight pris- on. Cannon initially intended to play the lead himself. Figuring he’s too old for the role today, he felt Soulja Boy would be an ideal replacement.
The magnitude of Soulja being handpicked by one of Hollywood’s youngest to shoulder an entire film with his onscreen experience limited to televi- sion appearances on Entourage, The Game and a Justin Bieber Nickelodeon movie seems lost on the young rapper. He sees a major motion picture as nothing more than one “long-ass music video,” as if his stardom extending to Tinseltown is as preor- dained as his record deal was. “All I need to do is get one movie in the theaters [and] I would have broken into Hollywood,” he says. “Just like when I was a kid, [I said] all I got to do is get one video on TV and it’s a wrap. I got that one video on 106 & Park, and it was a wrap.”
Right now, Soulja appears to be on cloud nine. A sea of manicured model hands keeps him airborne for the cover shot. With a wide smile, he looks just like a 20-year-old enjoying his young life. Another perception flip.
Then it clicks: Soulja Boy is the future of hip- hop, the poster boy for all of the culture’s subjection— good or bad; pure vs. progressive; proactive as well as reactive. The boy genius is adapting to manhood and a predatorily empowering entertainment indus- try all at once. He is and has always been the quintes- sential product of his environment. So whether it’s a beat produced in 20 minutes, a catchy tune that sells a million ringtones or Internet videos decorated with ostentatious jewelry and sagging back pockets, we’re receiving what hip-hop has birthed in the last two decades: a Soulja’s education times a boy’s miseducation.
“I wanna be on Nickelodeon smiling next to Justin Bieber and on the Disney Channel smiling next to Hannah Montana,” he says, bathed in the studio’s reddish glow. “But I also wanna be in the ’hood with my nigga Gucci, too. So I guess my role is I don’t have no role. Soulja Boy do whatever the fuck he wanna do.” V