NEW YORK — Soulja Boy Tell'em's career is growing by leaps and bounds. One day he put a song called "Crank That" onto the Net, and months later, he's breaking digital-download records to the tune of 3 million sold.
Now the upstart teen rapper has his eyes on the MTV News hip-hop brain trust's "Hottest MCs in the Game" list. The next list is on the way soon.
Six months ago, however, when the top 10 was unveiled, SB was only bubbling beneath the surface as his catchy dance number was just breaking through before it eventually turned into a pop phenomenon. But now that he's got his chops up — including a Grammy nod for Best Rap Song — the Southern rhyme-spitter thinks he's deserving of a place alongside top-five MCs like Lil Wayne and Kanye West. Actually, he thinks he the #1 slot suits him in particular.
"I think if y'all did it right now, yeah, I deserve to be on there," SB told MTV News last week. "But back there, when y'all did it, I probably didn't have the status that I have right now.
"I'm Grammy-nominated," he continued, citing his credentials. "If I look at the new list and I compare myself to all 10 of the artists and some don't add up, I'll be like, 'Wow. I should be #1 if it's right now. I'm #1."
Soulja Boy was more candid when asked how he ranks specifically against alumni of the first Hottest MCs list, like Weezy, 'Ye and Jay-Z.
"Right now, yes [I'm hotter than them]," he answered as their names were read to him one by one.
He said he is the best-selling online, highest-ranking on the Web and the most publicized rapper worldwide right now.
"Today, January — whatever the date this is — 2008, yes [I am the hottest]," SB emphasized.
While Soulja Boy fully believes in himself, critics say his "ringtone" raps are a part of the problem plaguing hip-hop's lyrical creativity. However, some pretty big heavyweights from 50 Cent to Nas have co-signed on the young rapper. Soulja Boy also said Busta Rhymes has reached out to work with him. But SB said to give him three or four more years to get his focus on being more lyrical in his tracks.
In the meantime, he sees himself as a pioneer of sorts, opening the door for do-it-yourself acts and artists set on making big dance tracks.
"They'll say I opened up a lot of doors for people," Soulja Boy explained. "The first person who started this, what we call hip-hop, opened the door for me. It probably wasn't a party track or a 'Crank That,' it probably was something way, way, way different than what I'm talking about, but he still opened the door for what I'm doing, and if I never would have did this, [the next] wouldn't come."