Call him The Artist Formerly Known as Sam Adams. Or Sam Adams 2.0. I stumbled upon him while scanning the lineup for Kiss 108’s Jingle Ball, and after a brief Googling session, deduced that the new-ish name was part of a new-ish image — a subtle marketing/music makeover that ensures Boston’s latest major label rap star won’t be confused with the beer. Or the Founding Father. Or his former self.
But first, we must backtrack.
Boston rappers were legitimately pissed when Sam Adams soared to iTunes stardom in March of 2010 with debut EP “Boston’s Boy,” a title that would only ring true if Boston was comprised exclusively of coeds who cut class just to download his new album.
Rappers had spent years paying dues, building reputations, honing actual skills in the seedy underbelly of the Boston hip-hop scene, only to have Cambridge-born Adams swoop in and lay some college-friendly anthems over candy-coated beats, flip an Asher Roth song or two and claim a city that, by and large, had never heard of him.
Millions of YouTube views and 360,000 Facebook fans later, Sony/RCA has apparently signed the Wayland High grad and Trinity College soccer star born Samuel Adams Wisner. And Sony is smart. Because Sony understands that as a rapper, Adams’ mass appeal isn’t likely to extend beyond off-campus housing.
Watered-down as the world of commercial rap may be, Adams as a member of that world is a tough sell.
Perhaps it’s because Asher Roth already exists. Perhaps it’s because Adams is white and wealthy. Perhaps it’s because Adams wore an Africa medallion onstage at JAM’N 94.5’s Summer Jam in 2010, and no one who does that should be allowed to succeed in hip-hop. In any case, Sony had one of two options: Send Adams to thug camp, or do this.
Now, Adams has transformed from pop-friendly college rapper to pop heartthrob who occasionally raps … about college. Just peep his Facebook photo.
Gone are the flannel shirts and fitted caps of yore.
They’ve been replaced by white t-shirts, expertly faded jeans and tattoos of the American flag. He looks like an Abercombie and Fitch model who sings and sometimes raps, which, it seems, is exactly what Sony wants him to be.
Adams has talked up his forthcoming, as-yet-untitled album as “progressive,” but so far it seems “redundant.” New single “Blow Up” is another laid back, college-friendly tale of long nights, bad hangovers and girls in thongs.
“So deuces to the classroom, welcome to your dreams/A major without a major homie, welcome to the team…” he drones over drums, hand claps and fuzzy guitars.
And later, “I drank too much again last night, damn, woke up with a hangover, time to roll up/been workin’ so hard, can’t they understand? So many kids like me, we just want to blow up.” It’s more of what most of us never wanted to hear in the first place.
So thanks, Sony, or whoever’s responsible, for turning Adams into Joe Jonas’ rap-friendly cousin, and thereby telling us what, deep down, we already knew. Sam Adams is good looking. He’s a hip pop artist with a knack for crafting boozy, college-themed party jingles. We would not be the least bit surprised if he released a single called “Fresh 15.”
But even in a world where Common collaborates with the Jonas Brothers and Raekwon teams up with Justin Bieber, making us accept Sam Adams as a rapper — as Boston’s rapper?! – just wasn’t going to fly.