Asher Roth is the latest MC to hit the world of hip-hop. Armed with a bit of intricate flow and a laid back attitude, Roth is ready to put the fun back in hip-hop but he is also not afraid to mix it up with his own brand of insightfulness. Now let’s get the meaningless stuff out of the way quickly; yes he is from the suburbs of Pennsylvania, yes he loved college and yes he is indeed a white MC. Now that we have hit all the surface issues let’s concentrate on the fact that Roth’s debut disc “Asleep in the Bread Aisle” brings the party and a bit of sincerity back to hip-hop. From the anthem “I love College” to the tale of a father just trying to make ends meet in “His Dream” to the introspective story telling on “Fallin”, Asher paints quite a laid back picture steeped in the party but also steeped in a bit of thought. Roth is gearing up for quite a busy summer. By the time you read this he will be gearing up for his first headlining tour with Kid Cudi. Asher will also find himself opening shows for the newly reunited Blink-182 and Weezer as the summer progresses. I caught up with Roth while he was caught in LA traffic trying to catch game one of the Lakers/Magic finals. Here’s what the MC had on his mind:
Associated Content: I guess the first thing I have to ask is, did you in fact go to college and if you did, did you graduate and what did you study?
Asher Roth: I did go to college. I went to Westchester University and I studied elementary education but I did not finish.
AC: Do you think you will go back and finish?
AR: It’s definitely something I think about and something that I want to do in the future.
AC: So what does the title “Asleep in the Bread Aisle” refer to? Is it another college reference?
AC: HA! I love stuff like this — I love leaving things open to interpretation — the title refers to a friend of mine. He had a buddy of his who had a hard night of partying. He was hung over and hungry — he went to the grocery store to grab some food and some Tylenol. He grabbed the Tylenol first and took some while still inside the store — he actually took Tylenol pm so by the time he was able to grab some food he was done — he just fell asleep in the grocery store in the bread aisle — he was literally not aware of his surroundings. All he cared about was sleeping — for me the title is a direct metaphor, for being unconscious to how the rest of the world perceives you or how they think you should look and act and instead, you just do your own thing. That’s what the title means.
AC: Who were your earliest influences in hip-hop? Which artists got you to say I need to do this for a living?
AR: Well I had been listening to artists like Nas and Jay-Z but when I started to listen to Blackstarr and The Roots and Pharaoh Monche, that’s when I decided I needed to do this and that I wanted to do what they were doing. I wanted to deliver a message and tell my story. Basically it was everyone on the Rawkus label and in the Okayplayer collective.
AC: Because of your single “I Love College” you have been already branded as the “slacker/party” hip-hop guy. Is that fair? Do you want to do more thought provoking material?
AR: That’s where my head really is when it comes to writing rhymes. I want to do more thoughtful and introspective stuff but you gotta start somewhere! I mean I am cool with having a serious conversation with a beer in my hand but at the same time I am not here to party my life away — I like having a good time like anybody else but I am not gonna wake up one day broke and living in my dad’s basement because I partied too much — I am out to have a good time but I do not use heavy drugs and there is more to me than just the party scene.
AC: I promise I won’t bother asking you about Eminem. But what I do want to know is has race played a role in your career thus far? I mean even with artists like the Beastie Boys, House of Pain, 3rd Base and yes, Marshall Mathers, is being a white mc still an issue?
AR: Well you are right that this is not a new concept — a white rapper/mc is not a new concept at all. However, when money starts to enter the picture and when you start talking about charts and exposure, that’s when it gets weird. That’s when you have to start taking into account the idea that you have a White kid becoming popular doing Black music. It starts to become a delicate, serious subject — I hope we are and I think we are moving, to a place in society where color will not matter but it just depends — I mean some folks don’t see it that way — all I can do is speak from my experiences — when the business aspect starts to come into play that’s when race comes into play.
AC: You recently got into a bit of a racial dilemma on twitter. (Roth “tweeted” that he was just spending time at Rutgers with some nappy headed hos) How did that affect you? What did you learn from that experience?
AR: It really opened me up to a lot of ugly perspectives but I needed that to happen to me — it made me grow as a person — if anything it really made me grow up! It was a poorly made, poorly worded joke and for folks that really know me they knew that I was just kidding — they know I am not out to hurt anyone. Folks who don’t know me were offended — it was a stupid mistake that I made but I do think I was able to learn from it and build upon it.
AC: You have a pretty packed summer coming up. Let’s first talk about your headlining tour with Kid Cudi. What can fans expect from those shows?
AR: We have a great tour planned. This tour is all about good people coming together to have fun! The vibe we want to create is that when the show is over it does not mean the party is over — the party has just begun! The tour not only features me and Kid Cudi but we will also have Pac Div, 88 Keys and B.O.B with us.
AC: After that you hit the road with Blink-182 and Weezer. How did you get on that bill?
AR: I ended up hanging out with Travis Barker in Vegas. We got to know each other and we realized that we were very like minded people. He thought it would be cool to have me on the tour. We just made a connection and from there it happened. I am glad I will be doing this tour — people will get to see that I can do more than just hip-hop and that I like different styles of music.
AC: I assume it’s safe to say you enjoy performing live?
AR: For me that’s what this is about — performing live and connecting with the audience!
AC: Let’s go back to a question I asked earlier. With folks trying to put you in a box as the “slacker rapper”, what is one thing you would like people to know about you that they may not know?
AR: Hmm — .I like to read!! HA!! Seriously, I like to read historical fiction — I mean as I said before there is more to me than just the party. The song “I Love College” was not written in the here and now, it was a retrospective, it was me reminiscing — it was me looking back. I have a lot of songs that deal with the here and now and what’s going on.
AC: Your summer is pretty planned out for you. What will you be doing in the fall? Will you be hitting the studio and doing some recording?
AR: I definitely have ideas for a second disc. I have also been given some scripts to look at — there are a lot of things I am looking at and trying to get into — I just want to try and keep it fun and challenging!
Join Asher Roth this summer on the Great Hangover Tour