Looking like a spoiled kid forced to sit in on his dad's business meeting, DeAndre "Soulja Boy Tell'em" Way slumps in a black leather chair at Billboard's New York offices, twiddling his thumbs on his two-way. He's distracted.
With BlackBerry in hand, the 18-year-old rapper/producer sports a bright yellow baseball hat with a baby blue hair pick halfway tucked underneath it, a yellow and blue track jacket atop an oversized white tee, matching Yums Soulja Boy Block Star sneakers -- more on that later -- and a diamond-encrusted chain and wrist cuff.
He laughs out loud at an incoming message, then looks up at his best friend, Arab, who is smirking back at him. The two have tuned out the dialogue around them, leaving Soulja Boy's manager, Derrick Crooms, to handle the matters at hand. They are having their own chukle-worthy conversation with their mobile devices, and they don't plan on letting anyone else in on the joke.
It's easy to dismiss Soulja Boy as a run-of-the-mill teenager, but appearances can be deceiving. His breakthrough was due in part to his Internet fame and many consider him a Web-savvy business prodigy.
By the time Soulja Boy signed to Collipark/Interscope Records last summer, he'd already garnered an unfathomable online following from his YouTube channel and MySpace page. "I was one of the first artists to have a YouTube account, if not the first. I joined two months after the site launched," Soulja Boy says. "I faked it until I made it. I acted like I was a celebrity. I was signing autographs, taking pictures, but I had no record deal. I was living the life of a star, but I was just a regular kid then."