Suburbia, storytelling, and avocado: My interview with Asher Roth

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By: Harrison Giza


Talking with Asher Roth is like talking with that one cool kid from art class. You don’t really know him well enough to hang outside of school, but at least enough to enjoy the time you have together and see what he’s about. From my findings, I’ve learned that he’s quite a nice guy. In fact, his slow-churned flow and Beats-by-Blaze sound completely match the kindness of our conversation. His laugh was Rogen-quality, and he wasn’t scared to show his witty side.

 

Asher has evolved since “I love College,” his hit single from a few years back. His latest album, RetroHash, has sleepy-sweet guitar, smooth chops of flavorful beats, and a lot more storytelling. In particular, “Tangerine Girl” sounds unlike anything Roth has ever done, pumping with CLAP-CLAP drums and a slow-rolling disco feel straight out of the late 70’s.

 

The phone rang at five, exactly as it was supposed to.

“Hello?”

“Yo, Harrison. It’s Asher, man. What’s going on?”

And just like that, our whole interview flashed by. No titles or a clear direction he requested our piece go in. No sense of pretension to be heard… just two blonde dudes talking about rap, the World Cup, and how to properly construct an avocado breakfast (lemon and salt included).

I want to say more, but I’ll let our words do the talking…


HG: First thing I got to know… how’s your day going?

AR: It’s a great day man. I’m over at Chuck’s house (Chuck Inglish) right now and we’ve just been making music all night. He just beat me in penalty kicks in FIFA and then beat me in College Football. I’ve been taking a beating today to be honest with you.

 

HG: How did you actually meet Chuck?

AR: Uhh I don’t know man (laughs). I kind of wound up in Chicago one day on a couch. We were just playing drums and rapping about the Buddha. I don’t know. It’s just kinda one of those life things.

HG: So you just kind of stumbled into The Cool Kids?

AR: (laughs) Yeah yeah. I mean, I remixed the Black Mags joint on The  GreenHouse Effect Vol. 1 and kinda got back with that intention. So, we just started hanging out like like-minded individuals.

HG: Describe your perfect breakfast. If you could have anything in the world to eat…

AR: (pauses) I mean, really you just gotta go two eggs, your choice of the meat, and some hash browns –

HG: – YES –

AR: – with orange juice, it’s the perfect go-getter. But if you start getting funky with it, you can throw some avocado in there, get some milkshakes going around… blueberry pancakes are always good to invite to the party. The more the merrier. But I’ll start with some nice eggs, some kind of breakfast meat and some hash browns.

HG: The hash browns are what makes it. I’ve never had avocado in the morning. I might have to try that.

AR: It’s power proteins. Good fat for your body. Power food.

HG: I gotta work on that stuff.

AR: Throw a little lemon, just a squirt, put some salt on it… avocado is delicious with a little salt and lemon, man.

HG: I’ll take your word for it, man. I’ll do it. But, going into serious reporter mode, I love Retrohash. I think it’s a great album. The “Tangerine Girl” video is so strange – you’re dancing, clapping your hands, putting on records – I want to know if you went back and listened to any old disco-flavored rap for that. Did you put on any of the ol’ Sugarhill Gang?

AR: That stuff passed through at some point, get it’s way through to you. I wasn’t constantly listening to that stuff. When you’re in LA and you’re listening to 92.3 or you throw on 101.1, get the wave on there. You’ll always get some good records to groove out to that way. I think that’s the most important thing. Feeling. Something that makes you feel good or feel sad or feel anything really.

HG: The whole video (Tangerine Girl) is fantastic. How did you come to the idea of doing that specifically? I know you met with a director to plan –

AR: – well it feels like a roller skating rink. When you listen to it and close your eyes.. what do you see?

HG: True. It’s shit my dad could bump, honestly.

AR: It’s fun man. For sure.

HG: Second thing. You’ve got Vic Mensa on the album. I love Vic Mensa, who the hell doesn’t love Vic Mensa? My favorite song, no disrespect to Chuck, is “Fast Life.” I really like the story you tell in the first verse and I want to ask you… do you enjoy telling stories primarily in your songs or just relax and see what rhymes when you go into the studio?

AR: A little bit of all that, man. All of the above.

HG: All of the above?

AR: I mean, it’s always really fun to paint pictures and create themes with words. Someone could listen to what you’re saying. But some days I think it’s just fun to manipulate words and play around with them. It’s about how your day is going.

HG: That’s true too. See, everything you’re saying I agree with, so I’m just saying “next question, next question” in my head.

AR: (laughs) I hear you bro!

HG: How’d you meet Vic?

AR: It’s the circuit and hanging out. Conversations and meeting people.

HG: Do you like every thing that is coming out of Chicago right now – Chance, Vic, and pretty much everybody?

AR: Yeah definitely. It’s got some life to it and that’s beautiful.

HG: I gotta know, what is the biggest difference personality wise between the Asher Roth that went to Pennsbury High and the guy who just released his second studio album?

AR: (struck) Oh whoa man…

HG: I know I just dropped a lot on you.

AR: You continue to catch me.

(pauses)

I don’t know. I don’t mean to say “caring less” in a negative way. I’m just less concerned. High school is funny man, because high school is kind of how life continues to be. The cool guys and the cool girls, what you’re gonna wear, who you’re supposed to be hanging out with… that kind of stuff lasts forever. I guess I kind of trust myself a little bit more than I did back in the day. I like just being able to hang and do what feels right. And if it feels right to me, then it’ll probably feel right to you (the fans) while you’re listening.

HG: We’re both from the suburbs… and, you know, we’re both beautiful blonde people. I gotta ask, why do you think that suburban kids love hip-hop so much? I know you fell in love with “Hard Knock Life” the first time you heard it. What drew you to it and why do we love it so much?

AR: (belly laugh) That’s a great question man!  Uhh, I think my answer to it would be that it is an expression of self. You don’t have to rely on anybody else. When it comes to hip-hop music, you and your friends could be hanging out and just start rapping about how you feel. Just the rhythm of it, the community side of is what I like. It gives you something to talk about.

(pauses)

Sometimes hip-hop is like having trading cards or baseball cards. It’s like “yo did you hear so and so’s new stuff?” and you show someone something new in return. It’s something to do, man. It’s a way of life. And I think a lot of people appeal to the good side of it, and the entertainment side of it as well… no one necessarily killing someone over it.

HG: Completely. That’s one of the best things about hip-hop – if you get four guys together at a party and they start freestyling – it’s just fun, you know?

AR: Yeah! That’s the most important thing to not lose through all of this. There are stresses people press on you and you have to do your best to brush that off and just make music that you can have fun to, man.

HG: That’s what Retrohash is, dude.

AR: It’s true.

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HG: Tell me about the listening session at SXSW (South By Southwest) and how Pharcyde ended up there.

AR: Ahh man! Well, we came across Pharcyde and just stayed in touch. We came across them I think the previous year at SXSW and we kinda just checked everyone out, saw them again. When it (listening session) came around, they were down to support.

HG: Did you see the “Drop” video as a kid and just freak out?

AR: Not as a kid, but I saw it as a teenager and was like “whhhhaaaaaaaat.” That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, man. Getting creative to come on and shoot a video for you… it’s fun

HG: Besides Pharcyde, who are some other big influences you pimped out from back in the day? Did you hear Tribe for the first time and your mind just melted?

AR: Yeah –  Kweli, Mos Def, The Roots – all that kind of stuff. See, I had my moments. I was still being a white kid and listening to Jack Johnson. I kinda listen to everything.

HG: Last question. You’re doing this whole psychedelic, disco, even more laid back than Bread Aisle with RetroHash. So, what can we expect next?  I gotta know.

AR: Well I’m at Chuck’s house right now, so you know there is some fun stuff coming out. And then I go to New York for the weekend and drive to Virginia. We’ve got a few projects. Doing stuff with Chuck, bunch of videos, bunch of music. We’re having bunches of fun.

HG: It really sounds like it.  I know you’re at Chuck’s right now, so just tell him he makes damn good music –

AR: – wait ’til you hear this stuff bro. What we’re cooking up? Dude we got the squad. We made our own planet last night!

HG: What’s the planet like?

AR: Oh, you’ll see.

For more on Asher, click one of the extremely convenient links below…

Twitter: @asherroth

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Asherroth

More music: asherrothmusic.com

Blue Harvest Beat:

Email – blueharvestbeat@gmail.com

Twitter: @cokedupharry

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