The name "Sam Adams" most commonly has been associated with several American historical figures and a favored Boston beer. But the city of Boston is laying claim to yet another Sam Adams: an upstart Trinity College rapper who emerged from virtual obscurity when his primarily self-produced EP, "Boston's Boy," debuted atop iTunes' hip-hop digital albums chart.
Outpacing the sales of hip-hop superstars like Lil Wayne and DJ Khaled, the 22-year-old's set sold nearly 8,000 digital copies in its first week. Adams' single, "I Hate College" -- a remix of the Asher Roth hit "I Love College," in which Adams raps about "blowing trees" and "getting laid" -- has tallied more than 1 million views on YouTube. He also counts more than 25,000 Facebook friends and close to 2,000 followers on Twitter.
"I was in my room and the instrumental [of Roth's song] was playing," says Adams (born Samuel Adams Wisner) as he recalls the origins of "I Hate College." "I hated it at first, then I was humming it to myself. Then the humming turned into this catchy tune. The song isn't a dis to Asher; I was excited when he came out because he was another white kid doing well. I just ended up loving that beat."
Adams' Cinderella story quickly faded, however, after rumors spread that he and his promotional team may have gamed the iTunes system by directly purchasing the majority of the units sold. Adams denies the allegations.
"I knew I didn't buy those copies," he says. "I'm a middle class kid from Boston. I would never have that kind of money. It was a laughing point for my whole camp but also disappointing at first to hear what was being said. But with success comes pain. There are a lot of people who wish they were in my position."
So far, there isn't any evidence to support the blog-fueled allegations. Nielsen SoundScan data shows that 22% of his sales came from the Boston area -- not surprising, considering the rapper is from there. Another 18% came from New York, where he recently presented a showcase. The remainder came from more than 100 markets nationwide, including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington D.C., and no one market totaled more than 5%.
"We believe in our product," Adams says, "but to outsell some of the guys that we look up to, especially in terms of digital sales, was definitely a surprise. We released another single, 'Tab Open,' a month before the EP and it sold 5,000 with no promotion or marketing. Once we saw that, I thought the album could do well."
Adams, who initially set out to be a songwriter/producer, was in Los Angeles last week shooting the video to his latest single, "Driving Me Crazy." The track enters at No. 6 on Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles and at No. 13 on Heatseekers Songs. He has also signed with independent label 1st Round Records as well as booking agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.
Only a few songs into recording his yet-untitled hip-hop/electronic/dance debut album due in late 2010, Adams is already in talks with multiple labels, including Atlantic, Universal Motown, Interscope, Sony, Jive and E1. He's also set to open for fellow rappers Drake, Kid Cudi and LMFAO in the coming months.
"People are going to come at us for the rest of my career, whether out of envy or simply because they think my music sucks," Adams says. "There are so many people trying to be successful in the music realm, and now there goes a white kid from Boston getting all this attention."
(Additional reporting by Antony Bruno.)