Soulja Boy is ready to become a man. With third album "The DeAndre Way," the rapper (real name: DeAndre Way) shows how far he's come since he was the 16-year-old kid from Atlanta who released the out-of-nowhere dance hit "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" and mastered social media in 2007. Now 20, Soulja Boy raised his production game and brought in collaborators like 50 Cent, Trey Songz and Keri Hilson for "Way," which builds off 2009 hit singles "Kiss Me Thru the Phone" and "Turn My Swag On." "I felt like I proved I wasn't a one-hit wonder," he says, "but I also learned the set-up of an album, which is critical."
Soulja Boy previewed his third album by discussing its 10 tracks (four more will appear as bonus tracks on the iTunes version of the album) and sharing his thoughts on his most accomplished release yet.
|"The Beginning" by the Black Eyed Peas|
|"Love Me Back" by Jazmine Sullivan|
|"Glee: The Music, Vol. 4"|
|"Number One Hits" by Tim McGraw|
|"Second Change" by El DeBarge|
1. "First Day of School"
"'First Day of School' is one of my favorites," says Soulja Boy of the lead track. "On the first day of school everybody looks fresh -- new shoes, new shirt, the girls got their hair all did up. Ever since I made it to the rap game, every day for me has been the first day of school. Every day I dress like it's the first day of school. It's a fashionable song, but my fans are going to love it because it's catchy and I swag real hard on the beat."
"I got visions for that song," says Soulja Boy of the boisterous "Touchdown," which he says he would "put money on" being an upcoming single. "People ask me, 'You created 'Crank Dat,' what are you gonna do next?' I tell them, 'On this album, I think 'Touchdown' is gonna do that.' I think it's gonna be a smash. If you're listening to other songs and they're getting too personal on you, I think 'Touchdown' is gonna even it out and give you that original Soulja Boy feel."
3. "Hey Cutie"
With the help of R&B star Trey Songz, "Hey Cutie" finds a sweet spot that recalls 90s R&B artists like Boyz II Men and Next. "I think it'll be a big record for all the ladies," says Soulja Boy.
4. "Speakers Going Hammer"
"Speakers Going Hammer," the third single from "The DeAndre Way," features an airy hook and a kinetic beat by Boi-1da. The song was an immediate favorite of Soulja Boy -- as well as Jimmy Iovine, Co-CEO of Interscope. "I played it in a staff meeting, and that was Jimmy's favorite song off the whole album," he says. "Jimmy was like, 'Speakers, speakers, speakers! When are we going to shoot the "Speakers" video?' It was all very favorable for [the song]."
5. "Pretty Boy Swag"
Soulja Boy says the hard-hitting first single "Pretty Boy Swag" and its corresponding music video helped alert his fans that he was maturing as an artist. "I had to give them a visual on where I wanted to go with this album," he says. "'Pretty Boy Swag' was a free style that I did in the studio… I had to update them on my appearance, on my style, on everything, and that was the perfect way to go."
6. "30 Thousand 100 Million"
"30 Thousand 100 Million" features rappers Lil' B and Arab, and a start-stop beat that was made in a different style than Soulja was used to working with. "I was in Los Angeles and Arab came to my house, and we tried his new beat machine," he says. "'30 Thousand' was the first beat that I made on the actual beat machine. We went into the studio that night and that was it, straight mastery. That was one of the ones where I felt the energy."
7. "Mean Mug"
"Mean Mug," a pummeling collaboration with 50 Cent, came about when Soulja Boy was showing off his collection of "DeAndre Way" beats to the rapper. "I played 50 the album and he was like, 'Next… next… next…'. And 'Mean Mug' came on and he was like, 'Oh wait, what's that? Whoa, that's the one! I have to get on that one.' That's 'Mean Mug.'"
8. "Blowin' Me Kisses"
Second single "Blowin' Me Kisses" continues the more inviting sound of last year's hit single, "Kiss Me Thru the Phone." "I still had to have that R&B feel for all my Soulja girls. They love that side of me," he says with a smile. "I was kind of nervous because it was my first time singing. Most of the time I do an R&B song I'll let an R&B singer come on and do the hook, so I kinda tested it on that one."
Soulja Boy wanted to create a "Kanye vibe" for "Fly," which is omprised of soulful vocal snippets and a soft melody. "I think that it might win a lot of new ears over because it's a totally different sound," he says. "I took it and just really went in on it and tried to create art."
Keri Hilson helped out with the song that was originally titled "I Deserve a Grammy," which chronicles the rapper's desire to win one of music's most prestigious trophies. "When I wrote that song, I got nominated [for Best Rap Song in 2008] for 'Crank Dat,' and I lost to Kanye [for 'The Good Life']," he says, "and when I was going into this album I was like, 'Man, I need a Grammy!' And [Keri] came in and just killed it."