May 1, 2011

Boston’s Boy Blows Up

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Frat stars everywhere were faced with a quandary that almost eclipsed the Keystone-versus-Natty Ice debate of the early 2000s: While our universities’ finest ragers enjoyed club-ready, party-appropriate hip hop they could grind with girls to, they lacked a sense of relatability with the artists who produced such music. Where were the rappers who had attended private colleges on their parents’ dime? Where were the rappers who had been too financially secure to ever have to “hustle?” In short, who was going to be the first collegiate rapper?

Asher Roth came first, but failed to escape one-hit-wonder status. He was too cartoonish, playing off of an almost childlike understanding of fratting. He didn’t come off as genuine; unlike the true, die-hard frat stars, he seemed to take his partying with a grain of salt and a sense of frivolity. Where was the hero who, like the raging collegiate everyman, took his drinking, drug consumption and womanizing seriously?

All it took was a reworking of Roth’s “I Love College” for the prodigal son to reveal himself. Boston-bred Trinity College alumnus Sam Adams burst onto the scene so fully formed one might think his image was hammered out by a group of PR interns instructed to construct a persona that would best appeal to the 18-to-22-year-old demographic. Surprisingly, Adams’s “I Hate College (Remix)” was an independent affair and displayed his dead-serious,  non-winking approach to weekend antics. All joking aside, Adams’s sing-song,  heavily vocoded, G-Funk-inflected turn on the “Say It Ain’t So” sample demonstrated a far grittier, realistic perspective on college life than Roth put forth, forgoing weed and beer for molly and coke while calling out Lacoste wearing “herbs” and pinny-toting lax bros for not partying as hard as he does (“Some say they drink, blaze up, but hardly”).

But one college party jam does not make a sensation.  And while “I Hate College (Remix)” put forth a unique perspective and exhibited a more-than-serviceable flow,   Adams still had to show us some versatility before he proved himself to be the fratty rapper we had all been looking for. “Tabs Open” was the club banger, showing that he wasn’t afraid to brag about opulent wealth (likely abetted by his trust fund); “Driving Me Crazy” was his love song, allowing him to come off as vulnerable, if only until he got the girl in question in bed; “Just Sayin’” was another vocoder-happy boast-fest with a breezy vocal hook; and “Still I Rise” is his attempt at prophecy, with shout-outs to his momma and references to his ever-growing reputation aplenty.

What is most impressive is that he has Adams has done most everything on his own terms, releasing independent mixtapes and an album, Boston’s Boy, through the “Ivy League of Record Companies” 1st Round Records. His sense of uniqueness and separation from major label politics has likely helped him in amassing a sizable following that has resulted in his upcoming show at The Haunt being sold out. As this is one of the few stops before his appearance at Chicago’s Lollapalooza festival, there is no doubt that he will be bringing his A-game in preparation for the huge festival crowds. Those fans who missed out on tickets for his Ithaca show can still catch him at Syracuse’s Westcott Theater.

Regardless of your perception of Sam Adams and the lifestyle he (self-consciously or not) promotes, he has proven himself a capable MC with a slippery delivery and an ear for vocal hooks. Bring your fitted and your best flannel: shit’s about to go down.

Original Author: James Rainis