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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Respect For Sale
Wednesday, May 05, 2010

There’s a big controversy going on up the road involving a Boston rapper who’s currently a senior at Trinity College and shares a name with an award winning lager. The young man is Sam Adams, he claims to be a direct descendant of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and his actions, most notably the questions surrounding how his EP, Boston Boy, debuted at number one on the iTunes chart with first week sales of nearly 8,000, are of great concern to many of hip-hop’s veterans.

Boston native Slaine of La Coka Nostra, a group that also includes Everlast, Ill Bill, Danny Boy and DJ Lethal, heard the rumor that the bulk of Adams’ album sales came from none other than Adams himself; that the aspiring rapper artificially inflated his own sales numbers to falsely generate a buzz and get noticed, and it incensed him.

Making matters worse, in a recent interview with Billboard.com, while steadfastly denying he bought his way to the top of the iTunes chart, Adams added that even if he did “who cares?” Slaine cares, and so do plenty of other hip-hop fans who still believe the music should come from a place of authenticity.

In a statement released by La Coka Nostra’s label, Suburban Noize Records, Slaine called Adams “a threat to the foundation of real hip-hop street music,” adding “he’s never paid a due and has no respect or knowledge of the culture.”

Every once in a blue moon an artist like Adams comes along, someone who makes the true school hip-hop artists and fans worry that the culture is going to be co-opted by a group of people who know nothing about it, will change it, and then once they have the power, will rewrite the history of it. After seeing what happened to jazz once mainstream society got their hands on it, these worries don’t seem so far fetched.

As an artist, Adams’ rhymes don’t stray very far from the life of a frat boy, and it’s a charmed life, at that. He first gained fame on YouTube with his song “I Hate College,” which was a response to Asher Roth’s “I Love College” and to date has more than two million views. His Auto-Tuned raps aren’t any worse than what Ron Browz assaulted the world with on songs like “Pop Champagne,” but they also aren’t anything that will make a hip-hop fan stand up and take notice. Adams has a huge market, though, and that’s what scares so many people. He appeals to the frat guy and sorority girl populations of America, and that’s A LOT of people with A LOT of disposable income. That being said, this still just makes him a niche rapper, and he hasn’t shown any ability, or want, to leave that niche.

When I was in college frats were still bumping The Chronic at their parties. A few years later it was Get Rich or Die Trying. In an ironic parallel to how rap started as a form of music that spoke to the inner city community, Adams has found a way to use it to speak to his own community, which happens to be one that likely has never seen an inner city. His growing popularity may actually lead to a little less poser-ish behavior by frat guys. Believe me, nothing was lamer than a bunch of drunks with Greek letters on their chest giving themselves a false sense machismo and acting like they had hood credibility by reciting “Dre Day” or “What Up Gangsta.” If Sam Adams can get those kids acting a little less like wanna-be thugs he has my blessing.

The question about his album sales still lingers, though. If Adams had the money to buy his way to the top to get noticed, and did it, it was a stroke of genius in terms of working the system to his advantage. It’s something major labels have reportedly done for years to boost the notoriety of their artists. Would it have been a hip-hop move? Absolutely not, which is why he’d have a very hard time ever earning anyone’s respect if it were found to be true.

There’s another aspect of this issue that bothers me almost as much as the potentially inflated sales numbers, though, and that’s the huge emphasis on the iTunes chart as if it’s of some importance to hip-hop. When did the iTunes chart, or charts in general, become a place where you developed your rep? Last time I checked Vanilla Ice sold a ton of albums, as have a lot of rappers nobody would refer to in the same vein as Rakim, or Kool G Rap. It never made any of those rappers dope, or respected, emcees. Despite what some mainstream rappers may try to tell people in their rhymes, album sales have nothing to do with skills, or respect, in the rap game.

Maybe Sam Adams is right when he says even if he had bought his way to the top of the charts, “who cares,” because artists can buy a lot of things, but the one thing they can’t purchase is respect, which is why Slaine and all the other artists and fans worried about the future of hip-hop should rest easy. Even if you consider Sam Adams the enemy, when you come right down to it, he’s essentially an unarmed one.

Story originally ran in the FairfieldWeekly.

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