Asher Roth, the newest white boy in rap, tells Time Out about breaking into the industry
Hey, man. How’re you doing? I’m good – I’m in upstate New York before I head out for a show tonight with NERD.
Man, you said that in a very blasé way. Doesn’t it seem amazing, doing this after only one album? Exactly – I was just having that conversation 15 minutes ago with some friends. It’s been crazy, but I’m trying to take it in my stride and make sense of the whole thing. I don’t think it’s hit its apex yet, though – we’re still building awareness and performing live shows because that’s what it’s really about these days.
Did you expect to be this successful? I never had any expectations, and I think that’s the best way to approach the whole thing: to have goals and aspirations but no real expectations. So when I took off I didn’t think this was it – it was just, how can we build on this? I’ve got my foot in the door, now let me get my whole body in there.
Have you been seduced by fame yet? I have some close friends that keep me grounded in the world that I come from. Ego is a very real thing, and I’ve met a lot of my peers that have had similar success to me, got a little bit of money and gone out of control.
Thing is, your success is based around your slice-of-life songs. Won’t that appeal vanish once you stop being some guy from the suburbs and start drinking Cristal in NY clubs with 50 Cent? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Humans evolve and grow up and change – such is life. Obviously I think that my world is still going to change a little bit, but it’s about keeping those real human emotions. Yeah, I rap about real, everyday stuff, but people are also connecting on an emotional tip as well; they can really relate to the way I deliver it, as well as what I say. And I don’t think the Cristal’s going to be coming any time soon. I’m a dive-bar kind of guy.
What’s your ultimate ambition? I don’t have any goals as far as Grammies and numbers and financial figures; that’s not important to me. I just want to start some real conversations between human beings, get some issues out there and open up some projects for kids who don’t normally get the chance. Who would have thought that a kid from Pennsylvania would be able to get on centre stage and really talk to these kids? So it’s about appreciating this opportunity and really using my time wisely instead of drinking Cristal and talking about how great I am.
Your debut album, Asleep In The Bread Aisle, seems to be more concerned with parties than politics. What do you want to discuss? Well you know, this album is more about an introduction, kind of this is what I am, and once people know me we can sit down and have this fireside chat. But the content for that chat, that second album, is something I’m still working on. On the second album I really want to dig deep down and really pull some stuff from me instead of talking about the same s*** again and again, which some rappers do – you see seven albums of the same content.
What have you learned so far in your career? One is discipline; it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the madness and the allure – the whole sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll scene. You have to be disciplined. I’m still working on that. Two is that you have to be genuine.That gets sniffed out so easily; you see how people talk behind each others’ backs. So it’s good to come in and be an honest person and just treat people the way you want to be treated.
And number three? Number three? Oh, shoot. I dunno. I guess… floss.
Have you experienced any problems, being a white guy in rap? There are questions of integrity – the whole Vanilla Ice thing definitely left some wounds. And I still get people saying, ‘Oh, that ‘I Love College’ song – I coulda written that.’ So why didn’t you?
Yeah, about that – at 24, aren’t you too old to be in college? I’ve been out of college for two years, man! That song is old. I’m the first to say let’s get rid of that college song, definitely. It’s the worst song on the CD, too, but it’s still popular. That’s people for you. Asleep In The Bread Aisle is available in stores.