Sam Adams seeks signature sound

A buzzing line of at least 100 eager high school students wrapped around the side of Higher Ground. Sporting Nikes and fitted caps, many of them looked dressed up in their own way. A few girls at the front were cradling roses, presumably for the headliner — the 23-year-old new pop/hip-hop phenomenon Sam Adams. The former Trinity College soccer-star-turned-rapper made his debut by remixing the frat house anthem “I Love College” by Asher Roth. Adams’ lyrics put an almost fresh spin on the original hit proclaiming, “I hate college but love all the parties,” boldly stating what Asher Roth really meant. At Higher Ground, as the rowdy high schoolers barreled toward the stage hopped up on Red Bull and water — the only two beverages sold at the main bar for the all-ages show — Adams burst into his Roth remix on song two. “I wrote ‘I Hate College’ and released it to my college community and they totally dug it,” Adams said. “So I had someone put it on YouTube.” YouTube played an integral part in jumpstarting Adams’ career, he said. Adams found this method achieved the desired effect. “We realized that was how to do it,” he said. “It was never about views, it was just about getting out to as many people as possible.” Clearly still riding the wave of his original hit, one of Adams’ lackeys jumped on stage waving a T-shirt that proclaims “I Hate College.” The shirts were on sale at the merchandise table. There is no doubt that Adams is a rapper, but his music is certainly not just rap. There is an undeniable pop sound to Adams songs, and halfway through the show the crowd was pulsating to a dubstep beat. This blend of popular genres is what made Adams stand out, he said. “That’s the best part,” he said. “It’s not a hip-hop show, it’s not a dubstep show, but it’s a fuckin’ show.” However, it would be audacious to say that it is truly “genre-less” as Adams proclaims. Adams’ music is undoubtedly, at its base, pop music. It is pop music blended with dubstep beats and electronica melodies and rap lyrics, but it is pop. In fact, the Boston rapper was even critizized for his pop sound in his hometown. “At first there was a lot of hate, a lot of animosity,” he said. “There is a hip-hop community in Boston that is underground.” Due to his success, however, some former critics have come crawling back, Adams said. “I started a trend and got hated for it, but then everyone followed,” he said Despite mature themes in his music, a decent portion of Adams’ fan base is made up of young teens. One wonders about these fans singing along to lyrics about “skiing Molly” and bar tabs despite the fact that they have no idea what the lyrics mean and are years away from hating college. “It’s everywhere from 15-year-old girls to 25-year-old dudes working finance,” he said. “The all-ages [shows] sell out even faster than the other shows because there is a bunch of young kids that, you know, follow trends.” Ages 15-25, while a spectrum, is a narrow one at best and older listeners are likely to describe it as an immature, trendy sound. Adams said that he is working on a new album and that fans can expect a more mature Sam Adams — an artist that meditates on his growth and dealings with the music industry that he generally refers to as “snakes.” Hardcore rap fans and thoughtful listeners who note that the chorus of “Just Sayin'” — one of Adams’ hits — has less intellect than the back of a cereal box might call it just more mindless pop. Nevertheless, it is hard to deny that he has the style. Adams’ voice sounds like it belongs behind the mic. Running back and forth, moving with the camera and getting the fans screaming and jumping — he is a natural on the stage. This next CD will likely be the deciding factor of his career. While Adams may be selling out shows, even in cold, remote corners of the country like Vermont, he is yet to move beyond trend-following teens and the soundtrack of general, drunken frat house debauchery and establish himself as a true force to be reckoned with in the music world. Whatever follows, his next album will be the test of whether he is Sam Adams, hip-hop artist, or Sam Adams the I-Hate-College-guy.