We had the opportunity to catch up with Asher Roth on the heels of his new release, Retrohath! He's also here in the city of Cleveland to perform at the House of Blues! Check out the exclusive below!
Urban Grandstand: First off, thank you so much for your time today.
Asher Roth: Of course man, no worries
Urban Grandstand: It’s been 5 years. I know you’ve had various mixtapes out, and your first album was 2009. What has caused the delay?
Asher Roth: I think it’s just understanding the system, and understanding the business. When you come in so young, you kinda become reliant for the most part upon the people who threw you into it. There’s so many nooks, crannies, and crevices in the business, which is why you hear so many horror stories, and people get freaked out. They say it isn’t even a business. For me, I didn’t want to dig myself deeper into a hole, and get in a space where I’m freaking out. I got into major labels at a weird time. ‘Out of College” drops on MySpace, and the internet gets integrated, and major labels in their own right are trying to figure out where they belong. My headspace on the whole thing is the power has never been more in the artist’s favor than right now, if you’re willing to do the work.
Urban Grandstand: Exactly….
Asher Roth: You know what I mean. So for the past 5 years, obviously the mixtapes, and establishing that we do kinda just give out music. You see it all the time. You never ask a doctor to work for free. Or a lawyer, you do this for me and it’s great exposure. For whatever reason, we get that all the time in the music industry. You hear it with producers and artists. Just do this now, and it’ll be great exposure. It’ll pay off in the long run, and you kinda trust in the goodness of the people. It is what it is. Things happen, but I think the last 5 years, I’ve been getting a crash course on the music industry, how it actually works, and where I want to operate in this whole space.
Urban Grandstand: The answer you just gave me, for one, it’s clearly not bullshit. I can see already how much you love this. Mention of the hard work and how dependent artists sometimes become upon those that bring them in, that makes me more excited about talking. A lot of artists bullshit, and that’s the reality. Many do not want to do the work. I think this answers why so many people come out with a viable product, but then you never hear from them again. I can appreciate the fact that there’s been a 5 year gap between the albums, because regardless, you’ve been working, and studying the industry enough to know that you have to do a lot of things yourself.
Asher Roth: It brings your vision to life….
Urban Grandstand: That’s what puts you in a good position with your label too, and makes them want to spend money on you.
Asher Roth: It’s tough, because sometimes, artists will tell the label “I don’t need you”, or the label says “I’ll get someone else”. Truth is, it’s an interdependent relationship.
Urban Grandstand: Right, everybody needs each other!
Asher Roth: Exactly. People need a label. There’s resources. That’s the thing I’ve been trying to understand. As much as I want to work hard, I also want to work smart. There’s nothing worse than working your ass off and not seeing any growth because you haven’t been working smart. Figuring out where your efforts lie, and the resources you need. For whatever reason, a label is in place, but what do you really need. You don’t need 75 people to push a record. You probably need a good handful of people. Find those people who want to work as hard as you and believe in it, and you’re probably in a good place.
Urban Grandstand: So ironic that I just had a meeting and we were talking about the same thing. Positioning the right people with the same vision.
Asher Roth: It’s rare man. Definitely rare.
Urban Grandstand: So talk about this album. You’ve grown tremendously. Sonically, you’ve grown a great deal
Asher Roth: That’s the main word man. Growth. Moreso than anything else, it’s not shying away from rap. I don’t want it to feel mechanical. I’m confident in my ability. If anybody’s listened to any of the Rawth stuff, it’s just like you, the kid can rap. So when I have that realization myself, it’s like cool, I always have that comfort zone. I can rap. With knowing that, instead of just doing that over and over and over again, to the point where I’m not excited anymore. I just wanted to try new things and do new things… and who knows…that experimentation, that kind of opportunity to grow as an artist and person. I just took the opportunity and freedom of being off of a label, being on my own, and being able to be in untreaded waters. I took that opportunity to be like I have no A&R coming in saying they need to hear a record like this. I’ve got nobody saying your album is not going to sell without a single. With all that stuff out the window, it’s allowed me to say I’m just like I’m gonna make records that I’m feeling now, and hope that my audience is into it.
Urban Grandstand: I think it’s really good. I look at the idea behind an artist, and to me, my thought is that when you get into this, the end result is getting to a point of being able to handle a lot of this on your own and get your own material out there.
Asher Roth: I definitely don’t call it independent. That’s what I’ve been saying. I call it self-sufficient. That’s the goal. Nobody here is independent. We need help. You can’t do it by yourself. You need a good team. The goal is to be self-sufficient, where when you put out a record, a lot off the footwork is already in place because you set up the structure and the infrastructure that allows it to work for you.
Urban Grandstand: So you sound like you have all your ducks in a row and like you have the knowledge-base. It’s always a lot to learn, but do you feel like it’s any more difficult now?
Asher Roth: Oh no, I actually think it’s just begun. That’s pretty funny because it’s moreso a realization. Once of those things when you feel it and you’re like I got it. I understand at least. But I still have a lot of work to do. Retrohath is the first step in setting this up for the long term. When ‘Out of College’ came out, a lot of people were involved. When ‘Sleeping In the Bread Aisle” came out, a lot of people were involved. So I think the past 5 years have just really come down to really simplifying my formula and really, what do I want my end result to be. Not what does my manager or label want, but what do I want. That’s not a stubborn thing, or a selfish thing. Its just understanding this is my career and my name on the product.
Urban Grandstand: The whole idea of putting music out there is to be able to do what you want!
Asher Roth: Exactly…. Absolutely. so I’m at the very beginning stages of operating in a space that creatively is more healthy, and business-wise, I know where things are going. You know where your money is going instead of finding out 2 days too late. Nobody wants to be in that situation. It’s heartbreak. It’s heartbreak when your label comes back to you and says you owe ‘em a million dollars. You’re like, “what”?
Urban Grandstand: That’s a big mess. Where does that come from?
Asher Roth: Where is that money going? I’m not a numbers dude by any stretch of the imagination. A lot of artists are the same way. A lot of artists, I’m sure, were English and Social Studies dudes, not so much math. And people take advantage of that. I think it’s important to have people in your corner you trust. I’m pretty much getting to that. Simplifying and seeing where everybody is at. There’s little intangibles. Just judgment of character, being able to judge character and read someone right away. That’s huge stuff, because if you make a mistake on a person and you put someone in your corner that you thought you trusted, suddenly whatever happens happened, then you’ve set yourself back 3-5 years. In the rap game, which is really a young man’s game, that could be the end of it.
Urban Grandstand: It’s definitely been a young man’s game, but I think it depends on what you do with it though. People can grow with it, but it depends on what you do with it.
Asher Roth: Absolutely….
Urban Grandstand: So talk a little about your tour. What has been the reception at your shows?
Asher Roth: So we did a warm up, went to the home city, Philadephia, and then New York, Boston. Like the home original kinda 13 colony thing. Then came out to L.A., and went over to London and Manchester, just trying to get a couple major cities percolating. They’re totally into it. It’s been fun to do records. My home girl, it was funny because she went to a John Mayer concert, and she was kinda bummed out. She said he played a bunch of new stuff, but not any hits. I think it’s important to be sensitive to that. It’s always good to introduce new music, and grow, push forward, and progress, but people want to hear stuff they are familiar with. Live shows are an opportunity to connect with the fans, and yes, introduce new music, but at the same time, you have to play the hits. So it’s going to be interesting for me to come out on this Retrohath tour, hit a couple markets I haven’t been in for a while. Going back to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, coming back to D.C., and all those spots that I can play a joint from each project and it’s going to be so much fun to see and reward the fans who have been with me for the past 5 years.
Urban Grandstand: I’m glad you mention Cleveland. Obviously it’s one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to connect with you since you’ll be here in our city. What’s been your experience here, and what can we really expect?
Asher Roth: I think honestly, it’s going to be a party. Two things happen. I’ll either bring the band out and we jam and really just mellow it out. When you’re in a smaller club capacity and kids come out, they really just want to have a good time. You just have to know your audience, like anywhere. In this run, we’re coming out to have fun and celebrate. It’s like a freedom celebration. I think now, with everything going on in this world, you turn on the news and there’s another shooting, and another thing to say the world is fucked up, I think these shows are a reminder that we’re free, we have free will, and we’re powerful. When we all get in one place, as like-minded individuals, we can really do some wonderful things. One thing about Cleveland, they have that mentality, that blue-collar working-man’s mentality. It’s funny because in the sports world Cleveland gets a bad rap. I was thrilled when the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel. I think he’s gonna ball, but everyone else is like Cleveland is where athletes go to die and shit. But it’s just a couple pieces here and there and Cleveland starts to get a reminder, like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s got the magic. I think it’s a matter of us dusting off a few things and allowing people to recognize the magic.
Urban Grandstand: You hit the nail right on the head though. Honestly, people here want to have a good time. You want to put everything behind you and have fun with the audience. You don’t want the artist that comes, and is uptight and stuffy.
Asher Roth: I’m coming clean man. It was tough for me in the transition, like the first 2 years after “Out of College”. I had gotten such a rap as a party dude. I’m self-aware. To me, I would rather be self-aware than to have no idea and just be in a bubble. So for me, I got such a bad rap from the party shit. I’m not going to abuse my relationship with music. I’ll make some amazing shit, but when it comes down to live shows, let’s party and have a good time. Let’s enjoy that night that we’re all together.
Urban Grandstand: On another note, before we check out, I saw you were taking part in the updated version of Wildin’ Out with Nick Cannon.
Asher Roth: I definitely was on it a couple months ago….
Urban Grandstand: Any type of final thoughts?
Asher Roth: I’m just excited. It feels like new beginnings out here. To feel that excitement and parlay that into the music, I’m excited for the fans and the experience of getting back out there.