Recently I wrote a big feature for PopMatters.com about the young rapper Sam Adams, who I happen to have gone to high school with. You can find the article here or its slimmer, more Wayland-focused incarnation from The Wayland Town Crier newspaper here.
Anyway, I began interviewing the kid and his management, and listening to Sam’s music, over a month ago. But the final piece of the puzzle was seeing him in concert March 13 at Hiro Ballroom in Chelsea. Sam did well, had the crowd going nuts, lots of cute girls getting crazy in the front, all that. But I also was impressed by the act that went before Sam: Divine Rhyme. The group consists of Aaron Schechter, who graduated from Lehigh last May (class of ’09) and Jason Majlessi, who is also at Lehigh but is class of 2010, graduating this spring. They’re pictured below.
Even though many of the kids had come to see Sam, I (and I bet a lot of others) was really surprised by how much energy Divine Rhyme brought to the stage. I also spoke to a fair number of fans who had come specifically to see them, not Sam, so they definitely have a following. They knew how to work a crowd, too. “Thanks for coming out in this fucking monsoon,” one of them announced before they started rapping. (It was pouring like crazy outside.)
Their music style is close to Jurassic 5, but in concert they’re more intense, louder than you could tell from listening to their stuff on Myspace (they’re not on iTunes or Amazon music yet). They were really spitting furiously and some of the girls were absolutely loving it. They also aren’t just a two-man act; the duo performed with two guitarists (one may have been a bass), a keyboardist and a drummer. They had people going wild, hands up in the air.
I like their lyrics. “In my younger days I used to sport the backpack, Jansport black sack with the patch on the back,” Majlessi raps on the song “Cooler than Cool.” It’s clever, but more importantly the beat underneath is really easy, a good sound. In the chorus, the two of them sing together and it starts to really meld. Give that one a listen.
I wanted to give them a shout here, even on my small blog that not many people see, because it’s only natural they would get overshadowed by Sam Adams that night, what with the fucking whirlwind of press he’s had in the past three weeks, literally out of nowhere. They actually worked with Sam in Nantucket last summer, and according to two guys who had come to see them at the Hiro show, there was a small freestyle battle between one of the boys and Sam, and supposedly Sam got wrecked. Even if true, that obviously doesn’t matter now. But these guys have been building a small following for longer than Sam, working hard within the confines of their college network.
I got a chance to catch up with Schechter after Divine Rhyme finished their set, before Sam came on. As I suspected, Schechter had a lot to say about the group’s use of social media to try and reach out. “At Lehigh there was a lot of apathy on campus, but we weren’t going to let that stop us,” he told me when I asked about how the pair formed. “We figured we have enough friends on campus to get a following just through them, so we played shows on campus and also started putting tracks on Myspace. We really just blasted our stuff out to the whole college market. Schools beyond Lehigh too, when we could. Then we worked on Facebook, once they had the ‘fan’ system and all those extra apps.” Schechter struck me as honest and conscious of what he and Majlessi are going to have to do to pop off. When I asked him what he does other than music (since he clearly can’t live off profit from Divine Rhyme gigs yet), he told me he’s an accountant, but then added, “Don’t put that in an article, though, it looks lame.” Don’t be embarrassed, kid—everyone needs a day job.
“Doing shows like this is just so fun for us,” Schechter said. “It just feels like everyone here is our friend.” I loved when he said that because that was definitely the feel of this concert, not just for them but for Sam Adams, too. It felt like we could have been on a college campus, in a performance hall or whatever. And that was okay; it was the right tone for the show.
Anyway, check ’em out. And stay tuned, we’ll see if they can blow up.