HotStar: Asher Roth

There’s a funny story behind the title of Asher Roth’s hip-hop debut, Asleep in the Bread Aisle.

A friend of a friend arose after a long night of drinking and headed to the grocery store for some provisions to help battle his hangover. Before he left, he took a nighttime pain reliever, which led to his buddies finding him later, asleep in the bread aisle of the market.

It’s a party-hearty mentality that’s echoed in Roth’s single “I Love College,” which has been streamed more than 48 million times through his MySpace page. Roth’s music has also been embraced by MTV, and earlier this year he scored a spot in the channel’s 52/52 campaign that highlights one artist per week.

Still, Roth isn’t just looking to provide an anthem for a party. This self-proclaimed “child of hip hop” has aspirations to take the genre back to its roots – as a white rapper from the suburbs.

“What I’m trying to do is – and it’s not going to be the easiest thing in the world since I’m a white kid who some people don’t even take seriously since my first single is ‘I Love College’ – is get people back to the basics and get people to get together, have a good time and talk about some real stuff,” Roth told Pollstar.

Just what is the real stuff he speaks of? Roth’s lyrics toe the line between idealism and indulgence, including references to poverty, greed and global warming alongside pop culture, marijuana and partying.

However, it was a song about family that initially caught the attention of School Boy’s Scooter Braun, who manages Roth.

While attending college at West Chester University near Philadelphia, Roth set up a MySpace account for his music with an automatic friend-finder application. Fatefully, the app just happened to send a friend request to Braun one evening after he’d heard about a producer with a name that sounded similar to Roth’s.

“I clicked on it, I saw a white kid with a hoodie and I said, ‘Hell no!’” Braun told Pollstar. “I started to go to the ‘X’ and heard him start freestyling and was really impressed. After that I went on a quest to find him.”

Asleep has drawn critical comparisons to another white rapper – Eminem – which is exasperatedly addressed by Roth in his song “As I Em.”

But in the beginning, Braun said he looked at the similarities as a plus – a way for Roth to get his foot in the door.

“When I heard his voice sounded similar to Eminem’s I liked it because I felt it would draw people in,” he said. “Then I actually heard him rap and I realized that his talent level was there. … Even now Eminem has come out and said that he’s dope – I knew that was important.”

There’s still a big difference between the two. Braun explained Roth is the epitome of the “everyday guy” who’s “completely unashamed of being a regular suburban white kid,” which has won over fans in people who seek music to which they can relate.

“Not everyone drives a Bentley and wears sunglasses inside,” he said.

In the beginning, Braun was a one-man champion for Roth’s music – signing him as the first act on his label and putting him up on his couch for months. He secured a deal with SRC/Universal and later introduced Roth to William Morris Endeavor Entertainment’s Cara Lewis, who became his agent soon after.

Like the common-man credo of Roth’s music, his shows seem to fill a similar niche, pulling a mixed crowd of everyone from “14-year-old little white girls to hip-hop heads,” he explained.

“It brings together all walks of life,” Roth said. “If you didn’t come to smile, dance, clap your hands, and really put your hands in the air and boogie, then you’re in the wrong place.”

Roth tours with a drummer and a DJ for his live shows a majority of the time, occasionally sliding keys into the mix.

“It’s interchangeable,” he said. “You never know what you’re going to get but you know that you’re coming to have a good time.”

And the good times are just getting started for Roth, who’s got a full touring schedule on his plate through the fall.

Roth heads out with Kid Cudi in July before hopping on the blink-182 reunion tour in September, which he called a “huge career move.”

Still, this “everyday guy” seems to be taking things in stride, and plans to keep using his voice to “spread some good and some positive vibes in this world.”

“Music is an escape for a lot of people,” he said. “When people put my CD in, I want to bring a smile to their face.”