After a host of CMJ performances last week, Pennsylvania rapper Asher Roth is putting the final touches on his to-be-titled sophomore set, the follow-up to his somewhat maligned debut, 2009's Asleep in the Bread Aisle. But don't count Roth out, as he's since dipped back into the underground to release a series of more uncompromising mixtapes (including a top collaboration with Action Bronson which saw the Flushing foodie warning Roth's haters "don't ever say a fuckin' thing about the homie"), and emerging to snag a deal with Def Jam. After revealing that his first project for the label won't be titled Is This Too Orange?, Hive called up Asher to get the inside scoop on how he's going about renaming the project, the creative process of supping tequila in the studio with Organized Noize, and the influence of Paul Simon and R Kelly on the album.
Hello, how are you doing?
Do you speak French?
Nah. [Says a short sentence in French.] That's about it.
So there's no chance of you rapping in French on the new album?
Nah, I need to do that though. That'd be real!
Have you come up with a new title for the album yet?
I can't reveal the title of it yet. I wish I could. We're getting there. It was tentatively titled Is This Too Orange?, but that's no longer the title out of respect to Frank Ocean. We're re-energizing it with something brand new and we'll announce it in a couple of weeks.
Do you have the title confirmed then?
I'm deciding between two or three different ideas. It's just a matter of getting everybody on the same page.
What's the most important thing to consider when coming up with an album title?
I learned a valuable lesson with a mixtape I put out called Seared Foie Gras With Quince and Cranberry. Although some people were like, "That's the most genius title ever!" and that makes you feel like you're really smart, it actually wasn't a smart thing to do when the majority of people can't pronounce it. So I think the most important thing with a title is to try to do something concise and that people can actually pronounce.
Do you have any favorite recent album titles from other artists?
I can't really pick an album title but I'm a big Wes Anderson fan and he does like Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums. Stuff like that appeals to me 'cause there's nothing worse than when you watch a movie preview -- and I equate albums to movies -- and it's intricate and emotional and amazing and then it's called like … The Fight. So whether a book or a movie you want that title to be something you want to hear.
How does the new album's sound differ from things you've released before?
We're carving out a sound, man. The thing about my music is I listen to a whole bunch of different music and I'm a firm believer in progression, whether it be expanding your palate for food or your taste in music. So you'll find all types of influences in there like it's up and down, it's active but it's really sad, there's blues influence, alternative-rock influences and pop influences. It's very accessible and fun. I think that's what people can always expect from my music, that it's gonna be fun. It's new, it's different and it's fun. I'm sick of listening to music right now that's the same shit over and over again. I'm excited to be putting out something that's accessible and it's not so left-field you can't even enjoy it, like, "Oh, you're such an artist." We're just making some really fun music.
What sort of music were you listening to while recording the new album?
I don't really listen to anybody while I'm making an album 'cause I don't want to subconsciously have that affect on my music, but recently I've been listening to a lot of afro-fusion music and a lot of Paul Simon. And always listening to some R. Kelly.
Who's producing on the project?
A lot of it's Oren Yoel, who produced on Asleep in the Bread Aisle, Organized Noize is on there, my brother Nottz is on there, Jim Jonsin is on there. It's some good stuff, man, some guys who understand that we're on the move.
How did the collaboration with Organized Noize come about?
Well I lived in Atlanta for two years and Rico Wade was one of the first people I met and introduced me to Ray Murray and Sleepy [Brown] and we have this one joint called "Lunch Box" that's just really fun and it moves. It's stood the test of time even though we created it over two years ago.
What are Organized Noize like in the studio?
They're a blast! These are the same guys that produced TLC's "Waterfalls!" They have great ideas, they're really fun, they drink tequila. They're just a bunch of guys who love and appreciate music and have a sense of humor. Whenever you're in the studio with someone with a sense of humor and they know what they're doing, it's a great time.
What about guest rappers?
Um … I can't reveal any of that information yet.
Is anyone you've rapped with before on the album?
[Pauses.] I don't think so. The only retiring guest is D.A. Wallach from Chester French. He's a really close friend of mine. I want to make music with my friends and we just vibe together.
What's the release date for the album?
[Asks publicist: Am I allowed to say the release date?] We're scheduled for January 22nd.
Any chance of translating the album into French?
That would be great and I really hope so! I might work on just one song and rap it in French. I do know "faire du bruit" which is make some noise …
Stream Roth's new single "Wrestling Is Fake" below: