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College kid outsells rap stars

An upstart Trinity College rapper  emerged from obscurity when his primarily self-produced EP, "Boston's Boy," debuted atop iTunes' hip-hop digital albums chart.
/ Source: Billboard

The name "Sam Adams" mainly has been associated with several American historical figures and a popular Boston beer — until now.

The city of Boston is laying claim to yet another Sam Adams: an upstart Trinity College rapper who emerged from 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" — 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). "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."

Flip side of successAdams' Cinderella story quickly tarnished, 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 percent of Adams' sales came from the Boston area — not surprising considering that the rapper is a native of the city. Another 18 percent 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., with no single market accounting for more than 5 percent.

"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 entered at No. 6 on Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles and at No. 13 on Heatseekers Songs. He also has signed with independent label 1st Round Records.

His yet-untitled hip-hop/electronic/dance debut album is due in late 2010, and he'll 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."