Asher Roth Is on His Way to Stardom

Can a white suburban kid change the face of hip-hop?

By Christopher Wink and Brian McManus
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 61 | Posted Apr. 14, 2009

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Still, the debate over Roth’s career in hip-hop circles rages on. Right now there’s a thread on Okayplayer.com—the 10-year-old hip-hop forum started by the Roots—titled, “So … um … Asher Roth sucks.” It sparked a newer thread, “So … um … Asher Roth is a fresh breath of air.” Both threads have fans going back and forth about the positives and negatives of Roth’s rise to fame—his detractors saying he’s a marketing gimmick and nothing more, his supporters patting him on the back for being who he is.

And it’s not just on Okayplayer. Every time Ahsmi Rawlins of Nah Right posts a Roth video or song to his popular hip-hop blog, commenters are bitterly divided for and against, Rawlins told the Wall Street Journal. The primary criticism? “He sounds like Eminem.”

Wilson sees the Eminem problem: “Even though Eminem has opened up a lot of doors of proving that a white emcee can be really credible, I think every time a white rapper emerges, the hip-hop audience is kind of skeptical at first no matter what,” he says.

Roth has found himself in the shadow cast by Eminem long enough to write a song about him. Track 8 on Asleep, “As I Em,” deals with the ever present elephant in the room. He raps, “Every interview I feel like I say the same thing, like ‘Em was great, he paved the way for me/ He was an inspiration for everybody from A to Z’/ But they keep relatin’ me ... and now the masses think that Asher wants to be a Marshall Mathers/ They say ‘Asher’s not a rapper, he’s just an actor’/ ’cause we have same complexion and similar voice inflection it’s easy to see the pieces and to reach for that connection/ Each second of every minute, each hour of every day/ I’m constantly on the defense defending my own name/ Explaining we’re not the same.”

Considering Em is releasing his own album less than a month after Roth— Relapse on May 19—the comparisons won’t soon stop.

Still, besides their identical delivery, there’s not much the two have in common.

The creation myth of superstar Eminem has always centered on his growing up poor and in a broken home on the wrong side of the tracks in Detroit. Conversely, up-and-coming Roth happily admits he grew up in relative comfort in suburban Morrisville and that he profited from his time in college.

There are also differences in marketing strategies.

“I see him being marketed as this college kid, the frat kid. I hope the industry doesn’t push him into that because it really isn’t him,” says Carolyn Rees, a junior at Penn State who dated Roth for two years at West Chester and has known him for eight years. “When I first went to Penn State, he made me promise—he told me to never ever date a frat guy … but that’s who I think he’s being sold as.”

“It’s going to happen regardless. I couldn’t stop it if I tried,” Roth says of the marketing machine. “I want it to be about the music. I don’t want it to be about the marketing or the fact that I’m white or whatever. Anybody who wants to come along on the journey because you relate on an emotional level or a humanistic level, let’s ride.”

Musing about similar issues in an interview with MTV, Roth said: “I don’t want to build my career off ‘I Love College.’ It’s a concept record. It’s almost a novelty record. Did I expect that it would launch my career? Absolutely not. I wrote that song for me. I was sitting on my couch thinking about college and how I loved it. Next thing you knew you had a bunch of people being like, ‘I feel that same exact way.’”

The year is 2006 and Asher Roth has just decided to give up on hip-hop. He’d rapped throughout high school, funded the release of one album, and had another put out by a small label, but he didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. He decided to refocus, start pursuing a degree in elementary education and become a grade school teacher.

 

Then the phone rang.

On the other end was Scott “Scooter” Braun, a major player in hip-hop marketing and party promotion who’d happened upon Roth’s MySpace page after Roth requested Braun’s friendship. Braun listened to Roth’s songs, and thought he had talent.

Roth’s friend Tom Boyd answered the phone.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 61 of 61
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1. Anonymous said... on Apr 14, 2009 at 10:10PM

“test”

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2. Anonymous said... on Apr 15, 2009 at 07:17AM

“Credible white rappers have been around for quite a while. I'm sure El-P, Cage, Slug, Mac Lethal, Sage Francis, Copywrite, Ryu of Styles of Beyond, and most of Doomtree will be surprised to know that they missed their chance at "changing the face of hip-hop" via their skin color. Hip-hop doesn't see color, only skill. It's some of the followers (and, in turn, the commentators) who get hung up on that.”

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3. catkarm said... on Apr 15, 2009 at 08:09AM

“Roth is performing for students at Rutgers-Camden on April 23!”

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4. Potts said... on Apr 15, 2009 at 10:05AM

“Can't help but wonder what his parents and grandparents think of this crude act. Such a nice Jewish boy . . . is this what he should be doing with his life??”

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5. Idah peeinyerbutt said... on Apr 15, 2009 at 10:06AM

“You have GOT to be kidding me!!!

this is the worst piece of crap I have ever heard. Not groundbreaking, not revolutionary. Recycled watered down Eminem Lite if you ask me. and the dude looks like Opie Cunningham. This guy will fade as quickly as he appeared. Utter Garbage!!

PS: think you could make your photos any bigger on the site? 350K per image? bwahahaha

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6. Anonymous said... on Apr 15, 2009 at 10:43AM

“i can't wait for him to play at The Note on 4/20. shit's gonna be siiiiiiiiiiiiiiick!”

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7. Anonymous said... on Apr 15, 2009 at 02:24PM

“if you want to check him out at rutgers-camden get your tickets by calling 856-225-6211. he's performing there on 4/23 aroun 8pm or 9pm in the student center...”

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8. Anonymous said... on Apr 15, 2009 at 11:32PM

“eminem e-shy or cage should fuck his ass up. horrible music, no street cred and never sold a record”

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9. REALLY said... on Apr 15, 2009 at 11:33PM

“ASHER ROTH IS NOT FROM PHILLY, HE HAS NEVER BEEN PART OF THE PHILLY SCENE, PLAYED THE SCENE, AND BEEN INVOLVED WITH WHAT WE DO. I JUST LOST SO MUCH RESPECT FOR PW FOR PUTTING HIM IN IT, LET ALONE ON THE COVER... ASHER ROTH IS NOT HIP HOP AND NEVER WILL BE, HES ANOTHER MARKETING PLOY.. HIS ALBUM IS FILLED WITH FAMOUS VOICES AND NAMES, HE DOESNT HAVE ANY GOOD HOOKS, JUST DUMB UNINTELLIGENT VERSES WITH A STOLEN FLOW, YOU KNOW...”

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10. REALLY said... on Apr 15, 2009 at 11:33PM

“ASHER ROTH IS NOT FROM PHILLY, HE HAS NEVER BEEN PART OF THE PHILLY SCENE, PLAYED THE SCENE, AND BEEN INVOLVED WITH WHAT WE DO. I JUST LOST SO MUCH RESPECT FOR PW FOR PUTTING HIM IN IT, LET ALONE ON THE COVER... ASHER ROTH IS NOT HIP HOP AND NEVER WILL BE, HES ANOTHER MARKETING PLOY.. HIS ALBUM IS FILLED WITH FAMOUS VOICES AND NAMES, HE DOESNT HAVE ANY GOOD HOOKS, JUST DUMB UNINTELLIGENT VERSES WITH A STOLEN FLOW, YOU KNOW...”

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11. Im_a_fan said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 12:01AM

“so much hate. its unfortunate that people misuse their energies hating on Asher instead of doing something positive in their own lives. if you do like his music, dont listen to it. no one cares how much you hate someone or something, that just shows yourself to be about the wrong things in life. asleep in the bread aisle. 4-20. support local artists!”

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12. grm1 said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 06:09AM

“Ahhhh man I don't know sounds an awful lot like those that came before him... but hey looks like the crowd is having a blast so let him do this thing even if it is Durst-meets-311-meets-Eminem all wrapped up in a Kanye sweater”

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13. Anonymous said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 08:49AM

“As someone who has been around Asher since he was in high school, I have to say: the kid's no joke and he is what he is, which is more than most of us can say these days, especially when it comes to any kind of "celebrity-dom". No, his latest radio hit may not be filled with the most intellectually stimulating lyrics and his look may resemble that of Eminem's, but it's not fair to pit this kid up against Eminem just for being white...does every black rapper get thrown up against each other just for being black, or for growing up in the "ghetto", or for rocking the same style tattoos and emulating each other's styles like there is no such thing as originality? Let's be honest here. And, in terms of Roth not being from Philly but getting an article in PW, get over yourself. Being from the suburbs of Philadelphia doesn't make us any less Philly savvy- we still hang out in Philly, eat the cheese steaks and support the local scene; and the vast majority of us spend more time in Philly than in the 'burbs because it's where our parents & extended families call home. Lay off the kid and let him do his thing...support him for being from our area and for staying true to himself.”

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14. kevin said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 09:18AM

“Asher is dope.”

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15. maryjo said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 09:22AM

“He is really really good. People are just so confused because it's hard for them to connect his image with the way he sounds. People don't like things that are different or changed. But catch up...“Every human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change.””

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16. egomaniac said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 12:41PM

“asher is the future... 4/20 will be a great day for hip hop”

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17. Anonymous said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 04:53PM

“HIs whole story is made up... The person who discovered him is actually a friend of mine name Matt McGurk who works out of Larry Gold's studio which is the home of the "The Roots" too.. This dude Scooter is a fake for taking credit in any part of Asher's development or finding him.. Whether Asher is a a favorite artist of yours or not, We deserve the truth especially if this little white boy is going to try hip hop.. You can't come out the gate being fake, with a made up story, buying your way into the game, trying to be a frat boy when your not.. McGurk never made him or intended him to to have his way into the game BOUGHT BY MONEY!! he had it him at larry golds for four years trying to teach him the lanes of hip hop that you have to travel. He tried to teach him about coming up the hard way and earning your respect and your name. Not by having your "ILOVE COLLEGE" song radio play paid and bought for you.. PURE WACKNESS. Philly should be disappointed for putting a fake disloyal cat like this on the cover of PW.. He is going to sink soon.. You watch..”

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18. Anonymous said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 04:55PM

“ASHER IS SUCKS!!! AND ALL HIS FANS ARE DORKS”

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19. A ROZAENK said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 05:01PM

“He is the SKInnIEST WHITE PussY FAKE OUT THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He LOVE COLLEGE MY ASS!”

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20. MONKEY w/ the MONEY! said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 05:09PM

“Define: Poser-
1. One who pretends to be someone whose not.
2. Who tries to fit in but with exaggeration
3. Someone who acts like a fake, or thinks they are better then someone else.
4. Asher Roth * Biiiitches

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21. Anonymous said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 06:14PM

“One hit wonder. If he loves college so much why didn't he graduate? I agree he is not real, he just pretends to be. I would consider him Hip-POP, definitly not rap or hip-hop. He will fizzle fo shizzle. He'll smoke his way to the bottom, pot lowers your ambitions and makes you sterile. Can't wait for The Roth Boys gay sex scandal videos! Ha ha YO! You left out these lyrics out of Go Kart "Lark, I don't want to date her, I prefer Slater!"”

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22. Outtie5K G said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 06:34PM

“Boo! sucka MC! Pump and Dump! 800K X .99 is not that much money in the record industry, especially once Apple and others get their cut. I bet you spent you entire advance and will be broke and washed up in the next year. Go back to school and stick with what you know - getting young girls drunk and influencing children to do drugs. What do your suburban
'Leave it to Beaver' parents think about that CRACK'R?”

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23. Anonymous said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 06:36PM

“Go back to sleep in the isle, Whitebread!”

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24. Anonymous said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 06:37PM

“Go back to sleep in your isle, Whitebread! You are not Hip-Hop!”

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25. Anonymous said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 06:43PM

“You should change your name to MC Glue because boy you be pastie.”

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26. WTF is a Asher?!? said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 08:30PM

““ASHER ROTH IS NOT FROM PHILLY, HE HAS NEVER BEEN PART OF THE PHILLY SCENE, PLAYED THE SCENE, AND BEEN INVOLVED WITH WHAT WE DO. I JUST LOST SO MUCH RESPECT FOR PW FOR PUTTING HIM IN IT, LET ALONE ON THE COVER... ASHER ROTH IS NOT HIP HOP AND NEVER WILL BE, HES ANOTHER MARKETING PLOY.. HIS ALBUM IS FILLED WITH FAMOUS VOICES AND NAMES, HE DOESNT HAVE ANY GOOD HOOKS, JUST DUMB UNINTELLIGENT VERSES WITH A STOLEN FLOW, YOU KNOW...”

Co sign,
I give asher an E for effort, but all this talk about him being "cutting edge, revolutionary" needs to stop. Asher Roth does not speak to the people who truly embrace Hip Hop as an expression of urban angst, he is a mockery of it. I'm pretty deep with what goes down in the Philly scene, commercial and underground, and I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THIS DUDE UNTIL LESS THAN SIX MONTHS AGO. If anyone has attended any show out here within that time, whether it's was a mainstream affair at Fluid, or an underground party at Liquid Charm, I'm sure you can drop at least 20 MCs who deserve a shot at representing this great city in your publication. I find it very disturbing, that out of all the great MCs coming out of Philadelphia, you chose to give the cover to someone who isn't even from Philly, let alone pay any dues in the city. So much for local support...Viva La Revolucion!! If anyone's interested in real up and coming philly Hip Hop artists, google Reef The Lost Cauze, Random, Writtenhouse, Mekz One the Black Mage, Aquils, 2ew Gunn Ciz, just to name a few...”

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27. Anonymous said... on Apr 16, 2009 at 11:01PM

“You jokers dissin him are hilarious. He is not trying to have street cred. That something that wannabe thugs try and b**ch about. Look at Kanye. The biggest poser ever. Daddy was a college professer, Momma was gettin plastic surgery. Kanye is a bigger joke than this dude. At least this dude is acting white, which he is. It seems that the ones dissin him are the dumb hoe cakes who prolly can't get into college in the first place so they have no idea what his hook is even about. And I don't mean Clark Atlanta. HAHA”

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28. Anonymous said... on Apr 17, 2009 at 03:43AM

“Asher Roth might be white on the outside but I can see the black on the inside. He smokes weed... That's all I need for me to respect him so fuck all you pussy ass faggots who have to talk shit about him just so you don't have to cry yourselves to sleep at night. Asher Roth is the shit. I support Asher Roth to the fullest and I know for a fact he's going to succeed”

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29. FrankieCute said... on Apr 17, 2009 at 08:28AM

“IT'S NOT THAT WERE SAYING HE CAN'T RAP BECAUSE HE IS WHITE OR NOT THUG ENOUGH.. HE IS NOT TEACHING US ANYTHING WITH HIS LYRICS. LISTEN TO HIS ALBUM.. HE SAYS NOTHING .. AT LEAST EM, KANYE, BIGGIE, PAC HAD A MESSAGE.. WHAT IS ASHER'S MESSAGE. SMOKE WEED ALL DAY. PEOPLE THAT LIKE ASHER ARE BOGUS.. HE RIPPED OFF EMINEMS FLOW, AND HAS NO CONCEPTS TO GO OFF OF.. COME ONE PEOPLE”

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30. Anonymous said... on Apr 17, 2009 at 01:38PM

“It's not that he's "white", or a "wannabe thug", He has no credibility whatsoever, let his presence be known locally, If I would have seen asher spit in a cypher setting at least once, at a show, at least show his face, I think he would get alot more respect. He is a gimmick, point blank, If that generic "COLLEGE" sweater don't give him away, then honestly, hip hop is dead. SUPPORT LOCAL TALENT THAT DESERVES IT!!!”

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31. come see me said... on Apr 17, 2009 at 01:42PM

“lolol
Whoever posted #27 sounds like a wannabe thug...e-thug ass dude, speak that "e-gangsta" shit in person son, and see what happens. Real ALWAYS recognizes real "dawg"

Peace”

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32. Anonymous said... on Apr 18, 2009 at 01:38PM

“you all suck and know nothing about music. Do a little research and you will see his lyrics go way deeper than what you hear on i love college. Just because you sit in your house all day listening to that bubble gum, ringtone rap shit and drinkin a 40 doesnt make you the master of whats good and whats not. OH! and to the fuckface who said Asher sold an album, ummmm yeah your stupid bitch, its his first album, of course he hasent sold any yet. Ash is the truth just admit it.”

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33. Anonymous said... on Apr 18, 2009 at 01:38PM

“you all suck and know nothing about music. Do a little research and you will see his lyrics go way deeper than what you hear on i love college. Just because you sit in your house all day listening to that bubble gum, ringtone rap shit and drinkin a 40 doesnt make you the master of whats good and whats not. OH! and to the fuckface who said Asher sold an album, ummmm yeah your stupid bitch, its his first album, of course he hasent sold any yet. Ash is the truth just admit it.”

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34. Anonymous said... on Apr 18, 2009 at 01:39PM

“never**”

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35. Anonymous said... on Apr 18, 2009 at 01:39PM

“never**”

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36. dragonzeye said... on Apr 19, 2009 at 12:16AM

“im an old school rap vet who started with rap with rappers delight on down and to be honest on certain songs this asher dude is a beast and on others hes subpar if playlist a collection of his beast tunes youll be like damn watch out em, but if his subpar tunes prevail hell fade as quick as he came into the same yard as kid rock
existent but barely noticed”

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37. Anonymous said... on Apr 19, 2009 at 12:19AM

“clay akin rapper?”

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38. Anonymous said... on Apr 19, 2009 at 01:21AM

“#32 - I think you should take a look in the mirror "bubble gum, ringtone rap shit and drinkin a 40" that sums you up and Asher's weak attempt to enter the rap game. Bubble Gum Ringtone Hip-POP = Asher Roth!”

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39. Anonymous said... on Apr 19, 2009 at 01:21AM

“#32 - I think you should take a look in the mirror "bubble gum, ringtone rap shit and drinkin a 40" that sums you up and Asher's weak attempt to enter the rap game. Bubble Gum Ringtone Hip-POP = Asher Roth!”

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40. Anonymous said... on Apr 19, 2009 at 04:23PM

“look the beastie boys, el-p, peanut butter wolf, etc. are white, so who gives a shit, if asher roth is white, if your good, you're good.”

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41. Anonymous said... on Apr 19, 2009 at 04:26PM

“oh & the beastie boys are jewish as well. well, adam yauch is technically buddhist, but he was raised jewish.”

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42. Anonymous said... on Apr 19, 2009 at 04:29PM

“i'm not a fan of 'i love college,' i think it's pretty cheesy, but, um, does it matter if he's jewish, the beastie boys are jewish. well, technically adam yauch is a buddhist, but he was raised jewish.”

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43. Anonymous said... on Apr 22, 2009 at 04:26PM

“Ok, ok...

Asher may not be revolutionary.

Asher may not be groundbreaking.

Dude might even sound like Eminem.

But he's being himself in a genre where the only way people notice you is if you murder fiddy-leven people on wax.

He's comin' with some level of skill.

He's not trying to be your favorite rapper's favorite rapper, he's just doing like most other rappers in the past have done, and expressed themselves through an art form that has inspired them. He's got more balls than a lotta fake-ass thug wannabe rappers out there for just doin' him.

So props to Ash to be what "real" really is, and that's true to HIS DAMN SELF.





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44. Anonymous said... on Apr 23, 2009 at 03:19AM

“^^^^Yea... A Fake Music Industry Maketing Ploy

2009 Vanilla Ice "Word To Your Mother"”

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45. Andie said... on Apr 23, 2009 at 08:32AM

“WOOOWWW! i love how you guys can judge but i dont see you guys out there being somebody like asher is...at least hes trying to do something with his life!! i mean seriously what are you guys doing?? sitting at your computer judging the people who are doing something with their life...your just jealous because they arent losers like you are!! get a life and leave there's alone.. "live and let live people!!"

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46. Andie said... on Apr 27, 2009 at 08:05AM

“Yeah im right and tacos do sound good”

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47. Tester1 said... on Apr 28, 2009 at 09:51AM

“It's about time white people rap about being white instead of rapping about how white they aren't.”

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48. Tester1 said... on Apr 28, 2009 at 09:53AM

“I like that he's so pretty.”

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49. Weathered said... on Apr 28, 2009 at 09:59AM

“Do you think he raps about good grades or bad grades?”

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50. Anonymous said... on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:00AM

“I think he just raps about nerdy girls.”

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51. Tester1 said... on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:06AM

“I want to see the Asher Roth vs. Natalie Portman battle”

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52. whitewash said... on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:55AM

“I love white rappers.”

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53. whitewash said... on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:55AM

“I love white rappers.”

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54. Anonymous said... on May 13, 2009 at 11:16PM

“Asher Roth vs. KFed

"The Clay Aiken of Rap" hahahaha I loved that!”

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55. syk0 Jay said... on May 14, 2009 at 10:20AM

“What a bunch of dumbasses he comes from a different background but his raps are good and no i dont mean "I Love College" his A Millie kills waynes and i mean like A-K kills the shyt so anyone can talk it but he gos harder than half u lil wanna be critics is amazing when people who claim to like hip-hop but cant see talent when its comin out a suburb



VA.
2 up 2 down VA duce town”

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56. Anonymous said... on Jun 15, 2009 at 07:16AM

“Very surprised that one else came up with this before now! Perfect for the ever popular frat house style at all of the uni's in the USA. Lyrics are pretty funny actually, I am sure this guy will have a great next 6-12 months on the MTV circuit. Save your money dude, it won't last long!! You might want to get that college diploma too.

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57. MMA 4 life said... on Nov 7, 2009 at 08:02PM

“i hear all these people talkin like, that asher is trying to be eminem? he is just someone who wants to rap to make a living. people who say he is an actor need to back up cause theres no reason to hate him. I grew up with a lot of stuff going on in my life. i turned to rap when i had a shitty day, and asher is chill to listen to. Im asian and i really like sparring, and working out does that make me Bruce lee? na it makes me someone who enjoys doing something. just like ash”

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58. -Pro Lyrikkall-E Adept- said... on Jun 16, 2010 at 03:13PM

“Ok.. im sick of all you haters on Ash. he may not be from philly..your right.. he is white.. eminem is an influence to all white people out there trying to rap.. skin color does not matter.. ASH.. KEEP YOUR HEAD ON!! I got your back bro.. im a white kid also.. so hate on me.. all you haters are just jealous that hes going somewhere and your not.. so FUCK YOU!”

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59. Anonymous said... on Nov 9, 2010 at 03:49AM

“asher grew up 20minutes from philadelphia from a highschool that had over 5000 students, you dont think he got a taste of the city? your ignorant put yourself in the mans shoes for a second. maybe youll see. he is a great artist if your not from a gang and dont sell bricks. if your just another kid you can relate to him. he doesnt WANT to be something. HE raps about what he knows. And if you listen to his mix tapes youll learn a thing or two but if your just an ignorant fuck who listens to i love college then yeah your an idiot with a loose cannon”

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60. pshhh. said... on Jan 20, 2011 at 03:21AM

“Wow, all of y'all act like five year olds, if you don't like Asher Roth then why are you so worried about reading his article and commenting on it, apparently you care or like him a little bit for you to be commenting away. I mean dang, he's just a guy trying to make it. Calm down, you have got problems if you honestly sit on the computer all day and cuss out an article either that or you have no life, maybe you should worry about you getting friends and having a life and stop worrying about someones you don't even know. I mean that kind of makes complete since.”

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61. UDresidentallmylife said... on Oct 9, 2011 at 07:31AM

“Na, you fucking wiggers. Asher didn't get a taste of the city and neither do any of you anywhere near where he grew up. WE get a taste of the city in the suburbs that are right near Philly in South Delco, and by that I don't mean we "go into the city and hang out". No, we get that same shit coming into our fucking neighborhoods and we get people selling drugs and shit in our fucking neighborhoods. Quit pretending. West Chester is one of the softest places on Earth. You wanna talk about schools? UD borders Philly directly, and so does the Southeast Delco school district, as well as school districts like William Penn. THOSE schools get a taste of the city, not you kids.

Asher Roth is just like every other wigger who grows up far enough from the REAL areas in Southeast PA to pretend to be something he's not and never get knocked the fuck out for his fake little attitude. If I ever see him around anywhere near me, don't care where it is, I'll knock his ass back to his hometown.”

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