Soulja Boy Tellem isn't shy about it -- he knew early on he was going to take over the world. "I knew I was going to be big. My numbers on the Internet were unbelievable," the 19-year-old hip hop star said in an interview earlier this month.
Yes, arguably no one has benefited more from the "Digital Age" than DeAndre Way. He started his rap career in 2005 by posting songs online, quickly developed a following and gigs, and almost instantly went on to international success with his breakout single "Crank That" in 2007. More hit singles continued, including the infectiously ridiculous "Kiss Me Thru the Phone," but Tellem hasn't turned his back on the platform that made him a household name. Deep into digital, the artist interacts with his fans on Twitter daily, allows them to remix his tunes via an iPhone app (he's got four total), and continues to post new music online and everywhere. He's even collaborated with eyewear company GUNNAR on special glasses to wear for the Internet to prevent eye strain.
"I don't need no lawsuits [from people] sitting on the computer watching [me] all day," he cracked.
Tellem's had a busy summer. As he awaits the release of his forthcoming DeAndre Way album, he's been with Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy on a 22-city tour dubbed "Young Money Presents: America's Most Wanted Music Festival." I asked the rapper about the tour, his music, and life on the Interweb.
What's the tour been like?
It's been good. The first night of the tour can be compared to the first day of school with everybody watching each other. But, it's been a good feeling - to have 15,000 people in the audience enjoying themselves.
You're really a product of the Internet. It must be surreal to be a star now doing the same thing you did when you weren't established yet...
It really is. I've been in the game for three years now, and I'm still doing the same thing. First it was MySpace and YouTube and Twitter now. I broke a million followers a month ago. It just keeps the whole world updated.
And you're nice enough to come out with an eyewear line to help people from all that eye strain caused by looking at you, right?
A lot of people don't know but it really messes with your eyes if you stay an excess amount of hours on the computer.
For the most part you stay out of trouble - how do you manage to do that - especially since the Internet readily reports any slip ups?
[It's been] really good - everybody's focused on my music - what's my next album going to sound like or who I'm collaborating with or who I'm working with on future projects - instead of being on gossip websites every single day.
Lastly, was there ever any doubt when you were a budding rapper that you wouldn't make it?
My numbers on internet were unbelievable -- for me to be a kid in the hood on the Internet with millions and millions across the world looking at videos of me dancing, rapping or being with my friends, I was like "Whoa!" When I really knew was when I started getting booked for shows. Girls were going crazy singing my music word for word. I was like "Man, if I ever get signed to record company, I'm going take over."
Follow Jon Chattman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thecheappop