"In high school, I had this black composition notebook where I used to write down a list of goals: weekly goals, monthly ones, yearly ones, and one for my whole life. In there I had: get a record deal; have a number one song; have a platinum album; get a shoe line and clothing line; invent a dance everyone would do; get my mom out the hood; even little things like get a real watch or do all my homework. One day, I left the notebook in class and this dude found it. He read it out loud in front of everybody when I wasn’t there, trying to embarrass me. Mark my words, a year later, everything in that book had come true. I got the last laugh."
Soulja Boy Tell’em is many things to many people. Apparently, prophetic is one of them. What began as juddering camcorder footage in his basement mutated into worldwide phenomenon. You’ve memorized the infectious hooks. The dance has been inexorably burned into your muscle memory. And the numbers confirm what you already know: 400 million views on YouTube; over five million downloads of the pandemic single "Crank That (Soulja Boy)"; seven weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 singles’ chart; more than five million ringtones sold; platinum status and beyond for debut album Souljaboytellem.com.
The 1s and 0s are beyond dispute, and frankly out of reach for competitive artists. But what of the Xs and Os of Soulja Boy Tell’em? Can sophomore record iSouljaBoyTellem match his own daunting precedent?
"As big as rap is, and as big as "Crank That" was, I’m still not as famous as I want to be," he warns. "I can sit in first class on a plane and a dude next to me in a business suit will wonder who I am. I wanna be Barack Obama big. And not just for a dance I made; I want everybody to know me. So when I’m dead and gone, people can watch my whole life on the internet. I’m thinking about movies, companies, having a building that big [points to a neighboring NYC skyscraper] with Souljaboytellem Inc. on it. That’s why I’m talking about going back to college; I’m smart but I need more knowledge to get there. It’s not impossible."
Such proclamations aren’t hype, even hyperbole, but sheer honesty. The gleam in his eye and his steadfast tone confirm. Then a bubbly and bubbling 16-year old, Soulja Boy Tell’em admits he didn’t take the process of his first biography, concocted just before his superstardom, all that seriously. Understandably, he couldn’t have predicted the global groundswell he was about to initiate: "All this happened off one song, one long run. One year of an adventure. If all that can happen in one year, off one song, from one person, I can do a lot more." Though Soulja Boy Tell’em’s reign is still in its fledgling stages, his impact is lasting. He’s the classic American success story, a modern-day Horatio Alger tale expressed not in bound book but via video fragments and stadium-shaking refrains.