Straight Outta Cambridge
A descendant of John Adams is making waves in the hip-hop industry. But is Sammy Adams in it for the music – or the money?
Though he grew up in Cambridge, Adams hopscotched through a handful of high schools – Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Proctor Academy, Beaver Country Day – before finally finishing up at Wayland High. He had become a fan of rap music in the eighth grade, but it wasn’t until he moved away to college that he began writing and recording songs.
One of those songs was "I Hate College," a snarky, point-by-point response to the massive 2009 hit "I Love College" by Asher Roth, another white college kid from the ‘burbs. When Adams posted a video of the song on YouTube a few months after Roth came out with his song, it became an instant hit. "I Hate College" quickly attracted more than a million page views that summer, and served as the catalyst for Adams’s career.
Adams says his song isn’t a parody or an attack, and seems sensitive to being labeled a Roth clone. "I’m playing the college scene, and now [Roth] is more into niche hip-hop," he says. "I’m picking up where he left off, but that’s my whole plan.
"I have a lot of respect for him," he says of Roth. "We probably wouldn’t have come up with the song without him."
AFTER THE SOUND CHECK at the Paradise wraps, Adams and his manager, Alex Stern, adjourn to a nearby apartment, where Adams and his friends kill a few hours drinking beers before the concert. "Do you want a beer?" he asks. "It is Cinco de Mayo."
Except for his "Heat Packing District" baseball hat, Adams looks the preppy part: pressed khaki shorts held up by a checkered Louis Vuitton belt, which matches his Louis Vuitton wallet.
Though the hip-hop industry has long put a premium on street cred, Adams is candid about his less-than-hardscrabble background. "I mean, [growing up near Central Square] wasn’t, like, fuckin’ Harlem, but I was never the kid riding his bike around the cul-de-sac," he says.
Adams admits that Boston’s Boy isn’t a "typical" rap album, which is something of an understatement. The songs tend to blend hip-hop, pop, electronica, rap, and even some Auto-Tune with lyrics about killin’ stages in Nantucket or chillin’ up in Hartford. He recorded the album on Newbury Street, of all places. "I’m probably the furthest thing at this point in my life from being a ‘hood gangster rapper," he says. "But that’s not my market."
His unusual résumé has caused some to question his rapid rise in the industry. When Boston’s Boy started to take off on iTunes, rumors surfaced on the Web that he was buying the album himself – at a price tag of approximately $75,000. Some music bloggers started to call him "Scam Adams."
Adams swears on a certain Founding Father’s grave that he didn’t finance bulk purchases of the album, a claim backed up by Billboard. Nielsen SoundScan data show that 22 percent of the sales came from the Boston area, another 18 percent from New York, and the rest from 100 other markets nationwide, from Philly to Los Angeles. "That’s why people are jealous," Adams says. "Not because of my music or because the music ‘sucks,’ but because they don’t have the fans that I have."