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Somebody’s Cold One Is Giving Me Chills

So much ink, not to mention blood, has already been spilled on the hip-hop Internets re: Asher Roth, but this video that was just released, for his song “I Love College,” feels like the actual beginning of his career.

Watching it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of when Eminem blew up back in 1999. It was my last semester of high school. He’d been around for a couple of years at that point, and there wasn’t any indication that he’d go on to become one of the most popular rappers evar, even though though he’d been signed by Dr. Dre. Nobody had bought that dumbass Aftermath sampler Dre had put out, back when Suge had scared him away from making gangster rap. (Weak!)

I saw the video the very first time it came on MTV (I saw most of the shit that came on MTV in the ’90s), and I didn’t think anything of it. I thought the song itself was gay (it still is), and the video wasn’t anything I definitely needed to see again, though I figured I’d probably have to. The TIs were obviously behind it 102%. They must have known something that hadn’t been obvious to me at that point – that Eminem was about to blow the fuck up.

I showed up to school the next day, and mofos were walking around singing “My Name Is” as if it was actually a good song. Clearly, there was something about it that just didn’t resonate with me, maybe because I was black, or because I knew from good rap music. And the rest, as they say, is history. Eminem went on to be one of the best-selling rappers evar, right up there with 2Pac. He even made a number of songs I actually liked.

I wonder if Asher Roth will experience a similar career trajectory, or if he’ll ultimately be confined to the dustbin of history, along with the likes of Crazytown and LFO and what have you. Speaking of which, if you didn’t hear Rich Cronin from LFO on the Howard Stern Show the other day, you missed. He basically confirmed everything you ever thought about being in a boy band and dating Jennifer Love Hewitt (back when that meant something).

But I digress.

I can honestly say that I like the first Asher Roth song way more than I liked the first Eminem song, but I’m not sure what that means. A lot of its appeal lies in the fact that it draws on Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” from the Blue Album (arguably top 10 of all time, regardless of genre), and normally I’d wonder whether or not that would translate to kids who are 18 years old today, who probably can’t even remember when the Green Album was out, let alone the Blue Album (bear with me), but I know Weezer tends to appeal to a lot of young people, and also a lot of Chinese – both lucrative growth markets.

The rappin’, of course, is entirely unremarkable. Asher Roth lacks the chops to pull off an Eminem-like technical feat, but then the song doesn’t really call for that. Probably none of his songs will, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. But LFO had more memorable punchlines. The verses in “I Love College” just sort of take up the space between choruses.

I could be mistaken, but didn’t part of Eminem’s rise have to do with the fact that he was seen as having enough respect for rap music, a black form, to genuinely excel at it? That was what separated him from Vanilla Ice and any number of other lame-ass white rappers. Obviously, Asher Roth is never gonna have that going for him. Or are we past the point where it matters?

It was obvious to me, watching the video for “I Love College,” that Asher’s label isn’t even gonna bother trying to appeal to the black community. Hopefully, there isn’t a very strong backlash, like the one that’s already bit eskay, but they’re probably gonna try to sell him to white radio, similar to how you can still occasionally hear songs by House of Pain and the Beastie Boys on rock stations to this day.

If that’s the case, I’m not even sure if Eminem’s career trajectory would be an apt comparison, even though they sound remarkably similar, and Asher Roth would probably be my boss if he didn’t. A better example might be the Knux, who aren’t white per se, but they (just barely) know how to do more than just rudimentally strum a guitar, like Lil’ Wayne does. The Knux’ label is famously spending way more on them than they are on other rappers, who appeal primarily to black people and hence can’t charge as much for concert tickets. Which can’t be a very good look, in the age of the 360 deal.

The way things are going these days, Asher Roth might not sell as many albums over the course of his career as Eminem sold back in 2000. But if he can appeal to enough 18 year-old white kids who wouldn’t know from good rap music, he could end up one of the only rappers making any money these days anyway. I guess we’ll see.

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