Interview: Toshitaka Kondo
For those that thought Soulja Boy Tell ’Em’s career was over after the first week numbers for his sophomore album, iSouljaBoyTellEm, came back at 45,000, he’s definitely having the last laugh. Since then, the album has steadily climbed to almost 200,000 copies, fueled by his smash, “Kiss Me Thru The Phone,” which sits at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the cocky “Turn My Swag On,” which has lit the streets on fire. And just for good measure, he recently shot the video for “Gucci Bandana,” with Atlanta’s favorite trap rappers, Gucci Mane and Shawty Lo. The ambitious 18 year old recently took a break from recording his third album, The DeAndre Way, and his upcoming DJ Drama Gangsta Grillz mixtape to talk to RapRadar about his first week numbers, changing his management, and Bow Wow.
Did you think your career was over when your first week sales numbers for iSouljaBoyTellEm came back at 45,000?
[When I saw] those first week numbers, I ain’t think it was over. I thought I had messed up. But I was scared. [Before] I was thinking, I’m Soulja Boy. If I push something, it’s gonna sell. I got cocky and overconfident and after I put the album out, I realized that it’s not about you, it’s about the music. Plus I had the wrong situation so I had to switch up my team. I still think my album is great. I just feel like I went with the wrong first single and had the wrong team in place.
When you say “team,” do you mean management?
Yeah. I switched management to Chris Lighty. I guess I didn’t have that much pull because at this point people still was probably speculating that I was gonna be a one hit wonder. So going into the third album, I done proved myself now as a legit artist, so management that I got now is gonna make sure that none of that gonna happen no more.
Did it cause any friction between you and Collipark given that your old manager was his brother, Derrick Crooms?
Nah. It was a move to better my career so it was no hard feelings.
What made you realize that “Birdwalk” wasn’t going to work?
When it wasn’t selling. I check all the charts myself. It wasn’t coming up on the iTunes chart or the Billboard chart. I just sat back and started just looking at it for what it was like, This is really not it! What the fuck goin’ on? But it was too late. The album was already out and it was the only song I had out.
You had a lot of input in terms of picking the singles though don’t you?
I always have creative control over all my projects, but I do listen to what the label has to say. It was really Mr. Collipark. He said, “They wanna hear you talking ‘bout dancing. I think ‘Bird Walk’ would be the one.” Then everybody was like, “Damn, that dance shit is kinda corny now. We don’t really wanna hear that.” Now they opening their ears to other stuff like “Turn My Swag On,” which is the hardest shit in the streets. You got artists like Wayne, Jeezy, Jim Jones, and Fabolous, that took my song and showed people what it was. It been that same thing the whole time but it’s always how you perceive it.
Given that Collipark told you to go with “Birdwalk,” did it make you lose some trust in him?
Of course. If somebody tell you something and it don’t work you not gonna listen to them again. Going into the third album, if I happen to have first week numbers like that again I want everything to be based off my decisions. He’s gonna have his input ‘cause I’m signed to him, but the final decision is gonna be made by me.
I know you guys squashed the beef. But is everything cool now with you you and Bow Wow?
Yeah, everything’s cool. You know things ain’t gon be how they was when we was doin’ “Marco Polo” together. But that whole thing shouldn’t have happened. Me being from where I’m from, for Bow Wow to even say my name and to come off as a hater, you know how proud my ‘hood was of me man? [Laughs.] On the Internet talking bout, ”Fuck Soulja Boy and you aint got more money then me.” We was lookin’ at that shit like, “We got him. We gonna take this nigga out the game.” I couldn’t believe that he was comin off like that. Nigga done been in the game like what? Ten years. You would’ve thought he handled that situation way more… Like I know if I been in the game for ten years, I ain’t goin out like that. So for him to be thinking like that, that let me know that everything ain’t what it seems and that I’m really blowin’ up real big. Just imagine you wake up tomorrow and Chris Brown got a video up just like Bow Wow had saying the same exact words. You be like, “That’s Chris Brown. He bigger then life.” Well not now, cause of the situation happened with Rihanna. But you gonna be like, “What the hell he arguing with Soulja Boy for?” [Laughs].
Have you guys spoke since that phone conversation that was on the Internet squashing the beef?
We ain’t really spoke, but when I did BET’s Spring Bling this past weekend, [Bow Wow] was there. I just walked up to him and shook his hand, had a couple words with him and kept it moving.
Does it feel like karma given that he was making fun of your first week sales and now his first week sales didn’t come in that high?
Yeah. You just took the words right out my mouth. I ain’t even gotta speak on it, but that ain’t nothing but karma. That’s why I don’t even gotta go in interviews and be like, “Yeah, Bow Wow, you talking all that shit. Look at me now. Now I’m the shit. Where you at?” After I say I’mma leave that situation alone, I left it alone. I could easily just go back and murder Bow Wow, but I’m cool with what I’m doing.