Asher Roth on legalizing marijuana and pre-album hype trumping the actual album
Asher Roth, hip-hop's new golden boy, is a whirlwind of an artist. This past 4/20 marked his first proper release, Asleep In The Bread Aisle, which includes his red-eyed, booze fueled school anthem, "I Love College," that has been nothing short of a download phenomenon. With artists like Jazzy Phe, Busta Rhymes and Cee-Lo all contributing to the album, it's no wonder that he's been the center of so much attention. Unfortunately for him, there's also been a racial stigma dogging him as of late, one which he's made an effort to push aside, allowed himself to just be the same as when he started. We caught up with Roth as he was rehearsing for his Great Hangover tour about the album, his role in society and where he'd like to settle down (if he ever does). Hint: we're standing on it.
Westword: How does it feel to just have an album out?
Asher Roth: Just to have it off the psyche, I mean, I remember back in the day when the hype used to come after the album, and nowadays the hype before the album totally trumps the hype afterwards. It's true, man. Even before anybody puts an album out, those people just talk and talk and talk and speculate and speculate and speculate, and by that time, there's so much pressure on the artist to deliver something mind blowing -- which, at the end of the day, we're not these super-humans.
You know, the thing about the new wave of artists is that we're relatable everyday people. So it was good for me to just not put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself. Even though some people speculate about this and that and who am, I gonna get on production. I put out an album with one of my best friends Oren [Yoel], who does nine of the twelve [tracks], and it's good to get it off the psyche. Now, there's an album out, so no one can say anything. It doesn't matter. I dropped an album that goes way beyond what some people have. People get signed all the time and just never come out, so it just feels good to get it off my chest, and now I have a foundation there and I can just keep it moving.
What's the biggest change going from your small hometown of Morrisville, Pennsylvania, to now being in the industry?
Going home, man, there's not much there. So when you go home, you feel like you go home. I just have my family and friends, and when I step out on the road, I'm a public figure. I mean that's definitely interesting going from being nobody, just hanging out being a family man, to hittin' the road with everyone being like 'Ooooh.' Adjusting to the, I don't want to say notoriety, but, I'll go to the bank and somebody will know who I am, and, you know, I'm not one of those artists that's gonna be like, "Oh I'm so famous,' on my twitter" or anything, but it's definitely something you have to adjust your mentality to.
You have to accept the fact that you know people are watching and you do have a new role. But I'm not gonna let that change who I am. I still leave the house in basketball shorts and flip-flops, un-showered with my hair everywhere. I think that's cool. You know what I mean? That's just who I am. Just kind of keeping that medium between who I am as a person but also understanding that I have some role and some responsibility in society right now.
You're definitely one of the few artists who do that, so of course I commend you on that.
Thanks, man. You gotta hear this new stuff we've been working on. We finally just got access to it because we've been on the road so much. When you're on the road you have to stop in the studio and record and my recording process is usually intimate, as far as people who I'm close with or people who know my recording process. The past two days are the first time I could really get back into the studio. We're going back in about the polar caps melting and all this stuff that nobody -- nobody, I promise you, nobody -- is rapping the way that we're rapping. So, uh, it's gonna be pretty funny, man, so we'll see what happens
What role do you think that you're playing in kid's lives now that they're looking to you as a role model?
It's interesting, man. I remember when I was young, you know twelve or thirteen, listening to hip-hop music, and I think it's more about those kids. The kids in college are like, whatever. The rappers were telling me what to wear, what to sound like, what to do with my spare time, you know? They were pretty much giving me my guidelines. I'm just happy that I'm keeping it completely real over here. You know some people like that I'm talking about smoking pot and so on and so forth. You'd be surprised, I mean probably not you, but I'm just talking in broad stroke, but there's a subculture.
Go to the cannabis cup. Marijuana is absolutely a subculture. It absolutely saves lives, and I don't think people understand the fact that we spend six billion dollars a year on marijuana law enforcement, and if we actually got rid of those laws, legalized it, taxed it and regulated it, we could put eight billion dollars back, as far as just tax. I don't think people understand what's going on with marijuana, and they just want to get at me because it's a drug and they outlawed a plant.
There's definitely stuff you can nit pick at and just go "ra ra ra," but that's just human beings, and none of us are perfect. We all have our character flaws. You know, I take that as like being a real, real person for these kids to look at like, "Yes, I'm not perfect. I'm not your little square with a combover and my shirt tucked in and a great job with security." It's like, no, step out on a limb do things you wouldn't normally do, challenge yourself, and I think that's a better way. Is it the way? No, I just want kids to know there's an option and you can do whatever you want to do as long as you [just] do it.
You said in one interview that you were in school just to be in school. Being summer, with kids going into college at the end of it, what's you're main advice to those who are?
Uh, have fun, man. Some people that I've spoken to that went through college and took it seriously didn't even use their degree, and they missed out. They missed out on some very, very valuable and exciting times. These kids are eighteen years old going into college. I was seventeen my freshmen year, and, like, man, use that opportunity to make mistakes and figure out what you like to do or what you don't like to do. If you have your life figured out at seventeen, eighteen years old, then wow congratulations.
I have a father who is still like, "Man, what am I doing?" I have an older sister who is moving to Seattle just because she does not know what the fuck she wants to do. It's a common thread, man, a common theme in this world that people are like, "Why am I here," and it takes people like Descartes: "I think therefore I am," to just really get it back to the basics and let people know to do whatever you want to do. During those college years especially the college years where you can't even legally go out to a bar and drink, spend time making mistakes, step out of your comfort level, have some fun.
There's an al-star cast consisting of Jazzy Phe, Busta Rhymes and Cee-Lo, among others, on Asleep In The Bread Aisle. Who do you want to see working with you in the next album?
I'm definitely thinking about it. We're gonna see what that turns out into. I definitely wanna get my boys Mos Def involved and Q Tip. I obviously don't want to put the -- what is it? -- the carriage before the horse? There's a lot more going on with just "I Love College," and a lot of people don't understand it. For the most part, it was almost a mistake -- not a mistake, but an accident. I'm not really a radio guy. I'm gonna struggle. Watch, you can watch it first hand, me struggling to get a radio hit as popular as that was. It's not going to happen.
There might be ones that dabble, but I doubt I'll have a number one radio hit. That's just not the artist I am. I definitely want to get substance and content and getting these kids to, you know, rap about anything. If I wanted to I could write a rap song about a freaking chair. You don't have to just rap about guns, hoes and bitches. You can rap about anything.
I'm trying to bring that with the next album. I'm in talks with Pete Rock and Primo everyday, so it's moving more towards that then it is, oh, biggest pop star in the planet. Some people still think I'm still just a one hit wonder, but truth is I'm trying to set up a more-than-decent touring career and trying to get people to a live show. That's where my head is. Substance and content, I just don't think that's so hard. You don't have to try and poop out an album in two weeks.
Denver welcomes you along with Kid Cudi and B.o.B. on July 21st at the Ogden. What can we expect from them?
B.o.B. is the man, I was kicking it with him the other day and he's such a good dude. He's doin' it for the right reasons man. Like I said the new wave are just everyday kids. A lot of us come from decent humble backgrounds, it's not like we're dead broke so we're not here to make money, we're here to make music and hopefully make a living. I love, love, love Colorado. It's one of those spots that when I decide to settle down I might be moving out there. So thank you man I appreciate it.