VIBE sits down with the 19-year-old ATLien to talk studying Nas, disappearing tattoos, and disparaging Twitter hashtags.
Interview: John Kennedy
VIBE: The world thought you kissed you 2.2 million Twitter followers goodbye last week. What happened?
Soulja Boy Tell’Em: Some busters hacked my page. Little nerds, they sit all day and try to get into your page. I woke up and couldn’t log in and was just getting crazy texts, like, “Man, you deleted your Twitter?” Twitter brought my page back; everything is 100 now.
Would’ve been a tragedy amidst the success of “Pretty Boy Swag.” Did you expect the video to hit No. 5 on iTunes the first day it came out?
When I went in the studio to do that song was earlier this year, I was playing. I got a beat from my lil homies and went in and said, Pretty… Boy… Swag. I was really feeling myself. The song did like a million [views] on YouTube. So I ran with it, the streets ran with it, and after that, the label caught hold.
Does it feel similar to your previous singles that took off, like “Crank Dat” and “Turn My Swag On”?
Yeah, it feels just like “Superman,” like “My Dougie.” That authentic, real growth from the streets spread through the high schools and the college parties. I love that feeling.
“[Kanye] said, ‘Those were some dope f-ckin’ verses.’ I said, ‘OK, that’s all I needed. [Laughs] I got the stamp.'”
I remember you saying a few months back that you want this to be your most lyrical album yet. What’s your writing process?
It depends on what type of song it is. For “Pretty Boy Swag,” there was no writing process. I went into the booth, listened to the beat, and the rhythm had just kept catching my head. So I put the headphones on and just replaced the rhythm with whatever words. That was my basic process for that song. But like for a song I have on my album called “I Deserve A Grammy,” featuring Esther Dean, the writing process for that was crucial. That was like, a six-hour plane ride from New York to Los Angeles, just clearing my head, sitting down with a sheet of paper and a pen and just going in. Thinking of the words, how I’m going to pronounce each syllable and playing the beat over and over in my head. That was a much more crucial process. When people hear the album, and hear songs like “I Deserve A Grammy,” you’re going to be able to tell I really had to sit down and go back in over and over until I had it perfect.
Interesting song title. Do you feel like you don’t get enough respect for the success you’ve achieved?
Everybody knows what it is. Whether they respect it publicly or low-key, deep down they know what Soulja Boy did. Eventually I will earn the respect. I just gotta keep putting in that work and eventually I will win a Grammy and all the awards I deserve. I just gotta prove myself.
What about the Twitter hashtags #ifsouljaboycouldrap or #rappersbetterthansouljaboy—when you see stuff like that, do you just laugh it off, or does it get to you?
When I see stuff like that it makes my ego get bigger. Because it’s like, damn, all these people are focusing on me—whether it’s good or it’s bad. I know that my music’s the shit. It’s only a certain group of people pushing that negative energy, so for all the other people that’s seeing it that fuck with me, that makes them want to go harder for me. When I see stuff like that, I know it’s going to lead all these people to my name, period. It’s funny, but at the same time, it’s promotion.
So what’d you do differently this album to make your raps more lyrical?