The viral video for Sammy Adams’ major-label debut single “Blow Up” is a pretty accurate look at what life is like for this rising young artist. Adams reels off lyrics asking “What’s it gotta take for a young kid to blow up?” to a hypnotic head-nodding beat and a recreated sample of the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” (a nice nod to Adams’ Boston roots). The clip captures the 24-year-old performing for ecstatic crowds everywhere from roof-raising club gigs, to jubilant college shows, to massive outdoor festivals, including Lollapalooza and Bamboozle, where ten thousand people turned up at the Jumbo Stage just to see him.
A boyish-looking, sandy-haired charmer from Cambridge, MA, Adams fell in love with music as a kid. “My dad played drums in a rock band for 25 years and my mom sang back-up,” he says. “They loved music — everything from the Rolling Stones and the Beatles to Led Zeppelin and Canned Heat.” Adams began playing piano at age seven and learned to improvise at age 11. “Everything changed for me at that point because it was my type of thing,” he says. “I didn’t have to read sheet music of someone else’s song. I could come up with my own.”
Already a fan of hip-hop and rock, Adams began to write rhymes and create beats while in high school, which is when he developed a taste for such progressive techno-trance artists as Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, and Kaskade. A soccer player throughout his life, Adams would make warm-up mixes and play them in the locker room to pump himself and his teammates up before games. “That’s when I realized I could put together all different types of music — hip-hop, rock, techno, and electronic dance music — and people would get into it,” he says. “It inspired me to start experimenting more with vocals and making actual songs.”
It was while sitting in class at Trinity College (where Adams was a political science major and captain of the soccer team) that he came up with the idea for his breakthrough single “I Hate College” — a cheeky remix of Asher’s Roth’s “I Love College,” which he recorded in his dorm room. After Adams’ friend posted it on his blog in August 2009, the track spread like wildfire among students across the Northeast. Encouraged by the response, Adams booked shows at colleges, impressing his peers with his freestyle ability, relatable lyrics, and unbridled energy. “We weren’t playing venues, we were doing frat-house basements where the electricity would short-circuit,” he recalls.
Adams built such a sizable following through touring that his independently released album Boston’s Boy shot to the top of the iTunes Hip-Hop/Rap chart on its first day out in March 2010, selling nearly 8,000 digital copies that week and outpacing albums by Lil Wayne and DJ Khaled. “We basically marketed the record on Facebook,” Adams says. “The buzz from ‘I Hate College’ really helped. Nearly all of our Facebook fans bought the album on the first day.” With its pop-rap sound and lyrics about coming up as an artist in college, Boston’s Boy earned kudos from local critics, one of whom noted: “There’s no falsity in his songs. He captures campus life with unparalleled specificity.”
With his Facebook fan page growing by the thousands, Adams was ready to take things to the next level, he just needed to figure out how. “I had been going to all these DJ shows, watching guys like Rusko and Skrillex, who were selling out huge 100,000-capacity festivals,” Adams says. “Kids would be going insane to these big drops and bass sounds. I really liked that style of music and wanted to incorporate it into my live show.” In September 2010, Adams released his first mixtape, Party Records, a seamless blend of dubstep, bass music, and electro-house with beats by Rusko, Deadmau5, Bassnectar, and other EDM giants.
“It was a passion project that really elevated our live shows because kids loved dancing to these kinds of songs,” Adams says. “It made a huge difference. We toured with Boston’s Boy mostly in the Northeast. With Party Records we could go anywhere.” Indeed, in addition to opening for such artists as Kid Cudi, Drake, Nicki Minaj, LMFAO, Ludacris, and J. Cole, Adams performed 180 headlining shows in the U.S. and Canada over the past year and sold out 160 of them, including a high-profile gig at New York City’s Terminal 5.
It’s with that striving spirit that Adams will take on his next challenge: forging a name for himself as a pop artist. “I want to make music that’s universal, that anyone can relate to,” he says. “I’ve had my biggest success so far with pop songs like ‘Driving Me Crazy’ [from Boston’s Boy] and ‘I Hate College’ and it has inspired me to write super-catchy hooks that people can jump up and down to. It feels authentic to where I am creatively at this point and I’m excited to continue to explore and play with this kind of music.”
Adams has been in the studio with his songwriting and production collaborators J.O.B., Bei Maejor, Alex Da Kid, Supa Dups, and others, working on the songs that will be included on his debut album for RCA Records, which he plans to release in Spring 2012. In the meantime, expect to see him popping up onstage whenever he’s not in the studio. “I’m motivated by how much I love entertaining and the connection I have with my fans,” he says. “I want to make music that makes them proud.” Which is why he ends the viral video for “Blow Up” with the following message: “For my fans, Every moment, every day, this is all for you. Thank you for making me what I am. I am humbled, proud, and excited. Everything has just now begun.”