SoulJa (ソルジャ, Soruja, birth name: Johannes Maria Leenders Zwaan) is a Japanese hip-hop musician and songwriter best known for his collaborations with singer Thelma Aoyama, "Koko ni Iru yo" and "Soba ni Iru ne" – the latter of which was the former Guinness World Records holder for the best selling digital single of all-time in Japan (until it was superseded by Greeeen's "Kiseki").[2][3]

Birth nameJohannes Marías Leenders Zwaan[1]
Born (1983-11-01) 1 November 1983 (age 37)
OriginHigashikurume, Tokyo, Japan
GenresPop, hip hop, R&B
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, rapper
Years active2005–present
LabelsRock & Hill Records
Nayutawave Records
Def Jam Japan (2008–present)
Associated actsThelma Aoyama, Haruomi Hosono, Miho Karasawa, Yuki Koyanagi, Yumi Matsutoya, Jin Oki, Chihiro Onitsuka, Skelt 8 Bambino, Sly and Robbie, Yukihiro Takahashi, Issei Yoshimi, Yukie, Issa

He used to work with various Japanese singers as Thelma Aoyama, Issa, Rola, Misslim, ...


SoulJa's mother is Belgian and his father is Japanese.[1] He studied music, learning how to play the violin, cello and piano from a young age, due to the influence of his mother. During his childhood, he spent time in Belgium, Japan and the United States. At 15, he grew to love hip-hop music.

In 2003, he returned to Japan, and began creating music. He got his first big break when a song of his, "First Contact," was featured in a commercial for Men's Beauteen (featuring actor Joe Odagiri) in 2005. This led to several more offers to write commercial music for companies such as magazine Oggi, along with SoulJa's independent label debut. In late 2005, he released the EP First Contact under Rock & Hill Records.

In 2007, SoulJa debuted as a major label artist with Universal Music Japan. His third single, "Koko ni Iru yo" featuring R&B singer Thelma Aoyama, became a long selling hit, staying in Oricon's top 10 singles for five weeks.[4] Eventually, by March 2008, the song had been certified by the RIAJ for selling over 1,000,000+ ringtones,[5] 1,000,000+ cellphone full-length downloads[6] and 100,000 PC downloads.[6]

SoulJa's debut album, Spirits, released two and a half months later, was a modest success, breaking the top 10 on Oricon and selling over 66,000 copies.[4]

In January 2008, Thelma Aoyama released her own answer version to the song, "Soba ni Iru ne." This version outstripped the popularity of the original, topping the RIAJ's monthly ringtone chart for three months,[7][8][9] peaking at No. 1 on Oricon's single sales charts[10] and eventually being certified by Guinness World Records as the best digital single in Japan of all-time (an award it held for a year).[2]

After the extreme popularity of this version, SoulJa re-released Spirits, featuring a self-cover of this version (featuring vocalist Yukie).

SoulJa's second album, Colorz, was preceded by two singles: "Kinenbi/Home" (記念日・home, Anniversary/Home) feat. Misslim (a pseudonym for Yumi Matsutoya) and "One Time" feat. Issei & Jin Oki. The album did not do as well as his previous, only reaching No. 106 on Oricon's album charts.[4] "Kinenbi" was a minor hit, charting in the top 20 on RIAJ's Chaku-uta chart for two months.[11][12]

In January 2010, SoulJa released his 6th single, "Way to Love (Saigo no Koi)" feat. Miho Karasawa. It was a digital hit, being certified by the RIAJ for selling 100,000 copies after charting for two months.[13] This will be followed by his third album, Letters, along with the leading single "Hanasanaide yo" featuring Thelma Aoyama. SoulJa also worked together with Aoyama on her single "Kaeru Basho," writing the song.



Year Album Information Oricon
2007 Spirits

9 66,000
2009 Colorz

106 2,000
2010 Letters

36 2,300


Year Album Information
2005 First Contact

  • Released: 1 November 2005
  • Independent album
  • Re-released on 11 January 2006
  • Formats: CD, digital download


As lead artistEdit

Release Title Notes Chart positions Oricon
Oricon Singles Charts
Billboard Japan Hot 100
RIAJ digital tracks†
2007 "Dogg Pound" 100 4,000 Spirits
"Rain" 99 1,500
"Koko ni Iru yo" (ここにいるよ, I'm Here) feat. Thelma Aoyama 6 77 3* 149,000
2008 "Soba ni Iru ne" feat. Yukie Self-cover, radio single. 29* Spirits X'tended
"Kinenbi/Home" (記念日・home, Anniversary/Home) feat. Misslim 24 33 13* 9,000 Colorz
2009 "One Time" feat. Issei & Jin Oki 86 82 1,300
2010 "Way to Love (Saigo no Koi)" (Way to Love ~最後の恋~, Final Love) feat. Miho Karasawa 62 11 3,000 Letters
"Umaku Kotoba ni Dekinai Keredo" (うまく言葉にできないけれど, I Can't Express It Well, But) feat. Saki Kayama 88 13 500
"Hanasanai de yo" (はなさないでよ, Don't Break Us Apart) feat. Thelma Aoyama 61 57 9 1,600
"Gekkō (God's Child)" (月光~GOD'S CHILD~, Moonlight) feat. Chihiro Onitsuka Radio single. 23
"Breath" 36 TBA TBA 3000 TBA

* charted on monthly Chaku-uta Reco-kyō Chart.
†Japan Hot 100 established February 2008, RIAJ Digital Track Chart established April 2009.

As a featured artistEdit

Release Artist Title Notes Chart positions Oricon
Oricon Singles Charts
Billboard Japan Hot 100
RIAJ digital tracks
2008 Thelma Aoyama feat. SoulJa "Soba ni Iru ne" "Koko ni Iru yo" answer song. 1 1 1* 465,000 Diary
2010 Skelt 8 Bambino feat. SoulJa "What's Love?" Featured on Letters as a bonus track. 190 33 300 Love Balance
Thelma Aoyama "Kaeru Basho" Written by SoulJa. 63 26 51 2,000 TBA

Other appearancesEdit

Release Artist Title Notes Album
2008 SoulJa "Break" Negachaincompi: Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge Official Compi
Sly and Robbie feat. Lady Traffic, SoulJa & Chantelle "Hurry Home (Soba ni Iru ne)" (ハリー・ホーム(そばにいるね), Hurry Home (I'm By Your Side)) "Soba ni Iru ne" English cover. Featured on Colorz. Amazing
2010 Yuki Koyanagi feat. SoulJa "Be Alive (Sono Mama no Kimi de Ite) (New Recording)" (be alive~そのままの君でいて~, Be As You Are) Featured on Letters as a bonus track. RIAJ No. 32. The Best Now & Then: 10th Anniversary
Under Graph × SoulJa "2111 (Kako to Mirai de Warau Kodomotachi e)" (2111~過去と未来で笑う子供達へ~, To Children Laughing in the Past and Future) Originally released as a digital single on 2 June 2010. "Natsukage" (single)
Issa × SoulJa "Breathe" c/w/ "Destiny" (single)

He also graduated Christian Academy in Japan.


  1. ^ a b Morita, Kazuyoshi and Takeuchi, Yoshie. Music Station : M-Topics. TV Asahi. 13 March 2009.
  2. ^ a b "青山テルマ×SoulJa「そばにいるね」がギネス認定". Natalie. 1 September 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  3. ^ "Guinness certifies GReeeeN's "Kiseki"". Tokyo Graph. 7 July 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "オリコンランキング情報サービス「you大樹」". Oricon. Retrieved 26 April 2010. (subscription only)
  5. ^ レコード協会調べ 1月度有料音楽配信認定 <略称:1月度認定>. RIAJ (in Japanese). 2 February 2010. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  6. ^ a b レコード協会調べ 3月度有料音楽配信認定 <略称:3月度認定>. RIAJ (in Japanese). 2 April 2010. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  7. ^ "レコード協会調べ 1月度有料音楽配信チャート(「着うた(R)」)<略称:1月度レコ協チャート(「着うた(R)」)>" (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. 2 February 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  8. ^ "レコード協会調べ 2月度有料音楽配信チャート(「着うた(R)」)<略称:2月度レコ協チャート(「着うた(R)」)>" (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. 2 March 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  9. ^ "レコード協会調べ 3月度有料音楽配信チャート(「着うた(R)」)<略称:3月度レコ協チャート(「着うた(R)」)>" (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  10. ^ 青山テルマ、史上初のアンサーソングで1位獲得 (in Japanese). Oricon. 5 February 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  11. ^ "レコード協会調べ 8月度有料音楽配信チャート(「着うた(R)」)<略称:8月度レコ協チャート(「着うた(R)」)>" (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. 2 September 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  12. ^ "レコード協会調べ 9月度有料音楽配信チャート(「着うた(R)」)<略称:9月度レコ協チャート(「着うた(R)」)>" (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. 2 October 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  13. ^ レコード協会調べ 2月度有料音楽配信認定 <略称:2月度認定>. RIAJ (in Japanese). 2 March 2010. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  14. ^ a b "Hot 100|JAPAN Charts|Billboard JAPAN" (in Japanese). Billboard.
  15. ^ a b 有料音楽配信チャート (in Japanese). RIAJ.

External linksEdit