When Fast Company dubbed DeAndre "Soulja Boy Tell 'Em" Way (colloquially known as "Soulja Boy") the most creative person in the digital music business, I knew he wouldn't disappoint. And lo and behold, the 18-year-old rapper who parlayed Internet fame into platinum record sales is back on familiar territory: The cutting-edge.
This morning, iTunes started selling the Soulja Boy Tell 'Em Romplr, an iPhone application that allows people to remix their favorite Soulja Boy songs, including "Crank That" and "Turn My Swag On." Unlike more professional music-mixing apps, such as Fingerbeat, the Romplr is designed for everyday hip-hop fans: There are only 14 buttons, all clearly labeled (drums = backbeat, microphone = vocals), and you tap them to switch up the sound. When you're done, you can share your mixes via Facebook Connect, email, or Romplr.com, the app's music companion site.
Jon Vlassopulos, CEO of San Francisco-based Moderati, which developed the app, says he's trying to channel the same "audience interaction" that's worked wonders for TV shows, such as American Idol and Deal or No Deal. "People love to play along," he explains. "So we figured, 'Why not do that with music?'"
Soulja Boy scored the first Rompler, says Vlassopulous, because he's always embraced new technologies: He's active on Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, etc. But within months, Moderati plans to release Romplrs with other major artists, though Vlassopolous won't reveal which ones. Like Soulja Boy's app, he says, they'll include three different tracks and cost $4.99—"kind of like a mixtape."
What intrigues me most about the Romplr, though, is that it lets musicians turn their played-out songs into usable, mixable, valuable content, much in the vein of Rock Band and Guitar Hero. For instance, I wouldn't spend $4.99 to buy year-old rap tracks (most of which I probably own as mp3s). But I might spend $4.99 to mix 'em, share 'em, and blast 'em at parties.
Well played, Soulja Boy.