Asher Roth’s Rap Life Episode 1: A Message From Zoltar

[Rap Life is a series of 8 episodes premiering on The Kind that will be released over the next two months. Looking for the rest of the series? Click here]

It’s been seven years since Asher Roth reverberated Solo cups across America with his debut single, “I Love College,” a frat anthem that quickly climbed the charts and then faded toward one-hit-wonderism. After the novelty of “I Love College” wore off, Roth tried to shake the persona built for him around his first album, and the label support dried up.

Back in the beginning, Asher’s first mixtape caught the attention of Scooter Braun, the now ultra-successful talent manager who later discovered Justin Bieber. Roth moved to Atlanta, and he and Braun began working together. Basement recording sessions spawned “The Greenhouse Effect Vol.1” and landed Asher as the first white rap artist on a Gangsta Grillz mixtape. Then “I Love College” blew up on Myspace, landing Roth a record deal with Loud Records' Founder, Steve Rifkind, and ultimately producing Asleep in the Bread Aisle.

This was Roth’s breakthrough moment. A nationwide tour with fellow emerging acts Kid Cudi, B.o.B., and Pac Div led to opening performances for Blink-182 on their 2010 Reunion Tour. Roth moved to NYC to pull inspiration from the Big Apple for his sophomore album. Instead, Asher’s creative hopes took a backseat to hitting numbers. Wanting sure hits and radio play, the label brought in Pharrell Williams. The two recorded a batch of demos in Miami, at no small cost, while Braun, a most valuable player in Roth’s corner, shifted his focus from Asher to Bieber. Ultimately the label didn’t feel strongly enough about the new recordings to back a new release, shelving what was to be Roth’s second album, The Spaghetti Tree.

Whether you’re fixing a flat tire on the tour van in the rain or pouring champagne on a yacht, “…fuck it, rap life.”

Although he was eager to play the part at 22, looking back Roth laments not having more input in his presentation. “They say, ‘Here is your packaging. This is what you look like. Here’s your color palette. Here’s your font. Get on out there and sell a million units.’ If you’re not comfortable with that, then you’re in the wrong business."

Determined to find his own way, Roth ventured into making music independently. A mixtape called Seared Foie Gras with Quince and Cranberry and The Rawth EP, a collaboration with producer Nottz Raw, followed the Pharrell sessions. Asher was releasing music for free and focusing on his core audience.

“It’s a lot more manageable,” he says, and building a fan base that cares is more important to him than a million who don’t.

In 2012, he moved to L.A. to be closer to producer friends Blended Babies, Chuck Inglish and Oren Yoel, and he began collaborating more. There, he created his most personal recordings to date, “Pabst & Jazz,” in a bid to showcase his skills as a lyricist and growth as an artist. The tape was a much more nuanced Asher, still chilled out and at times a bit cocky, but markedly more sure of himself as an artist. Over the next couple of years, Asher released a second installment of his Greenhouse Effect mixtape with Don Cannon & DJ Drama, his first fully independent album release "Retrohash", and now most recently "RAWTHER", a second installment of "The RAWTH EP" with Nottz and Travis Barker.

Which brings us to Rap Life, Roth’s new webseries of stony vignettes depicting his life as an independent musician in L.A. He’s a much different person now, after years of sharpening his artistic vision, and the change shows. He’s much more zen, relaxed. Even the title of the series is a calming mantra for him. Whether you’re fixing a flat tire on the tour van in the rain or pouring champagne on a yacht, “…fuck it, rap life.”

Now Asher Roth stands at a calm point in his life, with the impressionable 22-year-old of “I Love College” eight years behind him, and an open future spreading out at his feet. But is he finished growing? Has he truly hammered out who Asher is?

“I don’t think that question has been answered. But it’s really cool I’m on that path. Instead of saying, ‘Hey man, here’s Rap Life, and this is the answer. We found the light. Happily ever after.’ That’s not the case at all. This is just the beginning of the awakening.”