Soulja Boy rides wave of fame and doesn’t take it for granted

Hard work got him where he is, the 17-year-old says.



Do it yourself.

That’s the pervasive mantra that can be found throughout all aspects of the music industry, which is currently going through a metamorphosis regarding who has the power.

Whereas for the past half century record labels and publicity machines pretty much dictated what the mainstream consumed, the new millennium is a different business model, with the Internet driving commerce and exposure.

More importantly, this means not only is there no low man on the totem pole but the totem pole ceases to exist.

Take for instance hip-hop newcomer DeAndre “Soulja Boy” Cortez, who last fall watched as his debut single, “Crank That [Soulja Boy],” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“When I finished the song, I didn’t think it would be anything,” said Cortez, 17, calling from Florida. “I didn’t look at it as no single, it was just another song that I wrote.

“And then I put it on the Internet and after I did that, after it got its first million views, I was like, ‘Wow, this song is popping.’ And right now today, it’s like 29 million views on YouTube.”

While the track is now featured on his Interscope album “,” which was released in October, the song originally appeared on Cortez’s debut effort “Unsigned and Still Major.” He released that album independently roughly a year ago and watched as the unexpected happened, taking him from obscurity to celebrity seemingly overnight.

“It feels really good,” Cortez said. “It’s been a good six months. It’s a dream come true and it’s something that’s really unexpected to happen. I guess it’s my time to shine. I wanted it real bad, I wanted to be the next superstar, I worked hard and I got it.

“Right now I’m on TV, nominated for awards, making a lot more money, my schedule is way busier and life is just more complicated.”

Currently Cortez finds himself as the opener on the much-hyped “UCP Tour,” featuring Chris Brown and Bow Wow. The bill comes through Cleveland for a Sunday show at Quicken Loans Arena.

In many ways, Cortez belies his age. Whereas most teenagers thrust into the public eye could easily lose touch with reality, believing that their bottle of Cristal was bottomless and confusing stardom with longevity, this Chicago native appears to be different. In fact, he’s selling out as fast as he can with the clock ticking.

“In this business, you have to have a plan,” Cortez said. “I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity I can while I’m hot and while everybody knows who I am. Maybe in four months from now, I won’t have a ‘Crank That’ song that’s taking over everything, and the same people who are looking at me today, probably won’t be looking at me then.

“So while they’re looking at me right now, I have to take advantage of everything to make as much money as possible. Like my trademark shades I designed, you can go to We’re moving 100 units a day. We’ll hook you up.”

When asked if wearing his sunglasses will improve our MC skills, Cortez laughed, “Nah man, but you probably can dance a little better, though.”