Frat rap is ready to graduate

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  November 23, 2011

This is the third time that Sammy's rocked the House of Blues since last year. It's a tremendous feat by any standard — no other Boston rapper comes close to selling out such mega venues, whether they're longtime scene veterans or subterranean-flow phenoms. Hub rap promoter Edu Leedz booked Sammy's first club show at the Western Front in late 2009, and, to his surprise, it sold out. Leedz thought the turnout was a freak occurrence — the result of Adams being a mondo jock with scores of friends from Wayland High School and Trinity College in Connecticut, where he was captain of the soccer team at the time.

"At first I just thought he was a popular kid," says Leedz. "Then his album, Boston's Boy, came out, and it was obviously bigger than that. The whole thing introduced me to a world of rap fans I'd never seen before, and I kept asking myself a big question: who are these people, and where do they come from? As it turned out, they're more suburban than crowds I usually deal with, they're from colleges and outside of the city, and they were starting to accumulate. As for a common denominator — they're really, really young. I'm not seeing a lot of 21-plus people at these shows besides the parents."


Though no one ever called it frat rap before the wrath of Roth, college-minded hip-hop has existed for some time. Early white campus rhyme progenitors such as former USC-based MC Hot Karl was not unlike acts Adams and more recent native-Mass rappers Aer and Cam Meekins. Karl, who caught the ears of record execs by battling on the Los Angeles station Power 106, was smart and witty, full of snappy raps and light-hearted self-deprecation. But most of all, Karl's unique angle was an embrace of his upper-middle class background.

Despite landing five and six figure contracts with EMI and Interscope, Karl barely made a dent beyond his initial splash in 2003. It wasn't really his fault; after the incredible success of Eminem in 1999, labels had begun to re-think their white-boy formulas, which they started to believe did not include upwardly mobile 90210 cast doubles. Instead, more roughneck Caucasians like hick-hopper Bubba Sparxxx were thrust into the spotlight — guys who wouldn't be caught dead in a Lacoste V-neck.

But around Boston, an Andover High School grad named Mic Stylz made a convincing case that there was room for outer-borough hip-hop. Starting as early as 1996, the microphone-thin redheaded rapper began laying tracks about stuff white people love, like mall chicks and blunt cruises in his dad's luxury car. "Even though I came from Andover," he says, "one thing that I picked up right away was to be real and true to who you are. It wasn't real for me to rap about street life. I represented Andover because it was where I was from, and there was a level of pride there because no one else was doing it." Suburban kids always liked rap music, but now they were making it.

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Related: The other white beat, 2011 brings Jon Hope, the McGunks, Jocie Adams, and more, The Big Hurt: Billboard Top Hip-Hop and R and B songs, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , hip-hop, Asher Roth, Asher Roth
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