It all started in 2015. Silento, a high school student in Atlanta, casually dropped a song that he and beatsmith Bolo Da Producer cooked up on the fly. Prior to that, Silento was something of a high school celebrity. “I was 16 and promoting myself throughout my high school, releasing funny videos over the Internet,” Silento recalls. He would participate in talent shows and temper his offline self-promo with online video releases, all within the interest of going viral. Then one day it happened. “I released [“Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)”] over SoundCloud and within the first day it went to 1,000 listens. The next day it was at 4,000,” he explains. On his 17th birthday (January 22nd, 2015), he dropped the video on YouTube. It hit the 50,000 mark within a day of its release. Something was clearly brewing. Labels began knocking, ultimately leading to Silento inking a deal with Capitol Records. “It was suggested that I should be homeschooled,” Silento remembers about his mid-year high school success. “But I decided to stay because I was almost finished, and if I was home schooled I couldn’t graduate with my class and get my official diploma.” With that reward came some sacrifices. “I didn’t get to experience a lot of the things new artists get to experience when they’re first signed,” he says with only slight regret. “Certain events, performances. I was still in school working to get my diploma.” He used that time to leverage his global appeal, by collaborating with buzzing artists around the world—including “Dessert” with Darwin, “Girl In the Mirror” with British viral phenomenon Sophia Grace, and “Spotlight” with South Korean pop act Kima Samuel bka PUNCH. Silento translated his hit into French and Spanglish, only propelling his worldwide allure even further.
How did you come up with Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)?
I was in class and I was very popular in school I always used to sing the rap. I was part of a talent show and there was a big dance crazy at that time like you had the ‘stanky leg’ and ‘break your leg’. I made some stuff in there and I put ‘Soulja Boy’, ‘Superman’ and put that in there to bring him back to life.
Did you expect it be such a viral hit?
Yes I did. I had four dreams of me being in front a couple thousand then it was couple million and billion and a trillion streams. I already got the million I still gotta get the billion and the trillion.
2015 was a special year for you with ‘Watch Me’ being a super hit amassing over 1.6 B views on YouTube and also broke you out as an upcoming artist to watch out for.
Yes 2015, 2016 & 2017 because 15 when the song was just on SoundCloud, 16 is when it hit YouTube, 17 when the video came out. 2018 is the year when I got my awards and 2019 is the year when I’m gonna start travelling around the world. Yes but 3 billion streams overall and 15 million singles Sold in US. A million in France in Spanglish. Not to mention Nickelodeon they got me to remix my song and make a whole new Nickelodeon dance with SpongeBob, Patrick and almost all the new cartoons. It was exciting to say nevertheless.
How was your experience working with Capitol Records?
Yeah I’ve been making music since I was 13. A couple of my friends that I used to go to school with they were signed to Capitol Records and you know I’d already been on the scene, watching them while they were doing the deal and stuff like that. So I just manifested my own future in there and I attracted them to come and sign me.
What inspired you to get into hip-hop initially like you being from Atlanta where alot big names like Ludacris, Soulja Boy, Lil Jon are from. So how does it feel representing Atlanta on the global level ? And what role do you think Atlanta has played in your career?
You know it’s just everybody rapping there and you know when you come from the streets of Atlanta it’s either rapping or selling dope so I made a choice for the kids. I ain’t gonna sell dope I’m gonna rap you know I’m saying. I’m not gonna curse in my songs. Anybody who’s cursing in music is not an inspiration to me Michael Jackson, Tupac also but his cursing had a real reason behind it that’s different, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry to name a few.
How did you go about collaborating with Dawin for his hit ‘Dessert ‘?
I think Dessert was already out but they paid me for the feature they put me on it they reached out to me sent me the money. I was in school and I just came back home the producer was like you gotta do this feature they already sent the money so I just did it and they put it out and it took of really well.
What makes “Watch Me (Nae Nae)” better than “Gucci Gang”?
People will be dancing and smiling all around the world for the next 30 years whenever my song gets played. Life’s about happiness and legacy. “Gucci Gang” is an amazing song though, props to Pump for that sound.
When you were growing up as a kid, were there any particular artists that were your major influences?
I really like Justin Bieber, I love Justin Bieber. I like rappers too, as long as it’s inspirational. I like Usher, Robin Thicke.
How does “Nae Nae Pt. 2” compare to Pt. 1?
Similar to the hot dances on part one, part two also has new dance moves with a more boppy beat. Part two also incorporates some dances from other musicians I greatly respect. The fans wanted more dance songs with moves to follow, so I gave them one. They’re loving it.
What can we expect from you music-wise?
While “Whip (Nae Nae)” was my beginning, a song that was a major hit, it only allowed the audience to associate myself as the artist who had a #1 hit that people will forever be dancing too. However, being so young and not being knowledgeable about the industry with fame hitting so quick, I’ve not had the opportunity to put out different types of music, songs, genres. Really showcase my craft as an artist of what I’m able to do. I’m able to do that now. I’m blessed to have artists in the industry and producers from all around the world (some of which arguably people can say they’re the best in this game) to have convos with me and entertain collaborations. Also, SilentoMob is going to be the wave. I love to dance, I love to sing, I love to produce, I love to rap, I love the artistry. Currently, I’m redefining my craft. I hope whoever reads this will watch me… not whip — but literally, watch me.