Fifteen minutes before the scheduled interview time, the phone rings.
“Yo! You already know who it is.”
The voice came through exuberant and joyful, an instantly contagious happiness. Over the phone, Silentó oozes the exact same infectiousness of his viral video smash hit “Watch Me." The track's official dance move — the whip and nae nae — has been imitated the world over, even by Hilary Clinton.
“This is Silentó! We gon’ tear it up in Miami! How you doin?”
Instantly better. As is the case with Silentó, everything he touches seems to grow in positivity and warmth. “I just want to channel my fans, the moms, and the daughters when I make my music. I want to make music for people to hear as a family.” The 18-year-old is effortlessly conversational and funny. “I want to make music for the ladies, music that makes them feel like they should. But, I’m also the urban kid from Atlanta and I feel like there isn’t anyone else like me. No one else is hitting my audience the way I am. I’m real and I care about my fans.”
Asked who his influences were , Silentó says, “my fans.” Asked what the most difficult moments of fame were, and he says, “Not being able to take pictures with all my fans.” Asked about his favorite part of this newfound fame, and you could probably guess what he said. “All my fans.” Suffice to say, the dude really loves his fans.
And sure, those are the type responses that most pop stars generate to sidestep actual answers, but with Silentó it felt like he really meant it. Silentó, born Richard Lamar Hawk in Atlanta Georgia, hasn't even graduated from high school yet. On May 21, he'll get his diploma.
And, in conversation, he does feel like a normal kid from Atlanta. But unlike most normal kids, he stumbled upon the most viral dance anthem of 2015. He says his uncle “is a certified accountant and he’s got my back. I also got Bolo’ (his producer and manager) to keep me in check. I got my back covered by good people.” But he hasn’t yet left on the Justin Bieber rocket to ultralight teenage celebrity status. His ascent to the top of the charts has been sharp and quick, on the back of only a single song.
Silentó says he knew “Watch Me" was going to be big. “I knew this was going to happen. I don’t talk about what I’m going to do. Today, I just do it. I take action.” The song has transcended the simple viral video and is now somewhat of a living meme. It's hard to tell just how much of the success of this song was organic. "Watch Me" was the first smash success of a company called DanceOn, which utilizes a team of content creators to make videos go viral. DanceOn is co-owned by Madonna. Needless to say, this time, it worked. The official "Watch Me" Youtube video is hovering above 700 million views.
So far, it seems, Silentó has remained down to earth. “Being in public school I get a lot of people talking to me and I hang out with the same people from before. That keeps me grounded.” His career has blasted off in ways his ego hasn’t. He recently released the song “Think It’s You,” featuring another Atlanta young’n, Torion. The song will be on the upcoming third Barbershop movie soundtrack. Silentó is amped about this. Silentó is also about to embark on a tour called, fittingly, the Let’s Dance Tour.
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Silentó is looking towards the future now. “I want to go to college. I want to get an education. I want to be prepared, you know. But, I also got to focus on my career. This is an opportunity that I got to take advantage of.” And that’s the truth. It’s not every day that a young man like him has the chance of a lifetime to achieve his dreams and more. But he is still only 18, and thus has to deal with 18-year-old problems. His main concern at the moment is whether or not he’s going to go to prom. “I wanna go, man. But, I have the Disney awards, and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it. I’m still figuring it out.”
Such is the life of a teenage pop star, but as long as Silentó keeps his head grounded and his work ethic strong, the future should bring exciting things for both him and his dedicated fan base. “I just keep working. I don’t worry about the record companies. I don’t worry about no one else. I just do me. I want to make great songs for people that spread love. That’s all I want, love.”
When my ten-year-old little brother found out I had interviewed Silentó and he wasn’t around it made him the saddest I’ve seen him in a few months. Not even Ice Cream could fix it. Not surprisingly, the only song he’s heard by Silentó is “Watch Me.” I did tell him that Silentó was a really nice dude and I was happy I could mean it. I sat down with my little brother and replayed him the interview so he could hear it. He smiled this really beautiful and big grin when he heard Silentó tell me, “Call me any time, bro. You can interview me whenever. Next time we do the interview we’re gonna do it bigger and better. Great to talk to you, man. Thank you so much. I’m grateful for everything that’s happened this year, but we’re gonna keep growing.”