Asher Roth and the Racial Crossroads.

There are some other great blog entries on Asher Roth and white privilege, especially from Jeremy Levine at Social Science Lite, Brandon Soderbergh at No Trivia, and Latoya Peterson at Racialicious.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • Tiffany In Houston

    Jay Smooth is so full of win.

    I would like Asher Roth and Soulja Boy Tell Em to just go away quietly. Please.

  • young_

    White rappers can’t win, can they?

  • -k-

    Four minutes ago, I didn’t know who Asher Roth was.

    It’s possible that my life was just a teensy bit better then.

  • Molly

    well said…though Asher Roth doesn’t really seem sincere enough in my opinion to warrant this kind of respectful commentary–if he was genuinely trying to make it as a white rapper, with legitimate reverence for the art form, instead of a blindly entitled assumption that he can break into any medium without really applying himself, then this thoughtful feedback might be better deserved…

  • Ron

    I don’t understand why everyone feels like white rappers have to be hyper conscious, as if they owe something to the art form. We’d never ask that of other artists in other genres. I get the whole cultural expropriation thing, but…it’s been happening forever. So are we just sorta going all reverse Pat Boone on these sacrificial lambs to pay homage to the dap that our rock developing forebears never received?

    I think his album sucked, btw. I just don’t understand why everyone is turning him into something more significant than he is.

  • I haven’t heard this guy’s music, so.

    But based on this pull quote from one of the links above, I feel comfortable going where Jay Smooth wouldn’t: Roth is indeed racist:

    Em was almost a black guy. My background is more stereotypically white.

    AAARRRGGGHHH. Eminem is poor, so he’s “almost black.” Roth is suburban affluent, so he’s “more white.”

    Dear. Fucking. God. While the “as a suburban kid, the content of (gansta) rap isn’t something I can relate to” is a fair enough statement, if one is willing to read “relate” as meaning something like “authentically represent or voice” rather than “understand fellow human feeling,” so that yes, in *theory* someone writing rhymes full of suburban angst is just fine, this kid clearly doesn’t get it.

    Which would be clear anyway, from the fact that he seems to equate not only “poor = black, suburban affluent = white,” but also “gansta rap = rap.” Kid hasn’t heard De La Soul? Tribe Called Quest? 90% of the output of LL Cool J?

    Jesus. *I* know more about rap than this idiot “rap artist.”

  • t. o. a n.

    For some reason I see him more similar to The Beastie Boys than Eminem. I don’t have a problem with him being middle class and white as much as the lack of anything relevant he has to say in his songs (just went to youtube and watched, so I only have a small sample). Okay, fine, you love college, you are just a white boy and you love to party … and what else. Is there nothing else interesting to say about your experience or otherwise? Tell me an interesting story or something other than I love to party. I guess the same can be said about most of the rappers that get air play now, and probably why I don’t know any of their songs. As for the racial superiority perspective, I see it more as a marketing package than actual deliberate thought; HOWEVER, I could be wrong on this point.

  • I dunno, I have not heard his album, and I will basically never listen to it because it sounds like trash. Until I do I cannot really take what Levine and Smooth say seriously. If you want to make a judgment without listening to the album, thats your style.

    Overall, I dunno if I should wade into this thing because a) I REALLY have no interest in educating myself on Roth’s stuff and b) because even though I do know a lil’ about some of the theoretical framework Levine, Peterson, and BPD use I still do not agree with it (privilege, white supremacy, and racism as a system). Still, the thing that I am curious about is how much does Roth actually know about any of this? I mean Em gets credit for problematizing Whiteness, though I dunno just how much Whiteness Studies or Critical Theory he has read (he might just be an Organic Intellectual or sumthin), but Roth, even if one grants that Roth is a racist and perpetuates White Supremacy, is either ignorant or stupid? Let me see, a kid younger than me, has a degree in elementary education, and who makes more money than I do by doing something that he likes? He might be ignorant about hip hop, but christ so are a lot of people. When I was in one of my grad seminars last year and told people that bboying, djing, and graf are kind of important, the kids just told me that stuff is for whites and asians (meaning of course that its not legit) and I was furious. I dunno if Roth has an encyclopedic knowledge of pre 89 mcs or anything(which I doubt cause considering his age he probably got started with Jay-Z who, along with Puffy, screwed over mainstream rap but I digress) but whatev, I never considered him a head anyways. I mean, what is more annoying to a black fan, the white kid who only knows the big radio hits or the white kid who knows EVERYTHING about every mc ever, who goes to all the shows? A lot of people would argue that the latter is a thief and no better than the former (and by a lot of people, I mean some of the kids I have talked to and an AAS professor who gave a talk at my uni). Basically I think that this dude is not important and not worth a sustained attack or defense. Hell, he performed at my uni last month but he was not even worth my time back then.

  • @young: For whatever reason, the thread won’t let me respond directly to you.

    But I’m not arguing that things haven’t changed stylistically in the genre. I’m saying, however, that the choices are roughly the same. If you want socially conscious music, you’ve got choices. If you don’t, you’ve got choices.

    I guess we have to agree to disagree. I don’t know how to quantify “a LOT.” Tell me how you come to that conclusion, please. Because there’s a lot of diversity in the music, if you want to listen to it. Being lazy and listening to the radio or catching “106 & Park” is not going to get you closer to what you want to hear, if “socially conscious” or “backpack” rap is your thing.

    I grew up in Houston, right? Very rarely did they play the Beatnuts or Mobb Deep or the Leaders of the New School or (insert East Coast artist here) on the radio down that way. But I figured it out, listening to some late-night college radio programs, reading some hip-hop mags (oh, for the days when The Source was a legit publication) and watching a steady dose of Rap City.

    I suspect, in an entirely different way, that much is true today. There’s more mediums, more access to the music you want to hear.

  • Coward

    I think the point that “it is not difficult at all for me to imagine a young teenage suburban guy who likes rap but thinks it mostly revolves around tales/images about drugs/crime/rims/bling/”hos”, etc.” is what is problematic to me about Roth and his statements. Modern racism and white privilege are systemic issues in need of systemic solutions. They are also often explained away as individual ignorance.
    The problem is that this young man was raised in an environment where white=suburb and black = rap = rims, bling, hos. This is what I think Jay Smooth is pointing out … we as a society are in a place where we need to check ourselves and our understandings of race rather than presume that everything is hunky-dory and our ignorance will be excused.

  • young_

    btw, I really don’t know what to make of this but I just came across an chat (from sometime this spring, I assume) where people ask Roth some questions about his favorite rappers…

    Timmy (Dallas): Who are your top 5 favorite rappers?

    Asher Roth: Tough, because it changes kinda with my mood. But to this date, Mos Def, Notorious BIG, Pharoahe Monch, Black Thought, and today I am feeling Ghostface Killah.


    And this:

    Steiny (NYC): What rapper has inspired you the most?

    Asher Roth: I think it’s either the Roots, Mos Def, and Black Thought and Pharoahe as well.

    A much, much stronger list than I expected, featuring five great black mcs who don’t just rhyme about drugs/guns/rims. This makes me wonder whether: (a) he was being disingenuous in his comments about drugs/guns/rims; (b) he didn’t mean to refer to all rap music in general in his comments; or (c) he just discovered this stuff very recently (which seems the least plausible). I’m confused that he mentions the Roots and Black Thought separately in the last answer though…

    Anyway, people can make of this whatever they want; I just thought it was interesting info to pass along.

  • cicely

    i wonder if people are working of off different definitions of racist, white entitlement, and white privilege? also, different understanding about what “relatable” means, and what makes an artwork relatable?

    from the reading i did, it looks like young is perhaps thinking of these things as being fueled by intent, but the understanding that blackink, gd, shani-o, bpd, and others seem to have looks to me like their talking about systemic shit, which winslowarob referenced in one of his posts.

    for folx who view these things systemically, looking at the social, historical, and cultural framing and submerged assumptions that inform what people say and how they think is a necessary piece of parsing out meaning and implications, i think.

    now that i think about it, this perhaps applies even to those who don’t view these things systemically, like winslowarob.

    young, is that part of why you feel as if people aren’t speaking to your concerns, because they’re not engaged in showing you that asher roth set out to be a “racist driven by white privilege/white entitlement, etc.”?

  • cicely

    eep! i think i replied incorrectly. i’m pretty new to thisa here responding to blogs thing: please don’t throw things at me?

  • t.o.a n.

    I just have one thought about this and I am really interested in what you all have to say about this. If he were black and said the things that he is quoted as saying would he be considered racist? Or is that an irrelevant issue? I ask because the quotes that I have read so far I could see being said by someone black.

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  • Acknickalous1

    I would also like to address one more thing. Rapping about wealth in my book is not wrong, I actually believe it provides people with a dream or imagination. To me it shows me what’s hip or new on the market, not to mention it invigorates the capitalist spirit. When young people see others with money or material things it makes them say “I want that!” If you want those type of things you have to find a means to make the ends. That’s capitalism, no matter how they made it, they made it and have the right to tell people how they did it no matter how much we may disagree. Lastly, I would like to take one more shot at Roth’s hypocracy:
    He raps about how dope he is and can get any girl and about his friend taking “her fat friend”(this is so egotistical, not to mention I watched him on Jimmy Fallon go into the audience and heavy white girls looked to be most of his fan base). His DJ then made a twitter about Oompa Loompas being on stage, I assume he was talking about these few heavy girls who were dressed alike wearing purple College Crown t-shirts, which is the clothing Roth promotes. Roth does not have any humility towards the obese either.
    “Smoke ma weed”, I know many say its not a drug but it’s still illegal, it alters the brain so it technically is and I am sure Roth has hooked some people up with a dime bag or two back in the day. (selling drugs)
    He already raps about drugs. How is rapping about how cool you are different than rapping about all the money and jewelry you have? He is sure lucky that other people collaborated with him on his album or else it would have been TOTAL garbage. The hooks or verses from others are the only thing that make some of his songs listenable. The original “I Love College” was not bad with the Weezer beat, newer version was not as good. Lets see if he can top that “one hit.”

  • Acknickalous1


    Are you a publicist for Roth or something? You seem pretty ambitious to defend him. Did you ever think Roth may be a xenophobe? Maybe even subconsiously. I think he pretty much is a young stupid white stoner kid who feels he IS better than others. He does not have a degree and if he would have gone further than his sophmore year he would have seen that college is not just party time 7 days a week. The first two years let you get adjusted to college but in order to get your degree you have to put forth an effort, which in some interviews he said did not, even in his song he says I cannot tell you what I learned from school. In another interview he talks about knowing 11, 12, 13 year old kids are his audience, yet he raps about driving while getting stoned and kegstands. Just what every parent wants in a role model. In the interview his mom says “He certainly does have a sense of duty and responsibility.” Yeah riiiiiiiight, how nieve is she too. She must not be on tour with him. My honest opinion of him is that he is a lazy slacker who puts very little effort into his music, which will eventually come out in the wash!

  • Acknickalous1

    Go watch this video of Roth and tell me if this is talent:

  • LaJane Galt

    I’m really surprised that these bloggers let young run the okeydoke on em.