As everyone who pays attention knows the now annual XXL Freshmen list came out about a month ago and they claim to be the first magazine to predict the next breakout stars. Yeah they do get some correct predictions but they pick correctly at about the same way as Brandon Crawford hits homeruns. There are very few every year but the ones they get right they get right big. However it isn't impressive when you pick 10 of the most buzzing artists every year, one of those picks is bound to be right. Again a chimp could pick the same level of talent as XXL but we get worked up over these selections for some reasons. And like the great company they are, XXL is never slow to remind you of their picks like Wiz Khalifa, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Macklemore, but are quick to never mention Gorilla Zoe, Papoose, Rich Boy, or Donnis aka the most prominent citizens of Whoville. So what happened to the guys they missed on? Did their careers go into a downward spiral or just slide into irrelevancy? Did the pressure of being named the next big thing get to them or were they just given buzz out of thin air? Today i'll look at Asher Roth, the I Love College guy and see if the XXL nod did any good or bad to his career.
I, like everyone else, first caught wind of the white boy from Pennsylvania from his now infamous ode to frat life at universities across the country. But he had a little history before that. He teamed up with DJ Drama and Don Cannon to become the rare white rapper to get the Gangsta Grillz treatment. With DJ Drama overseeing the project we were bound to hear Cannon and Drama ad libs all over his mixtape, The Greenhouse Effect, which was just a collection of the hottest tracks at the time. Of course he had to go over the mixtape starter kit beat in Cannon where he left a lot to be desired. He had lines like "Ginobili flow left handed...yes i am a fan of Dakota Fanning." If i was in the studio in the booth with him when he spit that i would have just looked at him and been like. Then he got to the second level of the struggle mixtape rapper when he spit over the Dey Know beat and even though he said "Muggles befuddled by my wizardry" i let that go because he is a white dude from the suburbs and isn't trying to portray something he isn't. You can hear the potential he had though and see why Drama saw something in him. He had a way of putting words together and you knew if he could just tighten his flow a little more, he was going to be a problem in the future.
With his growing buzz Asher started to work on his debut album and released the single that everyone knows him for, I Love College. It was a hit and there was something different about Asher. He was rapping about the college kid party lifestyle but he was dong so in a laid back manner setting him apart from most others who talk about the same stuff in their songs. And because he was white he was deemed the next Eminem despite them not sounding anything alike, not talking about the same subject matter, or having the same flows but that's the music industry for you. That single propelled him to the cover of XXL in 2009 as part of the Freshmen Class joining Curren$y, Wale, Kid Cudi, and B.O.B. among others (Charles Hamilton, Ace Hood...crickets). The XXL Freshmen concept was still new so it wasn't a complete joke yet and had buzz to it meaning people were anticipating Asher's album, Asleep In The Bread Aisle. When it came out, it came out to a universal "ehhh." No one really cared for it and it didn't change anyone's life other than Asher Roth. At that point he probably was considered one of the busts of the class *cough Mickey Factz cough* and was expected to left and rot in music irrelevancy by not being able to shed the "I Love College rapper guy" label. This is 2009 and he was set to join the one hit wonder club where he would claim royalties on the song as his only source of income until he died and became the latest in failed Next Eminem hopefuls.
I'm going to jump ahead now to the summer of 2011. Me and Big Boy were on our way to work when he starts bumping some white dude in the 4Runner. I said "Hold up, this dude sounds familiar. It can't be...this is Asher. The corny ass I Love College motherfucker." I haven't listened to this guy in two years and yet when i heard him he sounded like a completely different person. The tape i was hearing was his collaborative EP titled Rawth where Asher was the main spitter over beats done by the great producer Nottz. When i got back home that night and downloaded it immediately. It was only an 8 track EP which was cool and a real easy and enjoyable listen. If you haven't given it a listen yet you can either stream or download it here. He tightened his flow and told some real great stories on it. He finally got rid of the mickey mouse production from his debut and Nottz blessed him with some fire that Asher was able to pick apart and dissect. I mentioned he showed his storytelling abilities but he also showed he could get busy on a track as well with Enforce The Law. The whole project i was marking out at how this guy was flowing like the Nile on this was actually the same guy who said "I am champi-on at beer pong, Allen Iver-Son, Hakeem Olaju-Won." The kid came a far way. But the thing i noticed as well though is that because he changed his sound completely from his album he obviously wasn't going for a commercial sound which was why he was flying under the radar. He probably saw the backlash he got and most likey hated his debut album so he was like fuck it, i'm making music i want to. And props to him for that. This project made me go back to see if i missed anything.
The search led me to find his mixtape Seared Foie Gras. Now the mixtape as a whole wasn't anything special. But the thing that stood out to me was the track Fuck The Money. That shit right there had Rabbi Roth explaining exactly how he felt about his career. In short he said his mentality was screwed up at the time which is why Asleep In The Bread Aisle came out the way it did. No More was he going to be a slave to the industry and he would set out to make music for himself.
Even though Seared Foie wasn't anything special i gave it a pass because he was still finding himself as an artist and Rawth was his most recent release anyways. So it got me anticipating his next project. Well it turned out i didn't have to wait too long for his next release since he would be dropping Pabst & Jazz at the end of 2011. That shit dropped and is one of the more overlooked projects in recent years. It was very good especially for a mixtape and i think the reason more people haven't heard it is because they still see Asher Roth as the I Love College Guy and to those people he will never be able to shed that label. If they listened to the project though they will notice that he sounds nothing like he did when he first came onto the scene. Again he was flowing like a motherfucker on this. After hearing the tape i gotta say Asher's flow is up there with anyone in the game right now. He had a bunch of real good features on it from Action Bronson to Pac Div to Rockie Fresh before he signed to MMG and Kids These Days before everyone started comparing them to the Roots despite the fact they sound nothing alike. This tells me the young hip hop crowd actually is paying attention to Asher if they are willing to jump on his project. His beat selection was real smooth too and let Blended babies handle all the production with the exception of only 1 track that was laced by Chuck Inglish. My personal favorite off of it was Common Knowledge where had no features on it. My dude was just straight spitting on that like there was no tomorrow. What i like about this project is you can really tell ever since Asher released that debut album of his he put a lot of time and effort into his craft. He wasn't cool with being forever known as a one hit wonder and made sure he did something about it. And he was rewarded for it because around the same time he dropped Pabst and Jazz Asher signed to Def Jam. The only bad thing is that we're all waiting for the album to drop. My theory is that Def Jam doesn't feel he has a radio single on deck and i hope Asher doesn't go against what he has been doing these past couple years and go back to that territory. He put in too much to change his image to end up going back to that.
Well if you were wondering what the hell the I Love College Guy has been doing ever since he dropped that song there you have it. He has been working on his pen game and it has shown. He got hot quick, got chewed up and spit out by his label and then instead of bitching and moaning constantly he went right back to work to turn his career back into something which he has done. All i gotta say is thank god he did not do that collaborative album with Justin Bieber that was supposedly in the works. So to answer my initial question, the XXL cover hurt Asher. It put expectations on him that he didn't want and put him in a category he didn't want to be in. It didn't boost his career since I Love College became a hit independent of XXL. All it did was count down the days until Asher became a forgotten man in hip hop. Waiting on that album Rabbi Roth.
|this is the same Asher Roth|
You guys probably guessed it but this is going to be a series of me looking at dudes whos careers have seemingly fell off and i'll see what actually happened to them. Let me know if you guys want me to look at anyone or else i'm going to just pick them myself. peace
Masta Ace- Soda and Soap feat Jean Grae
Ab Soul- Lust Demons feat Jay Rock and BJ The Chicago Kid