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One of the first interviews to cause a ruckus this year was Soulja Boy’s appearance on “The Breakfast Club” this past Wednesday (Jan. 16) where the rapper pleaded his case for having the biggest comeback of 2018. While most rap fans — including hosts Charlamagne The God, DJ Envy, and Angela Yee — cast their votes for Tyga and Meek Mill having the most impressive comeback, Soulja’s insistence that his year was more successful drew more than a few eye rolls and chuckles.
However, while Soulja’s reasoning behind his statement was ludicrous, the rapper did make a few valid points that got lost in translation, particularly his influence on some of the biggest stars in rap. His outlandish antics may overshadow his merits. But, at one time, Soulja was viewed as a maverick and visionary. Catapulting himself to the forefront of the rap game at age 17, Soulja was one of the first true DIY artists to strike gold off the strength of the internet. Laying out a blueprint that has been followed by countless rappers over the past decade, the rapper’s brilliance may be understated. But, his imprint on the rap game cannot be debated.
In light of him being a pioneer and helping revolutionize hip hop in the new millennium, here are nine reasons we need to put some respect on Soulja Boy’s name.
1. His Debut Single Was Record Breaking
In 2007, Soulja Boy’s debut single, “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” took the world by storm, peaking atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart for several weeks. Within a year of its release, it was announced that “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” had set the record for most digital downloads in the U.S. with over three million units sold. This made him the first rapper to achieve that feat.
2. He Created His First Album Using Fruity Loops
Long before rappers were using software programs to create music from the comfort of their bedroom, Soulja Boy proved to be ahead of the curve. He utilized FL Studio to craft the beats for his debut album, Souljaboytellem.com. “Just a PC,” Soulja explained to 50 Cent about the making of his album during a 2007 appearance on “Rap City.” “Yeah, no instruments or nothing. Just a PC and a software on there called FL Studio and just the beat and that was it.”
3. He Helped Set Off The Internet-Dance Craze
One aspect of “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” that elevated its popularity was the song’s accompanying dance, which spread like wildfire with die-hard fans. Transcending hip hop to become a mainstream fad, the “Crank That” dance was the first in rap history go viral on the internet and it helped inspire the various dance challenges that have become the norm in the last decade.
4. He Popularized YouTube As A Platform For Artists
Soulja Boy was already a household name prior to signing with Interscope Records due to his popularity on YouTube, which the rapper used to help promote his music and build his buzz. One of the first rap artists to embrace YouTube, Soulja’s “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” video amassed tens of millions of views, a first for a relatively unknown artist. Due to the overwhelming success that came from using the platform, other inspired artists followed suit. This resulted in YouTube becoming an integral asset for breaking new artists and music.
5. He’s A Grammy-Nominated Artist
Soulja Boy’s music has been maligned at times for what some see as a lack of substance and depth. But, he has achieved what a number of more acclaimed artists have yet to attain: a Grammy nomination. In 2008, “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” was included in the category for Best Rap Song at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, making him among the youngest rap artists in history to earn a nod from the committee. While “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” ultimately lost out to “Good Life” by Kanye West and T-Pain, the moment helped validate Soulja as a credible artist of merit from the most respected institution in music.
6. He Helped Pioneer Troll Culture
Rappers like 2Pac and 50 Cent are two of the poster children when it comes to beef. But, Soulja was among the first to shift the tide of rap spats being violent to them being comedic. His war of words with the likes of Ice-T, Bow Wow and others often included more humor than vitriol. This new beef tactic has served as a precursor to the likes of Lil Yachty, 6ix9ine and other trolls who have followed in his footsteps.
7. His Musical Style Influenced A Generation of Rappers
Names like Lil Wayne, Drake, and Gucci Mane are often mentioned when listing the most influential artists of this generation. But, Soulja Boy has as good of a case as anybody in that group. Initially pegged as the antithesis of what hip hop represents by rap purists, over time; Soulja’s simplistic lyrics, catchy refrains, and sparse production would become the method of choice for aspiring rappers looking to make their way in the game. Listen to music by the “mumble-rap” set of today and you’re bound to hear traces of Soulja’s style in their songs. This is a testament to his impact on the landscape of rap.
8. He Revolutionized How Artists Market Themselves Online
First gaining prominence on SoundClick, Soulja’s usage of various social media platforms to connect with his audience online directly helped ingratiate him to fans in a way that had never been seen before. Originally more popular among independent artists, the rapper being able to translate internet hype into mainstream success opened not only the eyes of fellow artists, but their record labels. Over time, social media became a prerequisite for artists looking to survive in an industry that had gone from analog to digital, and Soulja Boy was at the forefront of that evolution.
9. His Acumen As A Businessman
Every artist in rap seems to be expanding their portfolio and championing the DIY approach these days. But, Soulja can be credited for taking an active interest in being a businessman from the beginning of his career. Leveraging his success in the music world into lucrative opportunities in other industries, the artist amassed partnerships with numerous companies over the years. Delving into fashion, gaming, online gambling and other arenas; his approach to entertaining the public may be whimsical and lighthearted. But, his acumen as a business is nothing to take lightly.
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