By Q McElroy Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
Q. McElroy, the former entertainment editor for the
AJC, manages blogs for AJC.com covering sports to entertainment to politics.
The Atlanta native has also worked for other publications including Essence
Youth often belies wisdom. In the case of rapper/producer/writer Soulja Boy, youth – and youthful antics – completely distort his wisdom. Granted, the 20-year-old who has more than 100 tattoos admittedly has room to grow. But despite critics and yes, even haters, this digital mastermind is on top of his game. Consider the not-so-basic basics:
500 million YouTube views
86 million MySpace views
12 million ringtones sold
10 million digital singles
1.4 million albums sold
2.5 million Twitter followers
The numbers are astounding especially considering S.B. isn’t yet old enough to legally buy a cocktail at the clubs he frequents. But his success transcends mere figures. This Southern-bred millionaire has created a Donald Trump-esque empire by turning the World Wide Web into his personal playground.
Born DeAndre Cortez Way, he used a computer and basic software to self-publish songs on the Internet – the digital equivalent to selling CDs from your trunk – that clicked with teens and especially teen girls. To capitalize on his growing popularity, he incorporated sites like MySpace and YouTube which led to surging page views and lucrative profit-sharing deals with the sites. By age 16 he had a major record deal and his smash single “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”, complete with a new dance, propelled him from underground sensation to worldwide phenom. The single spent seven consecutive weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100, making him the youngest person to write, produce and perform a No. 1 hit on that list.
Deemed the music industry’s “King of Social Media” by The Wall Street Journal, S.B. is the quintessential social networker. He has 20 websites under him and a YouTube channel with regular messages and videos about his daily life, highlighted by shirtless underwear close-ups. He regularly posts messages on his Twitter account (and even follows some of his fans, which is nearly unheard of for celebrities) and of course Twitpics lots of shirtless photos for the ladies. It doesn’t hurt that he has a knack for crafting ringtones that everyone and their mamas want to download.
But his true business savvy may lie in his ability to strategically think five steps ahead, guided by regular advice from industry pros like 50 Cent. S.B. is using a new tool, SayNow, which creates a phone number that fans call to hear messages from him. He says he’s at 4.9 million subscribers. He also is contemplating creating a social network that would function as if Twitter, FaceBook and MySpace morphed into one mass unit.
Beyond that, he has an online cartoon series, iPhone apps, line of shades, a book coming out (“Teenage Millionaire”), a movie in development and he now owns Yums apparel company.
All of these ventures recently landed him on Forbes’ list of Hip-Hop’s Top 20 Earners. With a networth of $6 million, he claimed the 18th spot and has his sights set on the Top 10 next year.