NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rapper Asher Roth says he is not a hip hop artist with a tough urban background, instead the rising star reads George Orwell and revels in a happy-go-lucky attitude that seems far from streetwise.
Roth, whose debut single “I Love College” was a hit in the United States and Britain earlier this year, says he is part of a new breed of suburban kids who like hip hop music and go to college and still want to shake up society.
Standing out in a musical genre dominated by black artists, Roth, who began his first U.S. tour this week, has been likened to top-selling white rapper Eminem, which leaves 23-year-old Roth dumbfounded but flattered.
“As I Em”, a song from his album “Asleep in the Bread Aisle” that hit the top five on U.S. record charts when it was released three months ago, rejected those comparisons.
“I was just astonished because in content and who I am as a person is so far on the opposite end of the spectrum that Eminem was representing,” he told Reuters.
But Roth knows that there are not too many other people in his music genre to whom he can be likened. “Being a white kid doing hip hop, how many people can you compare that to?”
Roth, from Morrisville, Pennsylvania, studied elementary education in college. He has been described as “preppy” by the New York Times, which said few white rappers had “acted with as much postmodern self-awareness.”
Roth says his experiences growing up with nothing to do in the suburbs except listen to hip hop, make a mix CD and cruise the streets were common. His lyrics are filled with light references to marijuana and women. His audiences are largely under 21 years-old.
“There is a youth movement coming up with a lot of kids, similar to me, who don’t represent the struggle,” Roth said, referring to the tough childhoods of some rappers.
“We went to school and then went to college. And a lot of kids have a nice, modest background and we have to rap about what we know,” he said.
Because “I Love College” includes lyrics and stories of partying, drinking and sex, Roth said many people have confused him for a fraternity member. “The frat boy has the protocol of just being a wild drinker, almost misogynist type thing, that is not who I am at all,” he said, adding he wrote the song at 21. “You grow up a lot in two years.”
Despite his success, Roth’s ambitions do not include selling out huge stadiums, instead he wants to start a school.
“I couldn’t care less about being a huge mega pop star,” he said. “I know that I can’t rap forever, do I want to rap forever? Absolutely not.”
Editing by Michelle Nichols and Patricia Reaney