Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Asher Roth: Young gifted and Asher Roth

Asher Roth
Asher Roth Asher Roth Asher Roth Asher Roth

As someone once said... “Err-herm! Excuse me - can I have your attention please”... NOW I have it... I would like to introduce the talent that is Asher Roth!? Who you ask?... Asher Roth, the rapper currently taking the states by storm with his feel good brand of no holds barred good ol’ fashioned hipperdy–hop... O yeah, and I forgot to mention he’s white...

So what!! We’ve had the dark sounds of Eminem’s alter ego Slim Shady and the slightly lighter Vanilla-ry shades of Mr Ice. What could this white, middle class, ginger haired, be-freckled, distinctly average ex-college kid have to offer?... Well, in today’s climate, just that!! He is your everyday (Americanism) Joe. Your boy next door. Your under-dog if you like, and that my friends is what makes him so special. With the advent of Karaoke giving mear mortals the illusion of becoming a superstar Diva or a Rock God (when you’ve had one too many in my case). This young preppy looking, distantly average young man gives normal everyday college kidz the glimmer of hope that they to can one day become cutting edge, state of the art babe magnet rappers!... and then some!?... and I forgot to add... this guy really IS that good!

Lee Tyler spans the Atlantic catching up with Asher Roth who is stateside to get the low-down on the Roth Phenomenon, his road to prominence and how this hip-hop snow ball became a full on rap avalanche!

Lee: New single ‘I Love College’ is taking off at a pace and the album (Asleep in the Bread Aisle) is set to also do well – why do you think you’ve been so well received?

Asher: I think one because it’s genuine, there’s nothing made-up here. It’s as real as it comes. For such a period of turmoil, and panic and craziness in the world – it’s a positive project. It’s a non threatening project, it’s very much something that’s bringing people together and it’s based around feeling good, having fun and enjoying yourself... But we will take timeout to talk about things and get into some things – so long as we can get it out there and people start discussing it and asking questions, this project will be successful. Its feel good hip-hop, it’s pretty crazy but I have to be a professional about what I do and not get too geeked out. But I’d say ‘I Love Collage’ sticks out like a sore thumb on the album – no song is really similar at all.

Lee: How did it all start for the 16 year old Asher Roth back in those collage days?

Asher: It started on Then you start to link up with people just through life, common interests, topics of conversation and mutual friends. Not trying to force anything - you go through the motions, link-up with people and one thing leads to the next and you create music (phew! thought he was going to say something else then) the way you feel comfortable. (Laughs) I wasn’t the dopest in the crew - I was kicking beats at first. I started out beatboxing for a lot of the MC’s at first. Being comfortable is very important to this, if you don’t believe in yourself and are not comfortable with what you are doing... it took a really long time from when I was 16 years old to when I first started in the Hip-Hop workshop (a group of friends Asher used to make mix-tapes with). Then moving in to being a 21-22 year old kid wearing labels. There comes a point where you have to have a conversation with yourself – how serious are you and what your gonna do now. When I was sixteen and making those CD’s and working with Hip-Hop Workshop, to be honest you, the formula and what I have been doing haven’t changed a bit. I haven’t compromised what it’s really about. If you enter music and business, it’s mixing business and pleasure – two things you’re not supposed to do; you DO have to compromise a little bit, but you have to pick your battles you know. Some stuff I won’t budge on, there’s other some stuff that I will gladly talk and compromise about, because you really have to pick your battles.

Lee: Your friend sent a friends request to Scooter Braun (promoter and former VP of Marketing for So So Def record label) on Myspace while posting some of your verses, and on the strength of that you were signed and invited to meet Jay-Z – is that true?

Asher: Yeah, it really has that 'meant to be' Cinderella story – its fun to be a part of, and look at objectively at the same time. Meeting Jay-Z was pretty amazing, and it really happened early on. It wasn’t like a build-up to see Jay-Z - You didn’t get to meet smaller celebrities first and then meet Jay. It was kinda just like Jay right off the bat and Steve Rifkin (chairman of SRC/Universal Records) right off the bat – I was like Holly S*#t!!!... You would think definitely there would be some obstacles getting into Jay-Z’s office, there’s as much as two female interns that are right outside and that's it – he has a gorgeous office though, it was cool.

Lee: You cite Moss Deff, The Roots, Biggy and Outcast as influences but you grew up in a household where your sister listened to pop, Indie and Rock and your parents listened to Jazz and Motown. Did that have any effect on you. Is this Asher Roth just trying to be controversial and rebelling against his family and a big slice of luck dropped everything into place for you.

Asher: It is! It is in a sense; it’s kinda of cool and timing really is everything. We are at a point where genres of music aren’t distinct right now - everyone’s listening to all different kinds of stuff. For me I’m really being able to assimilate those last 23 years of music, and put it all down on the one project with the main genre being hip hop. But hearing the psychedelic influences and the jazz influences and stuff like that – being able to put that all together kind of broadens my fan base a lot.

Lee: Being a hip hop artist people are bound to look at where you’re from and your skin colour – White middle-class boys will now believe they to can become superstar rappers.

Asher: (Laughs) Yeah, a bit. It’s not like rapping in the suburbs is not new – this has been around for years. So just me coming out and rapping is just timing, a white rapper is not a new concept. The vibe perspective from where I’m coming from has been neglected for the most part. We’re at a time in our world where we can except the fact that there’s more important things to be freaked out about, than a white kid from the burbs being influenced and aspired by hip hop music.

Lee: And the compression with another white rapper Eminem... You were quoted as saying “we are different, but the same genre” how different do you see yourself?

Asher: Well I mean, my music is very warm and Em’s music was (hey, he's still around Asher) more dark – much more dark. So based purely off that and context, the fact that I come from a strong family – my entire world is different. However, I understand why people draw similarities. The fact I speak from a higher, upper part of my pulmonary (lungs) – also that I’m a white kid. It is what it is! But as far as content and person, it couldn’t be much different. We do relate on being political and having a sense of humour. But there’s always seriousness to it, it’s good to be taken serious - this isn’t Weird Al Yankovic (parody musician singer). But at the same time he differently opened the door. There’s got to be humility in everything you do - especially in white rap, you have to be able to laugh at the joke but also to be taken seriously. Everyone thinks they’re a rapper, you have to be able to come with it and say something. It’s all fun and dandy on open mic night, but you get to the point when you’ve got to sell records you have responsibility and you need to be using it wisely.

Lee: Are you aware of that fan base?

Asher: I am, I am and I hope it doesn’t affect the music because I really started to make music for me - that I enjoy. I don’t want the pressures of society or what my fanbase is expecting or anything like that to make my music – I still want to make MY music.

Lee: What stage is your life at the moment. if you wrote rhymes today reflecting your life right now, what would you write about?

Asher: I’m in my rookie year of life. At 23 you have to start taking life somewhat seriously and thinking about the lives that are gonna come after you, as far as children, and start to set up a plan. A future plan, maybe a five year plan or something like that. Also I have to realise that I am only 23. I need to enjoy my time and have fun and not get all caught up in how serious this world is, but realise that reality and happiness is kinda what you make it. I’m gonna continue to write my own book and have fun and use my time wisely (I wasn’t expecting that answer).

Lee: You are highly thought of by your peers - people like Kanye, Ludicris and Andre 3000 which you cite as influences. How does it feel to have that kinda stamp of industry approval?

Asher: It’s a step for me – it’s a BIG step! It’s good to know that people share your craft and share your gifts and are into what you’re doing. It’s a great thing, it’s humbling, it’s necessary - if I wasn’t respected by the ones who’ve come before me or my peers I’d be bummed out. I don’t want to be ostracised and thought of as a gimmick. I’ve got my work element, but you can keep it fun. Confucius said “If you pick a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

And Snoop dog said “Hip-hop is what makes the world go around” ...and you thought it was Flo Rida right!?;)

The album 'Asleep in the Bread Aisle' is released on the 20th of April and the single 'I Love College' is released on the 11th of May on Island records.

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