Lancaster rapper works with Sammy Adams
This month rapper Michael Wavves heads into the Sound Lab to perform "No Pressure" and "Bad" featuring Sammy Adams Audio engineer: Nate Merrill Filmed and edited by Jeremy Long,
Lancaster hip hop artist Jordan Bleyer remembers the feeling of walking into the Chameleon Club for the first time.
It was April 5, 2011, and Boston rapper Sammy Adams was scheduled to perform.
At the time, Adams – who rose to fame in 2009 after releasing “I Hate College,” a remix of Asher Roth’s “I Love College,” on YouTube – had recently released his first EP “Boston’s Boy.” The EP peaked at No. 73 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Bleyer, on the other hand, had just started rapping.
“All I had was a bunch of crappy lyrics in a notebook,” he said.
But as he watched Adams fill the room with energy during his set, Bleyer thought, “I’m going to play this venue someday.”
That day came four years later on Feb. 28, 2015.
Bleyer, who went by the stage name JMB, performed his first headlining gig ever to a crowd of 300 to 400 people – close to the same amount Adams had played for four years earlier.
But what Bleyer didn’t know was that his real success as a hip hop artist was still to come.
Now, nearly a year later, Bleyer is on pace to double the audience from his Feb. 28 show when he kicks off the first leg of his first headlining tour Jan. 30 at Lancaster's Chameleon Club.
But the best part? He’s touring to promote his upcoming single, “Bad,” featuring Adams, the same rapper who inspired the start of Bleyer’s career. The single will be released Aug. 26.
Bleyer, who now goes by the stage name Michael Wavves, said he never expected Adams to respond when he sent the song to his management.
“(Adams) followed me on Twitter,” Bleyer said, “but I don’t think he knew who I was.”
When he did respond, it gave Bleyer a sense of validation.
“Getting to the point where we can send music to guys who have been touring and have a Billboard chart album, and they say they like the song so much they’ll hop on it, it tells me we’re going in the right direction,” Bleyer said.
But the journey hasn’t been easy.
Bleyer, who also works as an eighth grade social studies teacher at Lebanon Middle School, said the most frustrating part has been dividing his time between teaching and music. That, and hearing the word “no.”
“The most stressful part is making your art and having people tell you your art’s not good enough,” he said. “Then, having to make yourself better.”
Bleyer said he spent the last year working to do just that. Since his first Chameleon Club show, he’s changed his stage name, transformed his sound and reinvented himself as an artist.
“We’ve transformed into bass-heavy, larger sounding music,” he said. “It’s harder, more hip hop.”
Since the transition, Bleyer has released several songs, including “No Pressure” – his most popular single to date. The song has more than 100,000 plays online.
But Bleyer said his best song post-transition is “Bad.” The song is about wanting something very badly, he said. And for him, that something is success.
“Throughout high school and college, I was always the underdog, the B-team athlete,” he said. “I just kind of blended in. Once I found music as my outlet and what I feel as my calling, there’s nothing else that can get in (my) way.”
The idea that nothing’s impossible is Bleyer’s mantra in all of his songs, he said.
And he believes that not just for himself but for other aspiring artists as well.
That’s why he invited five local up-and-comers, including Dallastown native Tucker Ebersole, to perform with him in Lancaster. Ebersole opened for Bleyer at his 2015 show and has since released his first EP “Summer Daze.”
“We chose guys that are hungry for opportunities and all-around hardworking artists that we know will put on a great show and hype the crowd up,” Bleyer said. “(Ebersole) opened for me last year and absolutely killed it. I see a lot of myself in him when I started out. He’s talented and hungry, and you can’t hate on that. We wanted to give the artists an opportunity they all deserved.”
If you go
What: Michael Wavves in concert
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30
Where: Chameleon Club, 223 N. Water St., Lancaster
Proceeds benefit:The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.
More information: Visit www.chameleonclub.net.