It's been almost three years since Asher Roth took the frat rap world by storm with his beer pong anthem "I Love College." And though his debut album Asleep In The Bread Aisle didn’t sell an insane amount of copies, he built up an extremely loyal following of fans across the country and overseas, largely on the strength of the passion displayed in his live shows.
And now, with a freshly inked Def Jam deal, Roth's latest mixtape Pabst & Jazz is slated for a 12/20 release, with his sophomore album, Is This Too Orange due out in early 2012. Looks like Asher Roth is ready to get back to where he feels most comfortable: on stage.
We got on the horn with Asher a few weeks ago, before the news of his Def Jam deal broke, to talk about his history of rocking crowds. He took us all the way back to his very first live show in Philly, through his "I Love College" performance on MTV's Spring Break, and even shared a few highlights from the Great Hangover Tour with Kid Cudi and B.O.B.
He also recalled spitting with The Roots during their annual pre-Grammy Jam Session, his impromptu Magic Show freestyle with Mos Def and Beanie Sigel—even some not-so-great moments, like the show in San Diego when he got hit in the head with a glass bottle. Plus, he explains how his upcoming tour with The Cool Kids came about (they’re hoping to head out together at the top of the new year). Asher Roth's on that Willie Nelson shit—he just can't wait to get on the road again.
Interview by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
What do you remember about your first show?
The first time I had a [real] show was in the Manayanunk, Philadelphia area. It was advertised, and it was my first time that my name was on a bill. It was pretty makeshift, just a buddy of mine selling Vespa scooters in the area who was putting on an event. It was in this backdrop where they usually hold Bar Mitzvah’s and weddings.
There were probably 50 people there total, and 45 of them were ones that I brought out. That was fun because although it was my first experience and there was nobody there at all, it also was the first I learned about the support system that is the live show. When you’re performing, the audience is going to give you what the show is going to be.
What did you spit?
This is before everything, when I was like a young buck just [starting to] really construct a song. A lot of the kids there were my high school friends, so this was maybe my freshman year of college. I remember doing “Alone” and this song “Superstitious” that I had. It was fun because I was running through some songs that I had written and performing them for the first time.
Did you get paid?
No, but you know who was supposed to be there, and then showed up really late? DJ Scribble. [Laughs.] But at that age it was a huge experience for me, just performing and being super impressionable. At the same time, you’re being judged, and [learning to be] okay with that and be comfortable.
What about your first paid gig?
First paid gig...Man, I feel like I still do them for free. I really don’t remember because it just happened overnight that I was rocking at colleges and on rooftops for these kids, and then suddenly the next day I had a show. That’s what if feels like anyway.
I feel like I still do shows for free. I really don’t remember because it just happened overnight that I was rocking at colleges and on rooftops for these kids, and then suddenly the next day I had a show.
Even now, it’s not like someone is putting the check in my hand and I’m walking out with it. It’s wired money, it’s almost like it’s not even real. It’s like a high score right now. But that first physical act of putting a dollar bill on my wall, I don’t really have that.
The Key Club in Los Angeles might have been my first paid gig. If you watch the video from that [Key Club] show, all I did was just flail around and wild out to get people into it. I look back at that now, performing at 20 years old, and I’m just excited as hell trying to get the people in front of me excited.
That was the same thing with Spring Break. I was just happy to be there. I’m on MTV, like, “What the hell is going on?” I’m in sandals, and I don’t even think my outfit matches but it’s all good. I did a stage dive, and it was all graceful, and I’m like 110 pounds so people can just hold me up with one hand. But then [my friend] Boyder jumps in, and he just goes face first right in to the sand. That was his first experience with stage diving, and I don’t think he does it anymore.
What was it like performing “I Love College” on MTV Spring Break?
Overall, the experience was dope. The performance was like, you just go. I don’t really remember thinking up there. But beforehand, hanging out with Jim Jones and just being in that atmosphere where it’s wild, very innocent, and fun. And they were shooting pictures for Rolling Stone, so that was cool because we were walking through being documented after the show, and people were really engaged and into it. Having that footage is really cool for me, because I’ll look back and see how excitable I was.
How was that first tour, rolling around with your boys doing shows with Kid Cudi?
The first real tour for me was The Great Hangover tour. When we first got our bus, we were in Boston, and it was like, “Whoa, this is the kind of stuff you see on YouTube videos of Lil’ Wayne.”
All my boys were with me; Brain Bangley, Boyder, [DJ] Wreckineyez, Salvador, Dave Appleton, [and some of my other buddies]. It was all these people that really had just been champions for me from the jump and really believed in me. It was super special.
For part of our show we had costumes. Boyd used to wear the marijuana full-body leaf, and during “Lion’s Roar,” Brain would come out in this lion outfit [Laughs.] When we left Boston and were coming to New York, the costumes got left behind [by accident].
We’re constantly being judged and criticized. Right when we put something out, we have a million and one opinions. It’s crazy. With Twitter [and all the other outlets for criticism], you’ve got to get really comfortable really fast.
They were a pretty integral and engaging part of the show. It was like we were unprepared for tour life. Boyd had to drive back to Boston to get the costumes and bring them back to New York. We got them back a half an hour before the show. That was when we were like, “Okay, this can be extremely stressful if you let it [be].”
But the tour goes on. The first tour is tough, because you’re only eating fast food and gas station food. That tour was much more than just the experience musically. It was also the experience of being a young adult and disciplined on the road.
You know in Dumb and Dumber, when he hits him in the face with the shit, and is like, “Some people just weren’t made out for life on the road.” And it’s true. The road is a grueling place. But at the same time, it’s how I put food on my table. It’s the life we chose, or rather, the life that chose us.
I haven’t been back on the road lately. When I get back out there, I want to give people another unique experience. I feel like we’ve doing the same song and same dance over for two, three years straight.
It will start to get obvious that I don’t want to be up there [doing the same material over and over]. That’s why I want to always remember that first show in Boston and in New York, and at Spring Break, and even that Vespa scooter show, and to keep it extremely innocent and fun and to never take yourself too seriously.
It’s tough, especially in the art form we’re in—we’re constantly being judged and criticized. Right when we put something out, we have a million and one opinions. It’s crazy. With Twitter [and all the other outlets for criticism], you’ve got to get really comfortable really fast. If you’re not into it, you can get talked out of it really fast by people you come across who aren’t even a part of your life.
It’s been a journey, and the one place I don’t get distracted by the Twitter nonsense and all that stuff is the road. Just getting on the road with my people and my friends. The people who come out to see the shows are the ones who want to be there. And it’s a blast.