“THE FIRST CD I EVER BOUGHT was Dave Matthews Band’s 'Crash,'” Asher Roth says unabashedly, bounding out of an Atlanta IHOP. “That is how suburban I am.”
He’s buoyant after a short stack of flapjacks. “I finally got into hip hop in ’98 when I heard [‘Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)’], the Annie sample with Jay-Z.”
It’s hardly shocking news. Asher (his real name), 23, was born and raised in Morrisville, Pa., a small town littered with “strollers, trees, and lawn mowers.” Which is exactly what the pale-faced MC is selling: middle-class minutiae.
“Kids from the ’burbs have been inspired and influenced by hip hop for years,” says Roth, recently inked to Steve Rifkind’s Universal imprint, SRC. “When I wrote my ‘A Millie’ freestyle, that was me listening to 10 years of hip hop and not relating to it at all. Like, Damn I don’t sell coke. Damn, I don’t have cars or 25-inch rims. I don’t have guns. I finally got to a point where I had the confidence to do this thing myself, and I was making music for me. And it turns out, a lot of people feel the same way I do.”
Effect, co-hosted by Pennsylvania acquaintances Don Cannon and DJ Drama, rattles with remakes of songs by Jay-Z (“Roth BOYS”), Shawty Lo (“Dey Know”), and Tony Yayo (“Humansirkme”), the MC’s first leaked original song, the
Weezer-sampling “I Love College,” is far from threatening. A typical lyric: “I can get pizza a dollar a slice.”
Vocally, Roth sports a pinched whine that unmistakably recalls a certain rapper who laid the pavement for him. But comparisons to Eminem hardly bother him.
“If you grew up listening to hip hop and you’re in your mid-20s, you’d be lying if you said Em was not influential and not an inspiration,” he says, clearly prepared to address the subject. “I’m not exactly pissed off that they’re comparing me to the No. 1 rap artist of all time.”