Can a white suburban kid change the face of hip-hop?
“I told him, ‘Get Asher Roth ... This is the most important phone call of your boy’s life,” says Braun, a former marketing director for the music label So So Def. Roth paced back and forth, listening intently while a stranger in Atlanta told him what his future could be. Two weeks later, still wrestling with whether to throw caution to the wind and dive back into rap or commit himself to his studies, Roth went to a movie.
“If it wasn’t for Borat,” Braun says now, “there would be no Asher Roth.”
The movie injected him with enough “Why the fuck not?” to buy a $600 flight to Atlanta—the farthest he’d ever traveled away from home—to meet Braun. Two weeks later, Roth signed.
Then Braun took to shopping his precocious rhymer, who loves sweatpants and flip-flops. They went through lots of doors, including Jay-Z, who passed. (Braun contends he was more intent to take his time, but the young kids elected not to wait.) Instead, Roth signed with Steve Rifkind, the founder of SRC who’s had a hand in the careers of Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, Three 6 Mafia and Big Punisher, among others.
“With the quirkiness of Asher, I knew there was something there, I just didn’t know what it was,” Rikfind says. “There was no music—it was just freestyling. I made a move on Scooter’s passion. I said, ‘Scooter, this is your shot.’”
Braun knew Roth was the roll of the dice he should put his money on. He was unique. He had potential in a suburban market that had yet to be tapped at the source.
“Hip-hop isn’t gold chains and glasses and driving Bentleys. Hip-hop is being an individual and being yourself,” Braun says. “He’s showing that, and I think that’s relatable to a kid living in the inner city or a kid living in London or a kid who’s living in Africa. Or a kid who’s living in Morrisville, Pa.”
He may be right. Because whether you love or hate him, think he’s a pioneer or punch line, the case for Roth’s success was made most succinctly by James Montgomery of MTV.com in his Bigger Than the Sound column.
In a piece titled “Asher Roth Is Proof That Hip-hop Has Won,” he wrote: “He’s a suburban kid who fell in love with hip-hop—just like millions upon millions of other suburban kids. The rest—the attention, the hit, the fame—just sort of happened. And this is important, because if we are to really believe that hip-hop has conquered the world, has invaded every crevice of our culture, then we need to realize that rappers can be born anywhere. There is not a manual; there is not a ‘build-your-own’ MC kit. Stuff like background and credibility and machismo don’t matter one bit. Talent does.”
And Roth has enough industry bigwigs on board as proof.
Given such high-profile associations, it might seem like Roth’s come a very long way from Morrisville, where he began rapping in freestyle competitions with white friends who used handles like Fluent and Manifest Destiny, Footie, Illustrious and Big Timbs.
But he doesn’t think so.
“[Asleep] is the same shit that I was doing in Footie’s basement. This is the same shit, the same formula and everything,” he says. “I’m still having fun. It’s not all fucking serious. I’m not trying to change the world, but I am at the same time.”
Having grown up in fairly close proximity to Morrisville, PA, up there in Lower Bucks County, it seems to me that nothing much good, bad, or otherwise has happened in or come out of Morrisville (except for super-duper journalist/publicist Howard Wuelfing, but that’s a bit “inside baseball,” sorry…). Until now, anyway, with the lightning-fast rise [...]
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There are a few things you notice about Bucks County rapper and soon to be mega-star Asher Roth when you meet him. 1) He’s tiny. Like Hobbit small. And when he shakes your hand, says “Hi, I’m Asher,” you feel you could break every tiny bone in his little tiny hand with just a modest [...]