Twelve years ago, equipped with nothing more than a YouTube account and a computer program colloquially called Fruity Loops, Soulja Boy, then 17 years old, released a song-and-dance combination that would spark the beginning of a new era in hip-hop.
“Crank That (Soulja Boy)” is not a particularly intricate song or dance. And it’s not supposed to be. The song’s beauty ― and influence ― lie in how simple yet infectious it is. The track begins with a loud “Yuuuuuuuu,” the beat drops and Soulja Boy tells you how to perform one of the most recognizable dance sequences ever conceived.
Recent media hits — most notably the rapper’s Jan. 16 appearance on “The Breakfast Club” — have ignited a debate around the extent of Soulja Boy’s influence. Some scoff at the idea that the same man who released the absurd “Yahhh Bitch Yahhh” and the ingenious “Gucci Bandana” paved the way for rappers such as Lil B, Chief Keef, Mac Miller, Bobby Shmurda and even our beloved queen Cardi B.
But here at “Run That Back,” we stand strong amongst those who believe that y’all need to give Soulja Boy his things.
“Crank That” established Soulja Boy’s influence on hip-hop and finalized the blueprint for how a teenager could become a rap icon in the digital age. Seeing the profitability of social media — mainly YouTube, where he has posted hundreds of videos — he became one of the first rappers to promote himself online, garnering hundreds of millions of views over the years before most musicians even dreamed of leveraging online engagement into a sustainable career.
In 2008, Soulja Boy became the first rapper to set a record for the most digital downloads in the U.S. with “Crank That” selling over three million units. He created the viral dance concept. He’s the original social media influencer.
“Crank That,” and his later work, drove hip-hop to evolve. The current iteration doesn’t exist without him. Period.
On this edition of “Run That Back,” presented to you in a quick 10-minute recording, Taryn Finley and Julia Craven discuss Soulja Boy’s influence and how everyone needs to put some respect on his name.
Audio produced by Kenya Downs.