Something equally remarkable and unprecedented happened this past week: a virtually unknown white Cambridge MC named Sam Adams landed in the top hip-hop spot on iTunes with his debut EP, Boston's Boy. In the Hub's underground rap enclave — where Roxbury veterans Edo G and Guru are the only artists to ever go gold (unless you count Marky Mark) — the news hit like a pint of lager.
"Everybody is pissed the fuck off because Sam Adams is blowing up and they're not," says long-time Bean rap personality Mr. Peter Parker about the local industry reaction. "The bottom line is that he found his fan base, and now he's riding it as far as he can."
That social-network-friendly fan base would be Nantucket-bound collegiate types who like to eat ecstasy. Adams (real name: Samuel Wisner) himself is a senior at Trinity College in Hartford, where the increasingly popular 22-year-old Wayland High School grad captains the varsity soccer squad and apparently "crushes bottles of Bacardi." His breakout YouTube clip, "I Hate College" (which has well more than one million views), hijacked Pennsylvania pretty boy Asher Roth's similar but less degenerate "I Love College" hit from 2008.
Fresh off his record-release bash in Hollywood this past Saturday, the unlikely neophyte star, whose popularity spans university and high-school campuses nationwide, concedes that he's a bit thrown. After all, Adams recorded his first song only seven months ago, started performing at colleges just this past year, and rocked his first Boston show — at the Western Front — this past November.
"Since I started writing lyrics seriously, my goal was to blow up," says Adams, whose Plan B was to play either Xbox or professional soccer. "From the second I started, I was terrified of failure, like I always am. But I can't lie — now I'm a bit terrified of success, too."
Aesthetically, it jibes that Adams may go where no Bean rap act has gone. Tracks like "Coast 2 Coast" and "Swang" avoid traditional East Coast frameworks that have all but disappeared from the mainstream, but that remain dominant in Boston hip-hop. Romancing national trends, Boston's Boy is framed around anthemic hooks and synthetic dance-floor flavor designed to get co-eds creamy.
Not all Boston hip-hoppers disapprove. Newbury Street producer Matty Trump is helping Adams harness more reliable pop samples, like that on his current top-20 iTunes single, "Driving Me Crazy," which borrows from the Annie Lennox smash "Walking on Broken Glass." Promoter Edu Leedz booked him for Boston's Boy homecoming release party on March 19 at Harpers Ferry.
"If it's anything like the last one, it will be completely insane," says DJ Slipwax, who spun at the last unexpected near sell-out at the Allston venue this past January.
"We're not trying to sit back for a second from this point on," says Adams, who is having one hell of a senior spring. "We're sitting down with 15 to 20 major labels in the next few weeks, so chilling isn't really an option."