Gone Too Soon: The Rise and Fall of Soulja Boy, E-Commerce Titan

Posted on January 7, 2019

The year was 2007. A trio of threequels was conquering the box office and disappointing audiences (Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), Apple introduced the iPhone, and the final Harry Potter book had been released. It was a time of technological revolution and pop culture intrigue.

At such points in history, the great artists ascend and make lasting cultural impressions: Da Vinci in the Renaissance, Monet in the Age of Impressionism, Picasso in the early twentieth century. In 2007, one artist joined that pantheon of explorers of the human condition. With nothing but sheer determination, excellent distribution, and true grit, DeAndre Cortez Way, hereafter remembered in the annals of history as Soulja Boy, released the song “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” and the world would never be the same.

Perhaps you are wondering what I’m doing in 2018 writing about the fallen prince that was promised. The Soulja Empire has burned to the ground, has it not? No, dear reader. An artist once described on his own Wikipedia page as having “rudimentary and superficial lyrical verses, vacuous and insipid subject matter, convoluted rhyme schemes, and vague song structure” could never disappear from the public eye. Soulja Boy would not go gentle into that good night.

You see, Soulja Boy has superseded the gatekeepers of the music industry, and has advanced beyond the bounds of what was previously thought possible. Soulja Boy, known for such hits as “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” and “Turn My Swag On,” is now an e-commerce titan.

SouljaWatch.com sells more than watches.

SouljaWatch.com is unassuming, composed of the same code that many stores boast. It’s a Shopify constructed site, with integrations in place to aid in the shipping process. The checkout process is streamlined, and the design is simple. But you don’t go to SouljaWatch.com for the site design or the checkout process. You go for the catalogue of Soulja products.

We’ve stressed branding before, but never have I encountered as unified a front as that boasted by Soulja Boy. SouljaWatch, SouljaHeadphones, SouljaPods, SouljaPads, and SouljaPhones can all be purchased from the store. But every tragic hero is marked by a single flaw, and in Soulja’s case, his empire was caused to crumble by the same flaw that killed Icarus — Soulja was undone by hubris.

In building his business, Soulja stretched himself too thin and left himself too open to criticism and too open to legal action. On December 5, 2018, Soulja Boy announced the SouljaGame Console and the SouljaGame Handheld. The products boasted more than 800 preinstalled games, AV and HDMI ports, DualShock-esque controllers, and a Linux 3.0 OS. Despite offering Playstation 1 era titles, the consoles also boasted 4k visual output. Alas, nothing gold stays.

Observant fans and haters alike noticed similarities with ANBERNIC’s Handheld Game Console, which retailed on Amazon for much cheaper than on SouljaWatch.com. Now, these consoles did not boast the Soulja seal of approval but functioned the same. Soulja Boy had been found out: he was dropshipping off of Amazon. All of Soulja’s products can be found on Amazon, and his site runs using Amazon’s checkout tool. With threats of legal action from Nintendo, Soulja pulled the SouljaGame console and handheld from his store, owning the situation with a tweet:

Nevertheless, the SouljaGame sold some. Soulja Boy Super Fans bought the consoles with no questions asked. This is a testament to what we preach constantly: strong branding will always win out — even if the product is inferior. Utilizing the pull he generated in 2007, Soulja was able to create a mediocre dropshipping store that still moves product. The Soulja brand was enough to sell. Your brand should only hope to be so strong.

Sometimes you crank that, and sometimes, that cranks you.

This should serve as a lesson to you all, dear readers. Strong branding, great social reach, and influencer marketing allowed Soulja Boy to build a successful, if short-lived e-commerce, brand. By following his steps, but not allowing hubris or outright bootlegging to get in your way, you too may reach the heights of a man who once had “Pretty Boy Swag.”

Alas, this tale ends in sadness, as the SouljaGame is no more, but there is hope still. Some said that Soulja Boy was washed up, even having the audacity to call him a one-hit wonder. I scoff at those notions, and look forward to the next Soulja project, as we watch him crank that, and watch him roll out of the ashes into a brighter tomorrow.