Asher Roth Preps Sophomore Album, Set To Take Things Up A Notch
By now he’s heard it all. He’s just a white rapper. He sounds like Eminem. “I Love College” was wack. He can’t really rap. A year ago it might’ve affected him, but he’s over it. Asher Roth is well… Asher Roth. He’s put in years to get where he is now and regardless of how you feel about him, he’s going to be making music, reaching his goals and growing into a better person for years to come. With a new collaboration EP with producer Nottz on the way, and his lead single G.R.I.N.D. from album two already creating a huge buzz, Roth sat down with the good folks at Parlé to discuss how his emergence in Hip-Hop has affected him and how he is a different artist now compared to when he first appeared on the scene.
Parlé Magazine: Happy to see all the success you’ve had to this point, I already see more things on the horizon, but let’s go back a little bit and get people familiar with Asher. By now we’ve heard the story, you heard the Jay-z track “Anything” and that helped you fall in love with Hip-Hop, but I’m sure that’s just a very small part of the story. What made you want to take on Hip-Hop and embark on this journey?
Asher Roth: I don’t even know if I really ever said that I wanna take on Hip-Hip, I guess you can say I made conscious efforts in terms of the Hip-Hop workshops I attended after class in high school, rapping with friends, and going over to my friend Footies house and making songs and selling them at Harvest Day and all these other things I was doing when I was 16, 17 years old, so I guess that would be conscious efforts in taking on Hip-Hop, but I didn’t really realize what I was doing and I think that innocence and naivety of it is what kinda carried me. I’m now becoming a bit more cognizant of what’s going on and the responsibility of being a public figure and also being white and being in Hip-Hop. It’s interesting. More recently I’ve come to terms with what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. That’s why you start to see me recoiling from ‘let’s put out radio records, let’s get rich and get on out of here.’ I have gone towards more speaking to kids and putting out records that I like. You said it right off the bat with the word journey. It’s been a journey and one thing in this game you can’t replace experience and just understanding that and everyone I talk to just having an open mind and listening. When I was younger I didn’t want to listen to anybody, but now more than ever where I am in my life I understand how important it is to listen, observe, absorb, and let that all come out through your music.
Parlé: Listening to your debut, it seems like there were a lot of early frustrations. What was an early lesson you learned in Hip-Hop?
Asher Roth: Be yourself. When I got here and things started to get big with The Greenhouse Effect, you learn that everybody has their opinion and they are going to critique you, you don’t want them to be critiquing a lie or something that’s not real. I unfortunately don’t have a stage name, I don’t have a celebrity that I can hide behind, so every time I show my ID at an airport person or get carded at a bar, it’s always interesting. I think that’s the most important thing-two things really, have fun and be yourself. If you don’t have to lie, you don’t have to remember anything. You can just go. That’s really where I’m at. It’s just making it up as I go along. I have my priorities, I have things I would like to accomplish but at the end of the day, the most important thing is for me to enjoy this. I been blessed with an opportunity, I’m extremely appreciative of it, but if I’m not enjoying it then I messed up, real bad.
Parlé: From the outside looking in, it looked like it happened really fast for you. Was it as quick as it seemed?
Asher Roth: Absolutely. It did. I wasn’t underground doing this for 15 years before it popped off or even 7 for that matter. It wasn’t my first song or anything, but relatively in the time line of musicians, artists and the like, it happened very fast. Gift and a curse. It forced me to grow up a little quicker, not necessarily in the sense of getting serious and career oriented but grow up in terms of responsibility, grow up in terms of being more mature with the decisions I was making. Decision making in this business is split second, you get put in a situation a lot more often than not where you have to say yes or no right there. It happened rather quickly.
Parlé: Has being a celebrity actually hit you yet?
Asher Roth: I still walk through Penn Station, I’m still very careless about my public persona. Not careless so to speak but I’m not one for fame. I think fame is the worst part about it. I’d pick fortune over fame any day. Some people can leverage the fame thing into fortune, but the fame thing is not why I came here at all. That was actually the down side of it and I don’t wish that on anybody to not be able to go anywhere.
Parlé: A little earlier you said you have things you want to accomplish, what are some of those things?
Asher Roth: As a person you want to be respected. Respect is always important to me. It’s not even about rap skills, that was a thorn in my side for a little bit, that’s why you see, Seared Foie Gras with Quince and Cranberries, like I can rhyme words all day, concepts all day, whatever. I eventually took that thorn out of my side. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody, I just have to enjoy this. So my goal is more youth oriented. I’m super big on education, I was in school to be an elementary education teacher so I’m starting to build schools, getting supplies in schools in Nicaragua. We started working with Pencils of Promise, awesome organization, building schools for kids who can’t even read or write their own name. That kind of stuff is extremely important to me. Disease free water, getting people kinda healthy. Education and water should be a human right. You should be able to drink a clean cup of water and you should be able to write your own name. That’s the kind of stuff that holds dear to me, not I’m the best rapper. That doesn’t matter to me. At that point it’s all ego to me and I don’t want to be driven by that and I try my best not to. But we’re humans and that happens and sometimes you get caught up and I got caught up for a little bit like ‘Man, I gotta prove to these people I can rap’ cause “I Love College” is what they were going off. Which is for the most part very lazy as far as rhyme is concerned and lyricists are concerned. But like I said, I’m over it, I’m over myself. And I realize it’s much bigger than me and I’m ready to take that on.
Parlé: Now on the education note, you actually went to college yourself for a while, tell people about that. How far did you get?
Asher Roth: I went to West Chester University. I got to my junior year, I took a leave of absence my sophomore year as well to duck out and do some recording. It was exactly what “I Love College” was about. It wasn’t this Ivy League University, it was just growing up, having fun, making new friends, having some new experiences and enjoying it. The collegiate route is crazy right now, obviously it’s a culture and everything but at the same time it’s expensive. It’s a luxury and absolutely everyone doesn’t have the opportunity to go to school, it’s interesting. Education! Forget college, forget everything else, just educate yourself, your world around you, everything around you. Understanding how it works, I can’t stress enough-KRS One—Knowledge Reigns Supreme. It’s just so true. That’s the things about the internet, its diminished the gap between consumer and seller. That information that they were withholding, that you had to go get, you can just find that. Just know what you’re talking about and if you don’t, look it up. Education.
Parlé: Okay let’s go back to music. You got The Rawth EP coming with Nottz, how’d that come about?
Asher Roth: The Rawth EP, it’s gonna be a free EP with Nottz. Nottz is somebody I respect beyond belief. We hooked up in Virginia, it’s so cool, me coming from the world I come from and him coming from the world he comes from and just how similar we were. He just has this grinding mentality, he works harder than anybody I know, he’s always got time for his kids too, he always makes that important time for his kids. To me that’s just a man who knows what he wants out of life and despite all that’s been going on with sampling, how there’s really no money in that anymore, he still stays true to his craft and you need this music that he just put out, you can feel it. You look at somebody and you know when they’re hungry, you know when they want it, they have that fire. Nottz is one of those people. The Rawth EP is really derived from that feeling, wanting to make music regardless of the music industry, regardless of what these rules are to be on the radio, whatever it is, fuck all that. Let’s just put out music that people want to hear so that you can feel something when you get it. I’m really excited about it, it’s fun, it’s heavy. They’re some fun records on it, they’re some head bangers, it’s a 6 to 7 record EP. You’ll be able to download it, Nottz and Asher Roth.
Parlé: When will it be released?
Asher Roth: The date will be released.
Parlé: The new single is “G.R.I.N.D.” –
Asher Roth: “G.R.I.N.D.” is the first single off the album, Spaghetti Tree and it just let’s people know where I am now. Even the mood of a lot of people, my dad gets on me a lot because he’s like people love answers but I’m more for questions, ask the right questions. Ask why? And you can get somewhere. It talks about unplug, stop doing the robotic thing. Humans are such creatures of habit that once they get us in all this debt that we accumulate from going college that we have to work it off for the rest of our lives. You see a lot of people get into 40, 50 years old and have these mid-life crises’ or whatever their called because they realize they haven’t been doing anything their whole life that makes them happy. So I been on my grind but I can only grind for so long type stuff. It’s just about getting back to the simplicities of kicking your feet and spending time with people you love type of stuff. That’s not the overall mood of the album so to speak, but I think that’s the overall mood of the stuff I’m trying to put out. The message that I’m trying to get across, and like I said this is going to come from more than just music, I like talking to kids and going to schools. Even the Bongress campaign, shout out to the Bongress campaign, getting the youth involved in proposition 19 and kids understanding Marijuana as a therapeutical help and getting kids off the Xanax’s and the pills for pills for pills and this dependency for pharmaceutical drugs, stuff like that.
The Spaghetti Tree is about possibilities and imagination and the what ifs of the world but, based on real events. We had a lot of fun with Pharrell making the record, Organized Noise, Ryan Leslie is on their, Nottz, Swizz Beats and I worked together. I’m gonna get back together with Cannon, Oren Yoel, who knows man, I really just want to bring people in who are down for the cause and spreading a message, not just let’s get a big check and get out of here. I just want to make dope music and that’s all it’s about.
Parlé: So what is next for Asher Roth?
Asher Roth: Right now it’s really about The Rawth EP. The Spaghetti Tree stuff will start to pop off as we go. The process I been going through is build, build, build and then look at it and see where we are, then bring in the appropriate people that can drive home the message.
Parlé: Any surprises on The Rawth EP?
Asher Roth: The Rawth EP is mainly Nottz and I. Rhymefest is on a record, I think that’s it. And Colin Monroe on this “Neighbor” record. For the most part that’s just Nottz and myself.
Parlé: For people who see you on TV, and think they know you, besides music what type of person are you?
Asher Roth: I would like to sit here and say I’m a relaxed, happy-go-lucky, care-free kid, but I think the one thing is I give a shit, that’s what matters to me. I really care about where things are going. I care about what people are feeling and I like to ask the question why. I’m constantly asking why. My parents are always saying ‘just because I said so’. That’s basically what the country says cause that’s the way it is. I’m a positive person. I just want to chill, have fun and be productive. And just hope that through Hip-Hop and different vessels and vehicles we can change people’s attitudes. If you wake up, like ‘Today’s gonna suck! And it’s an awful day already blah blah blah.’ Then your day is gonna suck. It’s just a matter of people understanding the power that they have, how powerful they are and speaking and talking and feeling. And all that stuff. It’s a crazy journey to say the least, you kicked it off really well. This is a journey and I’m figuring it out as I go along. Making it up as I go along. On The Greenhouse Effect I said, “I don’t have it figured out yet/As a matter of fact, I just figured out my outfit.” That’s just very real of what’s going on right now. I just want people to understand have fun, enjoy your time, enjoy your time on this Earth. I don’t know how many times we need to be reminded, whether it’s just the earthquakes or its Heath Ledger overdosing. I don’t know how many times we have to be reminded that life is extremely short.
Parlé: Now that you are officially a member of the Hip-Hop community, was Hip-Hop what you expected it to be? And what advice do you have for people trying to come into the game?
Asher Roth: I guess so. My expectations weren’t that high to begin with. I heard the horror stories, it is extremely political, it is such as this entire world, about who you know and not what you know. That’s why my advice to people would be to get out there, network, be honest, be brutally honest, and if you want something go out there and get it. You can’t expect anything to be handed to you. And I learned that. It was pretty crazy how many people were around for “I Love College,” but when I turned around and said, “I want to do this, some real shit over here,” how many people did this (puts two hands up as to say, I don’t want any parts of this)… And that’s when I learned, ‘hey man, no one gives a shit more than I care about my own career. No one cares about my career than I care.’ And that’s the truth. Go out there and do it. People love to make excuses, forget all the excuses, if it doesn’t work out, failure is the best thing that can happen to somebody, people are extremely scared of failure. There are a million and one fear tactics, just kick it out and at least be able to say that you tried. That’s it!
Parlé: It’s been over a year since you emerged on the scene. Do you have any regrets up to this point? Would you change anything?
Asher Roth: No, No, No and if I would sit here and say that I would change some things that’s bad news. Very pleased with how the first album came about. I also don’t think people understand really what went down with that album. We had no budget. I slept on the floor, on couches. We recorded 3 or 4 of those records in a living room closet. It was a major label debut but now how one would think with millions and millions of dollars, it wasn’t like that at all. Oren Yoel held me down so much on that album and more importantly than whatever the numbers are, I had a blast making that record. I got to work with Cee-lo, got to link up with Busta Rhymes, got to see Keri Hilson, like c’mon. Stuff that if it all ended right now, I’m be like, ‘that was so much fun, now off to do whatever else my life has in store for me’. Lucky for me Asleep in the Bread Aisle was enough for me to get a second chance, a second go at it, a lot of people don’t even have that. So just making the most of my opportunities and enjoying the process.
So yes, Asher Roth is here to stay. Look out for The Rawth Ep, the new album, Spaghetti Tree, the new single “G.R.I.N.D” and take time to enjoy the music. Those who have understand just how good a record “I Love College” really was and look forward to much more.
Images by Christian Ortiz for Parlé Magazine