I don’t feel old but I’m old enough to remember being too old for Soulja Boy when he first came out. Back in 2007 when “Crank That” was terrorizing sound systems at wedding receptions and sending ’90s rappers into conniption fits, I remember sitting back and watching the chaos with a sense of amusement. After all, the kids loved the silly dance that came with it the way those grumpy old heads had loved doing the Kid n’ Play Kickstep — also known as “Funky Charleston” — and ringtone rap seemed no more destructive to the art form than the Fresh Prince winning the first-ever rap Grammy.
Considering that we saw the Kickstep come surging back riding a wave of ’90s nostalgia (even though it never really went away) and the ground shaking popularity of the elaborately choreographed dances on TikTok making hits of songs like Doja Cat’s “Say So” and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” it was probably only a matter of time before Soulja Boy became a fixture of that app’s audience’s repertoire. And so it has, thanks to the man himself, who went back to the creative well that first launched him into the spotlight for the irresistibly catchy new single “Make It Clap.”
The track, which he cooked up off-the-dome during a freestyle session on Twitch, is all the things “Crank That” was; simple, repetitive, instantly recognizable, and of-the-moment, tapping directly into the pleasure centers of its young fans’ brains with a trunk-rattling, skeletal drum track and loopy, hypnotic whistling tune. But the element that’s making it a feature of post after post on TikTok is the Soulja-concocted dance that goes with it, a Macarena-esque upper-body Hokey Pokey whose moves are just enough on the nose that they echo the lyrics without the lyrics being instructional — in other words, the sort of dance damn near guaranteed to go insanely viral.
That’s exactly what it’s done, shooting straight to the top of Billboard‘s little-known but portentous Top Triller chart — both US and Global. Songs hitting that impressive milestone generally go on to invade other, more mainstream charts as casual users begin to stream them outside of the confines of TikTok and its endless-scrolling array of dance-along videos. Thinking Soulja just had to have some interesting thoughts on going viral pretty much the same way in two different decades — especially now that he’s an established vet, rather than the table-flipping young upstart — I got him on the phone for an interview about the song, dance, and their ridiculous success. I wasn’t disappointed.
Could you walk me through the process of recording “Make it Clap?” What were you doing that day? What happened in the studio?
I was streaming live on Twitch. I was on Twitch streaming, and I got a server on there called Soulja World. I got a studio in Grand Theft Auto, but I had started the studio because, with the pandemic and stuff like that, I couldn’t really be around all my folks. We just be in Grand Theft Auto freestyling. Mostly I just be on the mic, just spitting, going through beats. When I pulled the beat up, I was like, “Man, this is it, too hard, I want to turn this into a real song”.
When you first came out with “Crank That,” you did the dance yourself, you created the challenge, and it just sort of took off. Is that what happened with “Make it Clap?”
I uploaded it, made a dance to it, and then everybody just kept doing it. I did the TikTok video, then I posted the TikTok video to Instagram and I was like, “y’all go check out the ‘Make It Clap’ challenge”. Then everybody just started doing it. I feel like it was just the people coming from my Instagram to my TikTok seeing the dance. Then after that, the TikTok community got on to it. They kept it going. I just kept remixing it. We kept remixing it until it just caught on.
Obviously, it’s a little bit of a different style of dance than “Crank That.” How would you describe the differences?
I just feel like back then, we had less dances, and now we have so many dances where you can incorporate all them dances into a challenge. We came from “Crank That” and the Superman, to the Nae Nae and hittin’ them folks and all that. Now, there’s so many different dances out, it makes it easier for the kids and for the grown folks from the club just to dance. You could pick any one move and hit it. I feel like it’s hard to learn when you when you’re on the outside looking in. But I feel like once you get involved, it ain’t as hard as it looks.
It seems like there’d be no TikTok or no Instagram challenges, or any of that other stuff without you. I was watching The Boondocks the other night, specifically the Sargeant Gutta episode, and I had no idea I would be interviewing you two days later. You went through a whole era where fans clowned you, and you’re still here on the next version of it. What do you think about the longevity that you’ve had?
I keep going, and just keep going, and just keep going. Just keep going. It definitely hit me though when I went number one again. I’m like, “Man, I did it again. I really did it again.”
Do you any advice for younger artists?
Blueprint though, just attack the internet. There’s so many successful artists out there now. I don’t really want to judge the next artist, because you never know what they’re going through. Sometimes it could be life obstacles. Sometimes it could be they caught through this society. It could be just people. You never know what it is, but I just feel you got to keep going. You just got to attack that internet.
There’s so much success out there for people. You can do anything in this day and age. You got to put your mind to it and attack. Just put yourself out there. Just work hard, and just keep going. It’s up to you. If you don’t want to stop, just keep going, like me. I know some people are like, “Why he ain’t stopped?” I want to keep going.
I always ask artists this question, because I know a lot of you guys have to do so many interviews all the time about the same stuff, and people ask you the same questions over and over again. Do you have any sort of things that you’d like to talk about, or any interest that you’re into that you never get a chance to talk about because nobody ever asks you?
I would say crypto, but they talked to me about that a little bit, but definitely like cryptocurrency. Bitcoin, and stuff like that. They talked to me about that a little bit, but if I really want to speak on some, that don’t nobody really talk about: Anime. I like Dragon Ball Z. I need to do something with Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball Z need to holla at yo boy. Death Note, too. I’m a fan of anime, cartoons, video games, and tech, all that is it.
I feel like that should be the next move, period. That’s why I came out with a video game concert. I’m a fan of South Park, Family Guy, Super Mario, Sega, Sonic the Hedgehog. Art. got a toy coming out with YouTube, Soulja Boy action figures. I’m inspired just by stuff that just creativity. Creativity in the music. That’s what I do. When I’m in the studio, I’m creative. I’m making the beats, that’s being creative. I like to create, I like to create stuff.
we have too much fun😂😂 (before everyone do THE MOST.. idk the dc)
Let’s say the next anime Netflix gives out, they come to Soulja Boy, where they say, “We want to make a Soulja Boy anime.” What’s it going to be about?
That would be the best anime and highest-selling Netflix show of all time. They’ll turn it into a movie, video game, merchandise, everything. That’s what I been praying for since I was little. If I get a Soulja Boy anime, it’s over with. There’s a lot of stuff I deserve. They try to suppress me and put me in a box and say, “He from the hood.” No, I’m Soulja Boy! I made “Crank That!” That’s crazy to me, but it’s all good. I just went number one on the Billboard again. That’s why I’m not stopping until I get everything I want in life. I’m not stopping.