A month ago, 24-year-old Wells rapper Ryan Peters, known as Spose, was sitting in an English class at Suffolk University in Boston, about to give a presentation on a poet when he noticed he’d received not one, but 15 phone calls from a New York phone number. He didn’t recognize the number.

Then he got a text from a person named Imran Majid who said he was from the artist and repertoire department with Universal Republic Records, a division of Universal Music Group, which represents artists such as Amy Winehouse, Jack Johnson and Owl City.

Peters freaked out.

“What do I do? What do I do?” Peters said he was thinking as he sat in his English class.

He called Majid back and learned that Universal Republic Records was interested in picking up Peters’ single, “I’m Awesome,” a rap song that has been in heavy rotation on local rock radio stations WCYY (94.3 FM) and WJBQ (97.9 FM).

Peters traveled to New York City to meet with Majid and others at Universal. Two weeks ago, he officially signed with Universal Republic. The label has taken his single to radio station across the country and listener response is so good, Peters said, the label told him it wanted to make a record with him.

“I just got the call,” Peters said on the phone Wednesday afternoon. “They’re picking up the album, so I’m skipping classes today and I’m going to buy a keyboard because I have to write a hit song.”

Peters has been writing songs for years and has some to use on a new album. He began rhyming in eighth grade but really got serious about hip hop as a career in 2004-2005, when he felt he knew who he wanted to be as a rapper. “I wait tables, and every second between asking ‘Do you want fries or a potato?’ I’m writing a rhyme.”

“It never was for fun,” he said, “If it was for fun, I’d be doing it in my room and showing it to my buddies.”

Peters self-released his first album, “Preposterously Dank,” in 2007. Mark Curdo, host of the radio show Spinout on WCYY, supported him then, so when he finished his mix tape, “We Smoked It All,” last fall, he reached out to Curdo again. Pretty soon, the single, “I’m Awesome,” was getting a huge response from listeners. So much so, that when the A&R folks at record labels saw that Peters was getting as many spins on radio stations in Maine as Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift and was a top seller at Bull Moose Music stores, they took notice.

He’s been getting local notice, too, and not just from listeners. He was named Best Hip Hop Act two years in a row at Maine’s electronic music community’s wepushbuttons Awards and last month was selected as one of 10 Maine artists to watch by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

The song creating all the buzz, “I’m Awesome,” causes a strong response in people, Peters says. Listeners either really, really love it or really, really hate it.  (Listen to the song.)

The song itself is really the antithesis of the self-aggrandizing title. In it, Peters celebrates all the things that make him “awesome” – back zits, driving his mother’s “ride”, talking to himself on Facebook, a bulging belly. Except for the occasional use of the word “mother—,” it hardly resembles what most of us think of when we think of the rap songs that top the charts.

“Everywhere we play it – it’s one of those weird songs – it gets calls,” said Majid, the director of A&R for Universal Republic Records. The phone lines at radio stations get jammed and thousands of text messages are sent.

That this tongue-in-cheek song is enough to get him a major label deal and lots of local and national buzz is mind blowing to Peters, whose biggest ambition was to get radio play on WCYY. “For it to get to this point is not only unfathomable, but completely unexpected,” he said. He knows other Maine artists like himself have gotten major records deals that fizzled, so he’s taking it one moment at a time, he says.

“I’m not going to go out there thinking it’s rainbows and smiley faces,” but he’s going to make the most of it. “I want to be able to present social commentary,” he said. “You can be saying some deep stuff while getting a chuckle out of people.”

Staff Writer Stephanie Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:
[email protected]