DeAndre Ramone Way (born July 28, 1990), better known by his stage name Soulja Boy Tell 'Em, or simply Soulja Boy, is an American rapper and record producer.
Soulja Boy Tell 'Em was born in Chicago and moved to Atlanta at age six, where he became interested in rap music. At age 14, he moved to Batesville, Mississippi, with his father, who provided a recording studio for Way to explore his musical ambitions.
In November 2005, Way posted his songs on the website SoundClick. Following positive reviews on the site, he then established his own web pages on YouTube and MySpace. In March 2007, he recorded "Crank That" and released his first independent album Unsigned & Still Major: Da Album Before da Album, followed by a low-budget video filmed demonstrating the "Crank That dance". By the end of May 2007, "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" received its first airplay and Way met with Mr. Collipark to sign a deal with Interscope Records.
On August 12, 2007, the song appeared on the Emmy-award winning HBO series Entourage, and by September 1, it topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot RingMasters charts. Way's major label debut album Souljaboytellem.com, which was reportedly recorded using just the demo version of FL Studio, was released in the United States on October 2, peaking at #4 on both the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. On December 9, 2007, Way was sued by William Lyons (aka Souljah Boy of Mo Thugs) who claims he first created the stage name "Souljah Boy".
For the 50th Grammy Awards, Way was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Song with "Crank That (Soulja Boy)". He lost to Kanye West's and T-Pain's "Good Life".
Souljaboytellem.com received a favorable review from Allmusic but received mainly negative ones, such as from Entertainment Weekly. Several reviewers credited Soulja Boy with spearheading a new trend in hip-hop, while speculating he will likely be a one-hit wonder.
Critics and hip-hop figures such as Snoop Dogg and Method Man cite Soulja Boy as artistically typical of contemporary rap trends such as writing for the lucrative ringtone market, and the ascendence of "Southern hip hop", emphasizing catchy music that discards rap's traditional emphasis on message. Soulja Boy identifies his goal as making upbeat, party-themed music that avoids the negative, violent image that he sees in most hip-hop. Despite this, his music has been banned from some school dances for sexual, violent content or innuendo. However, he has denied these claims. In the original YouTube video for "Shootout", Soulja Boy demonstrates his dance while holding a handgun in each hand and pretending to shoot into the audience.
In June 2008, on DJ Cisco’s Urban Legend mixtape, Ice-T criticized Way for "killing hip-hop" and his song "Crank That" for being "garbage" compared to the works of other hip-hop artists such as Rakim, Das EFX, Big Daddy Kane and Ice Cube. The two then traded numerous videos back and forth over the Internet. These videos included a cartoon and video of Ice-T dancing on Way's behalf and an apology, but reiteration of his feelings that Way's music "sucks", on Ice-T's behalf. Rapper Kanye West defended Way by arguing that the younger artist created a new, original work for hip-hop, thus keeping the authentic meaning of the music.
The follow-up to souljaboytellem.com, iSouljaBoyTellem, was released on December 16, 2008, to negative critical reception. The first single from the album, "Bird Walk", peaked at number 40 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and the top 20 on the Hot Rap Tracks chart. "Kiss Me Thru the Phone", with Sammie, followed, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot Rap Tracks charts.
On December 30, 2008, Soulja Boy was robbed and assaulted in his home. Initial reports indicated that the robbers were six masked men with AK-47s and pistols but on December 31, 2008, video clips surfaced on the Internet of two masked men claiming sole credit for the crime. Soulja Boy described the incident to MTV News a month later: He had come home very late at night after attending an album release party and was recording songs with friends when the robbers came in pointing their guns.
The DeAndre Way is the rapper's upcoming third studio album which is set to be released on August 25, 2009. The first single, "Pow", was released to his YouTube account in early 2009, with profanity. The song was later re-recorded, sans profanity, and released to iTunes.
Soulja Boy Tell 'Em founded the Stacks on Deck Entertainment record label in 2004. The label is distributed by both Interscope Records and Collipark Music. Other artists on the roster include Arab, JBar, the S.O.D. Money Gang (Soulja Boy Tell 'Em, Arab, and JBar), and White Tee.