I was skeptical going to see Asher Roth perform at Dallas’ Palladium Ballroom where he made his first stop for the Billboard and Chevrolet First Look Tour. With his 2009 massive hit “I Love College” already stuck in my head before he even hit the stage, and the realization that I really knew nothing about him other than he must have really loved college, I couldn’t help but think this guy is just another one hit wonder. Then he hit the stage. Within minutes I realized what a judgmental ass I was. He brought big time energy that instantly had the crowd going wild in the best kind of way. The whole set was non-stop liveliness and pure entertainment. And he’s not just a good performer; the guy can legit rap. Real solid. I met up with him after the show for a conversation, and left with a ton of respect for the guy. And his leftover beers. See? You’re loving him more and more already.
Asher has some serious fans. Not necessarily the groupie-take-a-pic-sign-this kind of fans, but people who really look up to him, seek advice from him, and want to impress him. After most of the crowd was escorted out of the room, he let about 15 people stay for a bit. He didn’t know them, and had no reason to let them hang around. He just let it happen. Literally every single person in the room begged him to listen to his or her freestyle or already prepared verses. Roth would go up to each person, introduce himself, cross his arms, close his eyes, and let each person do their thing. He gave his full attention to every person. Offered advice and critique, took mix tapes, and left each person with words of encouragement. I’ve seen artists do things like this before, but never in such a sincere manner. That’s when I realized it didn’t really matter if I liked his music or how I felt about him as a rapper, because when it comes down to it he’s just a good dude. The room cleared out and he sat down clearly tired from doing this exact same thing on a nightly basis, letting his now long hair cover his face, looking more like a rocker than a rapper, and allowed me to fire away.
Serial Optimist: You just put on a high-energy show here in Dallas. What did you think?
Asher Roth: It was fun, man. This is one of those moments you realize how important the fans are as like people, and not just numbers. Intimate shows like this you know, it makes the Facebook followers, Twitter followers nonexistent.
SO: What’s more important to you, the quality of fans or quantity of fans?
Asher: I mean obviously the more the merrier. And I guess really that’s it. I feel like if people, and this is something I’ve realized lately, like what I like and the stuff that I’m doing, the fans are a reflection of that. My fans are gonna like what I like, which makes this a whole lot easier.
SO: What do you like music wise?
SO: EVERYTHING? Lets get a little more specific. Who are you listening to right now?
Asher: Rihanna. (His crew busts out in laughter, finding this humorous.) No I listen to Rage Against The Machine, Paul Simon, and the Black Radio stuff. I danced to Sting Englishman In New York this morning, and Kimbra, who we just saw at South by Southwest, a phenomenal performer. Gary Clark Jr. I just like, you know…music.
SO: That doesn’t help our readers, saying you just “like music”. That’s like me asking what your favorite food is and you saying “food”. Any up and comers you like?
Asher: I just named them. To the casual listener they might not have heard of them and other people might be like “I’ve been following them for ten years.”
I just encourage people to go out and find live music. That’s what we just did down at SXSW, it’s setup for young musicians and artists who just really want to be doing it, who really want it.
SO: What do you want your fans leaving your show thinking?
Asher: I just want them in a good mood, to think that it was fun and that they had a good time.
SO: What’s the difference between playing a 500 person show compared to a 5000 person show?
Asher: It’s person to person. When you’re more intimate you kind of take your time. When there’s a lot of people it’s just a different vibe. My political answer would be that they’re the exact same thing. But the truth is when there’s a lot people there you kind of zone in, you become more introverted and you’re just kind of going through the songs. But when it’s less people you start looking people in the eye and start really connecting with the fans.
SO: To be honest, I only knew you for your main hit “I Love College,” and I pretty much thought it would be a one hit wonder. But I was truly impressed with your performance in Dallas. Lyrically it was great, the performance was great. I was really pleasantly surprised. Do you battle with that a lot? People thinking you are just another white guy rapper with one hit? What is that challenge like for you?
Asher: That’s been the challenge. That’s been my journey, my story. Coming out with a huge hit that has all the preconceived notions in the world: white kid, college boy, drinker, smoker, and frat boy, like all these kind of stereotypes. My challenge, my job today is to be like “Yo, we’re pretty much all in this together.”
SO: Aside from all those stereotypes, what should people know about you?
Asher: They should be listening. They should check in. I mean it’s hard. People’s attention spans are down to nothing. It’s really hard to get someone’s attention and keep it. You must be efficient with the music you’re making. Rap is hard. You have to wake up each morning and really want to be doing it for the right reasons.
“Gotta Get Up”
SO: You enjoy weed?
Asher: Dude, yeah. I recreationally smoke marijuana. I used to smoke a lot more back in the day. I still smoke a little bit now.
SO: Did you just smoke on stage?
Asher: I smoked on stage. It just became part of the moment. People are gonna take it how they want to take it.
SO: Do you do other drugs?
Asher: No I don’t. I don’t smoke cigarettes. I drink alcohol every now and then. All very much in moderation. Prescription drugs, and all the RX generation stuff that’s going on…that’s very real. And we’re not concerned. We’re more concerned about marijuana, and that’s where I get interested. Prescription drugs are being abused in the worst kind of way. And as an advocate of marijuana, I’m not saying go smoke marijuana, but I want people to get educated on hemp, and how it seriously helps our planet in so many ways. People need to educate themselves on these things.
SO: Where do you want to take your music?
Asher: We’re just trying to develop a loyal fan base. I’m in no rush to put out single after single. We are working on a new album now, but my main focus is to just put out really good, quality music and hope that people like it.
SO: Thanks, Asher!