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.


119 thoughts on “Asher Roth and the Racial Crossroads.

  1. Tiffany In Houston May 8, 2009 at 11:08 am Reply

    Jay Smooth is so full of win.

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

  2. young_ May 8, 2009 at 11:13 am Reply

    White rappers can’t win, can they?

  3. -k- May 8, 2009 at 11:21 am Reply

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

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

  4. Molly May 8, 2009 at 11:23 am Reply

    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…

    • young_ May 8, 2009 at 11:26 am Reply

      What percentage of commercially-successful black rappers Roth’s age have legitimate reverence for the art form today? I can’t see how his sense of “entitlement” is any different than theirs.

      • Molly May 8, 2009 at 11:41 am Reply

        His whole handle is that he is a rap/hip hop outsider who cant relate to the genre–how is his involvement with the art form not entitled? He gets to dip into this field, and be successful, without any genuine interest or sincerity. I cant speak for other rappers, but I think that he is very fortunate that his is a suburban background, and that a disinterested creative endeavor without connections and subsidy inevitably fails. His dismissive attitude toward rap and hip hop trivializes the efforts of sincere artists whose dedication and ambition entitles them to success.

        • young_ May 8, 2009 at 11:49 am Reply

          No, I don’t think he said he couldn’t relate to the genre so much as he felt that he couldn’t relate to the substantive content of the genre (at least to what he had been exposed to at that point). I have no idea what you mean by “without any genuine interest or sincerity” or what your basis for that comment might be. This kid apparently started rapping and selling his own tapes/cds in high school and then seriously pursued it as a career for several years. Maybe we just have different understandings/definitions of the word “entitled” but I don’t see how it’s any more applicable to him than it is to the other young “stars” of the game today.

          • G.D. May 8, 2009 at 11:51 am Reply

            No, I don’t think he said he couldn’t relate to the genre so much as he felt that he couldn’t relate to the substantive content of the genre (at least to what he had been exposed to at that point).

            that’s an interesting distinction you’re making. care to elaborate?

            • young_ May 8, 2009 at 12:02 pm Reply

              I read his comments as saying that he and his friends (and suburban acquaintances) loved hip-hop but felt a boundary because of their inability to relate to the lifestyle motifs (i.e. drug sales, rims, guns, etc.) apparently common in a lot of the rap they were hearing at the time. This strikes me as more of a class- or even geography-based observation, as opposed to a primarily racial one. It’s also somewhat similar to the critiques we’ve always heard about the content of mainstream by “backpack” rappers and “positive” or”conscious” rappers.

              • G.D. May 8, 2009 at 12:07 pm Reply

                via Levine:

                Interestingly and quite arrogantly, Roth is harnessing a shtick of white privilege as he claims the authenticity of the…erm…suburbs. You know, because suburban kids can’t relate to hip-hop in its contemporary form. Why? Well, that’s a little unclear. Roth’s basic claim is that white kids in the suburbs have been consuming hip-hop for years, but have never had some one they can relate to, some one to represent them and their voices. You know, because white folks can’t relate to black folks. And, of course, because only white folks live in the suburbs. Comparing Eminem to Roth, the blog No Trivia wrote it better than I could have: “But Eminem’s use of his whiteness came from a desire to prove himself in spite of the unfortunate reputation of white rappers that came before him, not some strange sense of privilege because he’s the person actually buying rap CDs.”

                In the most blatant example of white supremacy in hip-hop, Roth is absolutely obsessed with his whiteness. He doesn’t problematize his whiteness, like when Em forced us to re-think what it means to be white in his deeply personal discussions of growing up poor. No, instead Roth wants us to realize that we should like him because, well, he’s white and privileged just like us! His most recent song leak (which you can download here) details the trials and tribulations of being the next great white rapper and the subsequent comparisons to Eminem. Simultaneously, Roth reminds us that while he is no Eminem (he is from privilege and proud of it), he is unabashedly white (and therefore more relatable than those black rappers we thought we liked). Quoted in a recent New York Times piece, Roth explains the difference: “Culturally, Em was almost a black guy. My background is more stereotypically white.” That’s just great, Asher. How astute. It’s one thing to be aware of your racial identity; it’s an entirely different thing to embrace a privileged identity as your claim to superiority in a culture dominated by minority artists.

                In an article from 2005, Brother Ali poignantly discussed white fans’ relationship to underground white rappers. “One of the hardest things we’re dealing with now is the underlying feeling of white supremacy among fans who feel they are a part of hip-hop, but are listening to and prefer mostly white MCs,” says Brother Ali. “They believe that Aesop Rock is better than independent artists who are Black and mainstream artists like Ludacris. These MCs are doing a lot with hip-hop artistically that they have learned from Black people, but [their fans] don’t want to hear from the old-school originators because they believe it’s the white MCs who created the styles they like. This isn’t an underground-versus-mainstream thing—it’s a racist thing.

                • young_ May 8, 2009 at 12:14 pm Reply

                  See… I really enjoyed maybe 90% of Levine’s post, but the conclusions he leaps to about Roth’s “racism” and “white supremacy” are just patently unfair and hysterical.

                  “In the most blatant example of white supremacy in hip-hop, Roth is absolutely obsessed with his whiteness. He doesn’t problematize his whiteness, like when Em forced us to re-think what it means to be white in his deeply personal discussions of growing up poor. No, instead Roth wants us to realize that we should like him because, well, he’s white and privileged just like us!”

                  Really? You’d think he was describing some of that aryan nation music that skinheads blast to get themselves amped. And as an aside (just for the record), plenty of college and middle-class black folks seem to LOVE Roth too.

                  • G.D. May 8, 2009 at 12:25 pm Reply

                    i think you’re misunderstanding Levine’s use of ‘white supremacy,’ which has been conflated with neo-Nazis and the like.

                    When Levine uses ‘white supremacy,’ he’s referring to an idea of white normativity, of whiteness as some sort of cultural default. When Roth argues that white people like him are the ones buying all the hip-hop and thus *deserve* a say in the creation of the music, that’s an unmistakable statement of privilege, even if Roth doesn’t/can’t recognize it as such.

                    And as an aside (just for the record), plenty of college and middle-class black folks seem to LOVE Roth too.

                    Um, because someone was arguing somewhere that Roth was experiencing some sort of monolithic black contempt? Where was that, exactly?

                    • young_ May 8, 2009 at 12:38 pm

                      I get Levine’s use of white supremacy but still think it’s a ridiculous and unfair leap. But your comments make me think I may have missed something: where exactly did Roth argue that white people like him are the ones buying all the hip-hop and thus deserve a say in the creation of the music?

                      Don’t people deserve a role in the creation of any music no matter what their race or the race of the people who buy that music, no?

                      My aside about his popularity among certain black demographics was mostly for the people chipping in who say they’ve never heard of Roth or his music. I was just trying to provide some broader perspective on his place in the contemporary rap scene.

                    • bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 12:46 pm

                      Don’t people deserve a role in the creation of any music no matter what their race or the race of the people who buy that music, no?

                      Yes. So why is Roth bringing race into it?

                      And why is it that the people who are criticizing him for doing so are the ones getting blamed for making it about race?

                    • young_ May 8, 2009 at 12:55 pm

                      @bitchphd– I’m not trying to be cute with semantics but his referring to “kids from the burbs,” clearly has racial implications but is at least equally about class and geography. He didn’t just say something like “all white people like hip-hop but can’t ever relate” and I think there is a difference.

                      I don’t see anything wrong with someone saying “the people where I’m from enjoy this art/music/product but I think there’s a wide-open niche for someone to retool it in a way that they can culturally relate to more personally.” It seems to me that many of his critics are completely ignoring the cultural significance of his class/geographical background while singlemindedly focusing on race which in my opinion is unfair, misleading and distorts rather than illuminates things.

                    • G.D. May 8, 2009 at 1:09 pm

                      that might fly if Roth were not the one conflating these things.

                    • Jeremy May 8, 2009 at 1:55 pm

                      I just want to say, first of all, that I’m flattered to know that anyone has read my work. Even if you only agree with 90%, young_.

                      I just want to quickly clarify my use of the phrase “white supremacy.” Basically, G.D.’s interpretation is exactly right; I was trying to articulate how problematic it is for Roth to claim suburban (and, by extension, white) authenticity, authority, and superiority.

                      Here’s my logic (and feel free to disagree): If his claim to novelty is his whiteness, he is therefore logically implying that what makes him special, marketable, and superior to other rappers is that very novelty – his white suburban roots. His claim to novelty is his claim to exceptionalism and superiority. It is therefore “white supremacy” in the exact definition of the phrase, rather than the colloquial definitions that we normally associate with the phrase (like neo-Nazis).

                      Moreover, to claim that he is entitled to an audience by virtue of his race and the race of the majority of hip-hop consumers is also exerting a superiority of whiteness, a sense of privilege that is intrinsically tied to a sense of superiority (and therefore, supremacy).

                      I agree that the phrase is a little jarring – but it follows from a logical progression I try to develop in the piece.

                      Anyone is free to email me or comment on my posts if they want to engage more on this issues. I’m a grad student (i.e. not in the real world), so I have a lot of time on my hands.


                    • young_ May 8, 2009 at 2:50 pm

                      I completely missed your post Jeremy. Thanks for taking the time to write in and expound on your comments. But now that I’ve read your comment, I still have serious issues with each step of the logical progression that led to you labeling Roth a white supremacist. Specifically:

                      1) I don’t think he would agree that his only claim to novelty is his whiteness.

                      2) (and I could very well be wrong here but…) I don’t think he is saying that his white suburban roots necessarily make him superior to other rappers, just that it enables him to make a certain type of rap music that those kids relate to, a novel type of rap music that for various reasons just has not been made much before.

                      3) I don’t think he is claiming that he is “entitled” to any audience at all, let alone on the basis of race.

                    • Jeremy May 8, 2009 at 3:35 pm

                      I wouldn’t call him a white supremacist, but would rather argue that his comments and marketing machine carry unsettling undertones of white supremacy. I think it’s a subtle difference and we may just have to agree to disagree.

                      To point 2 – Look, I connect WAY more to Kidz in the Hall than to Asher Roth, and I’m a white Jew from upstate new york. Roth’s marketing scheme implies that whites can’t get down with music that black people create – and I think there’s an underlying logic of white supremacy to that notion. The problem with Roth’s claims to novelty is that they link race, class and place in a way that celebrates privilege – and I find this celebration to be an example of white supremacy, especially and particularly because this is HIP HOP, a genre dominated, promulgated, and created by minority artists.

                      There’s just something problematic with that NYT article in which he says that he is just “typically white” suburban kid making music about things he knows (juxtaposed with eminem’s “cultural blackness”) for two major reasons: 1) black people also live in the burbs; and 2) black people also go to college. To imply that carefree raps about the suburbs and college are targeted at white teens (which he most certainly explicitly says), carries some seriously racist implications. And I’m just not down with it.

                      I appreciate the feedback – follow my blog to argue with me more on other issues!

  5. Ron May 8, 2009 at 12:08 pm Reply

    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.

    • young_ May 8, 2009 at 12:43 pm Reply

      I think that’s very well put Ron.

    • bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 12:44 pm Reply

      It’s not that hiphop is special. It’s that *this kid* is saying that hiphop = black, because it’s about crime. He himself is setting up the terms that people are calling him on.

      Think, for instance, if a white jazz artist were to say “I can’t relate to jazz because it’s a black art form, so I’m going to write jazz songs about being rich and drinking cocktails.” It would be an idiotic thing to say. Cole Porter wrote those songs without making it into some big “I can’t relate to blackness” thing; the musical form is perfectly capable of including both “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “Strange Fruit.” But if Porter had said, “oh, I write these songs because jazz music is all about lynching, and as a white person I can’t relate to that,” then he would have been an ignorant motherfucker, that he didn’t understand the genre he was working in at all, and people would have been justified in suspecting that his real interest wasn’t in jazz but in making some kind of statement about the importance of representing High Society instead of that icky stuff about burning flesh.

      • young_ May 8, 2009 at 1:00 pm Reply

        Pardon my ignorance about Cole Porter but did he even consider his ballads and showtunes to be part of the “jazz” genre? I think the historical jazz analogy is very, very difficult for a number of reasons but I don’t want to nitpick. Your reading of Roth’s comments is that he’s saying hip-hop is black because it’s about crime. I’m just not sure where he says that hip-hop or crime is black.

        • bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 1:22 pm Reply

          Did you read the articles linked?

          • young_ May 8, 2009 at 1:33 pm Reply

            I read a couple and gave the others a good-faith skimming… did I miss something in particular? Seems to me that people are making inferences and using innuendo and interpretations rather than the language of his actual statements…

            • G.D. May 8, 2009 at 1:37 pm Reply


              You guys are always going off about how much money you have. Do you realize what’s going on in this world right now?’ All these black rappers? African rappers? Talking about how much money they have. Do you realize what’s going on in Africa right now? It’s just like, you guys are disgusting. Talking about billions and billions of dollars you have. And spending it frivolously, when you know, the Motherland is suffering beyond belief right now.


              • shani-o May 8, 2009 at 1:39 pm Reply

                Yeah, that quote sealed the deal for me. Dude’s racist, and that’s not a term I swing around lightly. It doesn’t mean he’s evil, but it does mean he views race in a fundamentally effed up way.

              • Winslowalrob May 8, 2009 at 2:02 pm Reply

                This quote is what made me want to strangle him, if there was anything that would make me accuse him of racism, this line is it, but even then, as I said, he is not all that important and the historian in me needs more evidence before I can make such a pronouncement. I feel Shani though.

              • Ron May 8, 2009 at 4:45 pm Reply

                Sounds way more like an indictment on hip-hop and where it’s gone the past decade — especially mainstream stuff — than it does this silly guffaw by a yuckster who knows very little.

                I don’t think anyone could listen to the kid’s flow and think anything other than he’s been influenced by the absolute mainstream of the mainstream.

            • G.D. May 8, 2009 at 1:40 pm Reply

              you want more?

              Kids from the ’burbs have been inspired and influenced by hip hop for years,” says Roth, recently inked to Steve Rifkind’s Universal imprint, SRC. “When I wrote my ‘A Millie’ freestyle, that was me listening to 10 years of hip hop and not relating to it at all. Like, Damn I don’t sell coke. Damn, I don’t have cars or 25-inch rims. I don’t have guns.


              • young_ May 8, 2009 at 1:43 pm Reply

                The vibe quote is the one I had been discussing in most of my posts. I missed the one about “the Motherland” though, which I admit does raise questions about how he sees race.

              • Molly May 8, 2009 at 1:45 pm Reply

                I think young_ is trying to say that Roth does not explicitly say that coke, cars and rims are black, though he does point out that a [sheltered, monied] suburban experience is “stereotypically white”. Though that subtext is so obviously there that it does not even need to be said–in fact, it probably helps that it is assumed.

                • young_ May 8, 2009 at 2:13 pm Reply

                  Sure, race is obviously part of the unavoidable subtext, but he’s also making an important class/geography statement about those things not being part of the suburban experience period.

                  As an aside (even though this will probably get me accused of switching the subject again) I think a lot of middle-class black folks encounter this same reality and also struggle to come to terms with the disconnect between their lives and experiences and those they see portrayed on mtv jams.

                  • Jay Smooth May 12, 2009 at 10:41 am Reply

                    “I think a lot of middle-class black folks encounter this same reality and also struggle to come to terms with the disconnect between their lives and experiences and those they see portrayed on mtv jams.”

                    Right, and that’s exactly why questions are raised by his assumption that there’s anything new about his attempt to to provide an alternative to that guns, coke & riches orthodoxy.

                    There have always been many fans and artists who felt alienated this way, and many artists who sought to provide an oasis from it, even specifically representating a more suburban alternative.. to quote Harry Allen: “Really? What did De La Soul do, then? What did the Dungeon Family do? Heck: What did Public Enemy do? (I wrote about P.E.’s suburban roots and worldview at length for The Village Voice in a 1988 piece, “Strangers in Paradise.”)”

                    So if there have in fact been many alternatives all along, but he somehow thinks he’s doing something new, it makes me wonder about his (quite possibly unexamined) assumptions regarding what it means to be an alternative, and who is or isn’t seeking an alternative.

                    • Jeremy May 12, 2009 at 1:50 pm


                      I wholeheartedly agree with you on this, but also think we can extend this point further.

                      True, some artists (De La, for example) present this alternative, but others that are from the ‘burbs themselves reject that identity and instead try to co-opt urban legitimacy.

                      There’s a push to rep a hood, any hood, even if you never really stepped foot on those streets. This push creates a faux-reality of the urban roots of a lot of our favorite rappers, which by extension contributes to a lot of racial stereotypes in reference to urban spaces.

                      I know it’s mad tacky to plug my own shit, but I was musing on the topic a couple weeks ago, and you all might find it interesting:

                      (I feel like since I am quoted in this post, it gives me a pass to plug my own stuff. dont hate!)

      • Ron May 8, 2009 at 4:52 pm Reply

        I think he’s a stupid kid. Just like Soulja Boy is a stupid kid. I don’t think being a stupid white kid makes him any less or more stupid. If anything, the argument here treats “white privilege” as the academic version of “to whom much is given, much is required..” and yet, your targets don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

        They’re just wondering where all the rancor is coming from and half of the people they deal with everyday look nothing like them and are telling them “don’t worry dawg. them haters just don’t get what you’re about…” and so he just keeps on going.

        I’m not saying he deserves a “pass” if you will, but it’s really a lot of to-do about well…nothing. Hip-hop is diverse in the same way that metal is, but you could paint with a broad brush and no one would scratch their heads in the same ways that everyone seems to think that speaking with an ounce of truth begets something other than well…an ounce of truth.

        If a kid knows nothing about the underground. Had never heard a Talib Kweli or a Blackstar LP, doesn’t know the first thing about Dead Prez, couldn’t tell you the first thing about Crime Rap, but has heard a ton of Jay-Z, Nas and the patron saint of white rap — Eminem — who paid his dues amongst the arbiters of all that’s good and fair in the world….then I don’t really know what folks are expecting, other than to say “he’s racist,” and “he should know better.”

        HOW should he know better? By what measure? By simple virtue of being white and suburban?

        In some ways, it just seems you all are giving him the sort of power to him and his words, by virtue of the same whiteness that ought to make him more conscious than he is.

        But again, I think the genre is being hijacked by far more treacherous creatures than a college dropout from the Philly suburbs. He’s just a stupid kid who can’t rap very well. Nothing more, nothing less.

        I think the Beastie Boys reference was apt earlier, except those guys were probably more culturally savvy.

  6. bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 12:12 pm Reply

    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.”

    • young_ May 8, 2009 at 12:17 pm Reply

      He said “stereotypically white”…and he was right. Isn’t the suburban experience more stereotypically white than that of Eminem growing up, battling people in Detroit…?

      • bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 12:32 pm Reply

        Inasmuch as the poor white experience is traditionally/stereotypically referred to as “white trash,” yes. But that’s still a racist term, and the “Eminem is almost black” thing makes it pretty clear that this kid isn’t thinking at all about “white” or “black” as cultural signifiers; he accepts the stereotypes he’s employing. Throwing the word “stereotypically” in there doesn’t change that.

        Plus, “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” is 100% suburban. El Segundo is a suburb of freaking LA. (As, for that matter, is Compton.) Even if you want to ignore the race aspect of the thing altogether, the kid is making hugely ignorant false generalizations about a pretty broad musical genre. So at best he’s ignorant. Add in that those generalizations are in fact racist (“rap is all about drugs, guns, and hos!”) and, yes: the kid is racist. Whether deliberately or just out of ignorance, I have no idea, but given that he is actually recording rap music it seems like he *might* know a little more about it than he apparently does, if he took it seriously enough to make an effort. (IOW, ignorance is a lousy excuse for someone who actually makes the music.)

        • young_ May 8, 2009 at 12:43 pm Reply

          You’re right– his comments definitely show a lot of ignorance about hip-hop and its substantive diversity. Anyone who thinks that all of rap is all about drugs, guns and rims just doesn’t know much about hip-hop. My point is that there are tons of rappers out there who probably think the same thing, but instead embrace it and try to write about those things.

          I’m interested in your conviction that he’s racist though– is the basis of your belief his ignorance about hip-hop or is there something else?

          • bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 12:49 pm Reply

            It’s that he is *saying* that black = drugs guns and rims, and that white = college and suburban life.

            There may very well be tons of other rappers who think that shit, but we’re not discussing them. We’re discussing this guy.

            • young_ May 8, 2009 at 1:02 pm Reply

              Ok… where exactly does he say that “black= drugs guns and rims” and that “white = college and suburban life.” I might have missed that.

    • Ron May 8, 2009 at 12:22 pm Reply

      I suspect he’s trying to balance delicately around trying to see like he’s trying to jack the culture and in the process, he’s being perceived as doing just that.

      I think people expect too much from people who don’t think for a living.

      • bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 12:36 pm Reply

        Of course that’s what he’s doing. The fact that he’s doing that rather than think about *why* that issue might be a problem is part of the privilege thing GD is pointing out: he doesn’t even pause to think that he might not be entitled (or know enough) to really speak with any authority about race.

    • Molly May 8, 2009 at 12:38 pm Reply

      or Immortal Technique, or Dead Prez…

      • bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 12:50 pm Reply

        Indeed. My hiphop references are all old school because I’m freaking old (and don’t know much about hiphop other than what gets mainstream radio play).

        • Molly May 8, 2009 at 1:00 pm Reply

          haha, I was just reinforcing your point by adding “darker” political voices to the list…I agree that boiling rap/hip hop down to more complicated aspects of the genre, like misogyny and crime, while ignoring political and positive themes, sells the genre short in a way that is pretty heavily informed by racism…

          • young_ May 8, 2009 at 1:03 pm Reply

            …or just plain ignorance (in the lack of information and exposure sense)…

            • Molly May 8, 2009 at 1:22 pm Reply

              Okay, that is fair…though I suspect he has had plenty of opportunities to educate himself since the initiation of his career…

            • bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 1:25 pm Reply

              Which again, is (1) hard to believe; I’m a 41-year old white suburban mommie, and I know more about hiphop than he does?? And he claims to be a fan of the style??

              (2) At some point, ignorance stops being an excuse. If you are in a position where you are being criticized for something, and your response is to assert your right to speak about that thing, then you should sort of make a point of finding out about the thing you’re claiming to have the right to speak about.

              • young_ May 8, 2009 at 1:32 pm Reply

                I don’t know. Do you think that most young people who listen to rap listen to political/consciousness rap?

                • bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 1:46 pm Reply

                  I have no idea. Do you think that most people who *go on to record rap music and make authoritative statements about what it is and isn’t about* try to learn about the music they claim to love?

                  You’re shifting the focus of the discussion here, and you’re being pretty stubborn about refusing to consider the possibility that people might have decent reasons for having a problem with Roth, even while people are laying those reasons out for you. I’m starting to wonder if *your* seeming ignorance isn’t as disingenuous and self-interested as his is.

                  • young_ May 8, 2009 at 2:04 pm Reply

                    What is it you think you’re starting to wonder about me?? Let it be known and we can set that straight right now. This whole time I thought that you were being stubborn in your refusal to address the substance of my various comments, but now I see that you probably really just don’t get it.

                • blackink May 8, 2009 at 2:09 pm Reply

                  Is that a real question? Or are you trying to infer something there? Because who knows what “most” young people are looking for when they’re listening to rap?

                  I was a huge fan of Public Enemy, Ice Cube, KRS-One, Tribe, etc., when I was a kid. And I never thought I was the only one … they were all popular acts at the time.

                  I assume that much hasn’t changed in the span of 15-20 years. Some kids want to hear Lil’ Wayne and Young Jeezy, and others prefer Common and Mos Def.

                  • young_ May 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm Reply

                    Yeah, if you hadn’t realized, a lot has changed in rap since then. Most obviously and importantly, the relative popularity of that political/positive stuff peaked in the early 90s…

                    • Winslowalrob May 8, 2009 at 2:26 pm

                      young, you are dead wrong. the stuff is still popular, but the popularity had to do with a confluence of corporate patronage, radio-play, and a whole lotta music industry bullcrap. The way rap music is made has changed, not the popularity of conscious rap or lack thereof. If you really want to get into this, I can recommend some books that talk about this sort of stuff with some hot research. It is not a shift in market demographics, I can assure you. Blackink is right about this.

                    • young_ May 8, 2009 at 2:30 pm

                      Wow, I would sincerely be extremely interested in any books/articles you can recommend, Winslowalrob. I’m pretty skeptical though–maybe we’re both using different meanings of “popularity”? Are we both talking about “popularity” in the sense of the relative proportion of what people buy, watch on tv and listen to?

                    • blackink May 8, 2009 at 3:13 pm

                      Just because it’s not being played on 106 & Park doesn’t mean that kids aren’t listening to it or don’t want to listen to it, fam.

                      And I really doubt that much has changed in rap since then. I think we tend to romanticize some of the artists of my era – Too Short and Eazy-E were making records then, too, young.

                    • young_ May 8, 2009 at 4:02 pm

                      You’re definitely right that some people romanticize the past but it seems like an extremely difficult position to argue that not much has really changed in hip-hop over the past 15-20 years. I didn’t realize this was all that controversial of a point– I was just saying that a LOT of young people, black and white, who grow up listening to hip-hop aren’t hearing all that much except for stuff about guns/drugs/rims, etc. today and that just was not the case back then. Back then, if you were listening to a lot of hip-hop, you were probably getting exposed to a more topically diverse range of music.

  7. t. o. a n. May 8, 2009 at 12:51 pm Reply

    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.

    • bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 1:26 pm Reply

      Dude, if you embrace racism for marketing purposes, then you get to be called on it.

      • t. o. a n. May 8, 2009 at 2:03 pm Reply

        I don’t think he should not be called out on it, I just don’t believe what he is saying because it does not make any sense to me. Okay, so he has all these black rappers in his video but he says that Eminem was almost a black guy because he was poor, surely he knows that the rappers in his videos are not poor or what ever he meant. Also, why would white kids in the burbs be consuming hip-hop for years if there was not something relatable in it??? It does not make sense. He has to create a difference between him and the biggest white rapper so his difference is he is a run of the mill white suburban guy. Just like that other white rapper (can’t think of his name) was marketed as country to separate himself from Eminem. He is Pat Boone to Eminem’s Elvis.

  8. Winslowalrob May 8, 2009 at 1:58 pm Reply

    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.

    • Molly May 8, 2009 at 2:09 pm Reply

      That’s fine if you think the only purpose of an art form is the audience, but when a businessperson, or a very privileged savant, pushes into a medium, mocks and degrades it, and makes a lot of money and gains a mainstream voice from it, their presence is worthy of addressing.

      • Winslowalrob May 8, 2009 at 2:28 pm Reply

        You make a great point, though one I do not agree with completely. I do not really want to spend any more time talking about this (outside of maybe arguing with young about rap 🙂 ) so I will concede the point and move on to juicier stuff.

        • young_ May 8, 2009 at 2:32 pm Reply

          Ha! We can definitely stay on and argue about rap (or in some other forum maybe). I’m planning some research on rap as we speak and would appreiate any info/insight you can throw my way.

        • Molly May 8, 2009 at 2:33 pm Reply

          okay, fair enough–use your time judiciously 😉

  9. blackink May 8, 2009 at 5:01 pm Reply

    @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.

    • young_ May 8, 2009 at 5:16 pm Reply

      I completely agree that young consumers/listeners have more choices than ever to pursue their music that suits their tastes now. But most music listeners aren’t the serious, pro-active rap aesthetes that you or I may be, and they are far less pro-active in seeking out different types of music. People more or less listen to what’s played around them and in the 2000s, probably more than ever, the overwhelming majority of what “passive” listeners hear is disproportionately dominated by certain themes and motifs.

      I grew up on the east coast but the Source and Rap City were HUGE in expanding the horizons of my hiphop tastes (and the diversity of my tape collection) with anything from Compton’s Most Wanted to MC Breed to Souls of Mischief to Big Mike to early Outkast, etc. But I always realized that I was somewhat of an exception and that most people just listened to the rap music that got play around the way (which in our case happened to mostly be pretty great stuff at the time, fortunately). Anyway, my initial point was just 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.

  10. Coward May 8, 2009 at 6:15 pm Reply

    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.

  11. young_ May 8, 2009 at 6:39 pm Reply

    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.

    • bitchphd May 8, 2009 at 7:43 pm Reply

      Or (d) he’s a racist jackass. Why are you trying so hard to come up with excuses for him?

      • young_ May 8, 2009 at 10:55 pm Reply

        Your proposed choice (d) doesn’t really make any sense in explaining his comments about his favorite/most inspirational rappers but (maybe because it’s getting late) I’m definitely starting to feel an irresistable pull toward your line of logic. Why should I “try so hard to come up with excuses” or try to analyze and interpret the facts dispassionately or with any nuance when I can just resolve all the ambiguities and enigmas by calling him a racist jackass? Just earlier today, I was pretty sure that you wouldn’t succeed in persuading me by merely repeating the same allegation over and over, but I think it’s finally worked. Thanks for enlightening me– in the future I will try to stand up more vigilantly against all semblances of white privilege, white entitlement and white racism.

        • G.D. May 9, 2009 at 5:05 am Reply

          the problem with the way you’re framing this is that you’re positing that people are eschewing nuance in deciding that this cat might actually be a racist jackass, or that you have some unique purchase on dispassionate criticism of Roth’s statements/the state of hip hop in general. You seem to think this is true despite your making bizarre, mealy-mouthed (and improvable) assertions about “most” or “many” hip-hop fans and their musical proclivities and your putting forth all manner of barely connected, irrelevant asides.

          but maybe you’re right. maybe we’re just a gaggle of hypersensitive race-mongers.

          or. maybe! you’re just making really bad arguments.

          • young_ May 9, 2009 at 7:24 am Reply

            First of all, my sarcastic comment was directed solely at bitchphd, who has been making a ton of circular, unhelpful comments and then had the nerve to get sarcastic/ borderline ad hominem with me. I’ve had no problems with the arguments you’ve made, even if I’ve been most not persuaded. Even if I did feel that way (which I don’t), I would never, ever write like that unless people inappropriately questioned me or my opinions. So I don’t want you or anyone else I’ve exchanged thoughts with earlier to be offended by it, fam. The only problem that I have with you personally, GD, is that you seem to have an unfortunate penchant of trying to attack whatever you feel the weakest or most irrelevant link of the opposing argument without really digging in and taking their argument seriously.

            So I can’t tell if you calling my assertions “bizarre”, “mealy-mouthed” and full of “barely connected, irrelevant” asides is just you feeling froggy because you feel that I just inappropriately devalued your comments above (which, again, was not my intent). If that’s how you really feel, it’s very disappointing and just goes with a growing concern I’ve felt during this and other debates that I’ve watched or observed recently here. You (PB staff and inside circle) discuss some very interesting topics and often have some thought-provoking things to say about them (whether I agree or not), but at times you guys really do have a difficult time seriously grappling with dissenting opinions.

            And I’m not just saying that because I apparently haven’t persuaded any of you– with a few exceptions, most of the replies to my comments above don’t even seem to take seriously the grapple with any of the substantive points I’ve tried to raise or. It’s like some of you just decided that Roth was a racist jackass and that any suggestions to the contrary are spurious, disingenuous, or naive and don’t deserve to be fully engaged. This was a situation where you and others were trying to make what I felt was a very heavy claims (that Roth is racist and/or full of white entitlement/white privilege) by referring to various inane comments he’s made. You all seemed to clearly think that the comments clearly spoke for themselves, I didn’t, and explained why. Very few people tried to offer their arguments in ways that would address any of the specific qualms I raised, which is what I would have expected in this type of discussion.

            • young_ May 9, 2009 at 7:26 am Reply

              [sorry about all the typos in the above message, still trying to wake up]

              • blackink May 9, 2009 at 8:40 am Reply

                Young, I’m sorry that you feel that way (how is that for a half-hearted apology?) about our responses.

                But I might – as you seem to expect – co-sign with G.D. here: what if you’re the one who is wrong? Why is it that you think we’re all failing to “take seriously the grapple with any of the substantive points I’ve tried to raise”? You really believe that none of us have engaged you in this way? Really?

                I would certainly disagree. We haven’t been calling you names. If I did, trust me, there would be no doubt about it.

                In this particular instance, I think you’re wrong. Also, you never addressed my point about how you might you quantify “a LOT,’ in terms of music listeners seeking out certain types of music. You just sort of dropped that point.

                Anyway, I hope you don’t take any of this personally. And I, for one, hope you continue to contribute to the dialogue. Contrary to what you think, I believe we love to hear dissenting opinions on here. Even if they’re wrong. 🙂

                • young_ May 9, 2009 at 9:09 am Reply


                  But what is it that I’m wrong about? That Asher Roth MIGHT NOT be a racist or motivated by an illegitimate sense of white privilege/white entitlement?

                  And look at the back and forth you and I had. Of all the stuff I’ve typed on this page, you pretty much only saw fit to call me out on some tangential, quasi-empirical statements I made about the current state of hip-hop and my use of “a LOT.” That’s fine and as I mentioned to Winslowalrob, I am genuinely interested in hearing more about how I might be wrong on that. But I feel that your statement wasn’t any more grounded or empirically substantiated than mine. We were just two guys with different impressions/opinions, and that’s completely cool with me, but I don’t want to lose the forest for the trees here.

                • young_ May 9, 2009 at 9:18 am Reply

                  Sorry for the flood of posts, but, BlackInk, I definitely wanted to let you know that I don’t take anything you or the vast majority of the people on here have typed personally.

                  Nonetheless, I really do stand by my complaint about the way dissenting opinions get treated around here sometimes (as whiny, convenient and self-righteous as that might sound). We don’t need to go through the ritual where everyone else chimes in and reiterate how much you like dissent and, heck, how much you even disagree with each other sometimes though. You folks run an amazing blog (which is why I continue to write in even when I’m getting no love), that’s just a minor standing critique I have.

            • G.D. May 9, 2009 at 8:28 am Reply

              The only problem that I have with you personally, GD, is that you seem to have an unfortunate penchant of trying to attack whatever you feel the weakest or most irrelevant link of the opposing argument without really digging in and taking their argument seriously.

              my heart bleeds. i don’t think addressing a specious leap in logic that someone used to arrive at their larger point is bad form, but we can agree to disagree on that point.

              So I can’t tell if you calling my assertions “bizarre”, “mealy-mouthed” and full of “barely connected, irrelevant” asides is just you feeling froggy because you feel that I just inappropriately devalued your comments above (which, again, was not my intent).

              c’mon, fam. you said: ‘as an aside, there are middle-class black people who like Asher Roth!’ what that proves, disproves, elucidates or has to do with anything isn’t entirely clear. but it’s one of several such digressions you’ve offered up in defense of your larger point, which I think was initially ‘Roth’s ignorance is no better/worse than Rapper X’ and has morphed into a dubious assertion that hip-hop has become less topical/its fans have become less interested in topicality. or something.

              Very few people tried to offer their arguments in ways that would address any of the specific qualms I raised, which is what I would have expected in this type of discussion.

              i dunno, fam. it seems like every time you’ve made a statement, someone has specifically addressed it. they just haven’t agreed with you. maybe i’m missing something, tho.

              which issues have you raised that you feel have gone unadressed?

              • young_ May 9, 2009 at 9:01 am Reply

                Didn’t mean to make your heart bleed, fam, but I’m just putting that out there. Oh, I forgot earlier though, and another cute thing you seem to do sometimes is place unreasonable burdens of proof on people who disagree with you (I apologize if that made your heart bleed any more…). How would someone prove that Roth is not a racist? That he is immune to white privilege or white entitlement? All I can do is explain why the comments you guys are hanging your hats on don’t necessarily prove the affirmative case, that he is indeed racist.

                What “specious leap in logic” are you referring to? That’s what I’ve been getting at the whole time– the specious leap in logic I believe that you(?) and others have made in labelling the kid a racist driven by white privilege/white entitlement, etc. You don’t acknowledge that the whole position that “Roth thinks that black=rap=drugs/rims/guns and white=suburbs=good” requires some serious leaps in logic? Really?? If you really don’t, then this is all pointless, and I don’t mean that in a snarky way– we will just have to agree to disagree.

                You all decided that the record was unequivocally clear that this Roth kid was an outrageous racist and I just tried to point out that I thought the actual record was somewhat more ambiguous. I (repeatedly) offered a slightly different take on his comments about being from the burbs and not relating to the rap he was listening to, which to you and some others seemed to read as a smoking gun of his racist sense of white privilege and white entitlement, and I feel like people (besides Molly, I think) kept ignoring me on that.

                And, yes, unless I missed something, the argument that I and a couple other people made about Roth’s comments and assumptions not being much different from what we would expect of many black rappers or suburbanites were more or less ignored. The “but we’re not talking about them, we’re talking about Roth” retort completely misses/dodges(?) the point.

                Blackink– you’re absolutely right, there’s no way I could prove what kind of hip-hop young people listen to in a way that would be meaningful to other people in a forum like this. Which is why I tried to tie it back to the original context of my question. This was a response to bitchphd (I believe) and someone else suggesting that they found it hard to believe that Roth knew less about hip-hop than them, or didn’t know about political hip-hop or something like that. I merely said that I don’t find it hard to believe at all and that a LOT of young people who listen to rap these days don’t hear that stuff. You can disagree or remain agnostic about that as an empirical statement, but I honestly didn’t think it would be that controversial of a proposition.

                • ladyfresshh May 9, 2009 at 10:06 am Reply

                  i think i’m going to enter the conversation at this point.

                  this sort of thing has been touched on in previous posts

                  with regards to the extreme of labeling but denying the label

                  even though it’s true and fits just because it seems extreme.

                  see: is bush evil?

                  the problem maybe that the label has taken on supposedly

                  mythic qualities

                  and people want to distance themselves from it because of

                  the magnitude that the label taken on

                  you are shying, ducking and dodging from a definition that

                  asher himself is playing around in

                  the definition is there

                  he is fitting himself quite nicely into it with

                  his own statements

                  there is very little nuance to it

                  stop ducking because we are working backwards here

                  and begin to understand why people are taking offense

                  that would be a step forward

                • bitchphd May 9, 2009 at 8:58 pm Reply

                  You ignored the point, though, that Roth isn’t “young people listening to hiphop.” He’s a young person who is *making* hiphop, and who is moreover, claiming some expertise about it.

                  Now, he might very well be ignorant. I allowed as much from the beginning. But if he loves the music, and intends to become part of it–as opposed to just a consumer–he has *some* responsibility to know what the hell he’s doing, yes?

                  And whether he can’t be bothered because he’s lazy or whatever, the fact remains that the things he is saying are racist. Saying that black = crime and drug dealing is racist. Saying that white = suburban, and that poor whites are, by virtue of their poverty, essentially black, is racist.

                  You’re complaining a lot about how I am not acknowledging your points. What I have been asking you is, why are you so unwilling to acknowledge the racism of Roth’s position? (To the point where you’re shifting the argument from Roth to what “most” rap fans might say/think, or what some black rap fans/artists might think, etc. I’m not letting you shift the grounds of the discussion, is what I’m doing.

                  • young_ May 12, 2009 at 1:04 pm Reply

                    Ok… I know I gave GD my word that I would dead this but let me chip in with one last comment. After thinking about all of these various comments in their totality, I can definitely understand and appreciate everyones’ concerns about his comments and what they suggest about his racial outlook/worldview. I share some of these concerns and I feel silly for having typed so much in his defense (to the extent that calling him ignorant and immature instead of racist is a “defense”). His comments were ignorant, racially offensive, and insensitive. Although nobody commented on the espn chat quotes I found from him, I think that those quotes also plausibly suggested that his comments about drugs/rims/guns were disingenuous and cynical too.

                    However, all that notwithstanding, I am still not convinced that his comments suggest a clear disdain or attitude of superiority toward black people as a racial group, which is probably at the core of my general sense of what it means to be “racist.” My various comments about other rappers saying dumb things and non-gangsta rappers constantly whining tired cliches about the content of mainstream rap weren’t intended to shift the subject but were only meant to show why I believed that it might not be prudent for us to isolate some of his various comments about (presumably black) rappers as the racist rantings of a rogue white supremacist.

                    Also, I’m always a hard sell on “white privilege” and “white entitlement” allegations, and also think the evidence supporting such characterizations of Roth are especially thin. That’s probably not even worth hashing out at this point because I’m sure it will come up at some point in the future.

                    Anyway, I hope this adds a little clarity on where I was coming from and doesn’t just come across as me repeating my earlier points.

            • shani-o May 9, 2009 at 9:21 am Reply

              It’s like some of you just decided that Roth was a racist jackass and that any suggestions to the contrary are spurious, disingenuous, or naive and don’t deserve to be fully engaged.

              And it’s like you have decided that we’re being spurious, disingenuous, and naive to suggest that Roth may very well be a racist jackass based on his own statements and the way he presents himself. The fact that all you had to say about his insanely racist comments about “African rappers” was that it “raised questions,” before moving on to defend him some more, tells me that you’re not here in good faith. You’re here to grind an axe over how we talk about race. Bitch’s response to you was right on — everyone here took you seriously and responded to you thoughtfully with logic and reason, but you just keep offering these stubborn, circular what ifs, which begs the question: what’s your agenda here? Are you his agent?

              And for the record, I don’t see you making any ‘substantive points’ that people are ignoring.

              As a side note: your initial comment here “White rappers can’t win, can they?” should have been an indication to us all that you knew what your position would be and that you weren’t interested in a conversation. Frankly, your stubbornness and refusal to even acknowledge that some of us might have real reasons that we’ve laid out for you for feeling the way we do makes it clear you’re here to be provocative and little else.

              • young_ May 9, 2009 at 9:33 am Reply

                Oh, I’m officially relegated to troll status now? with an agenda and an axe to grind against yall? damn…lol. Good morning to you too.

                What’s your basis for saying that I’m accusing you of being naive/spurious/disingenuous? My criticism was just that there are questionable logical leaps being made that I’m a little reluctant to make so far. Is that wrong? Did you read the posts I wrote this morning? They might explain which points I felt were ignored, etc. if you’re interested.

                But sorry, I should have been more clear– I thought his “african rappers” comment was very weird and offensive but I guess you and I just have different understandings of what it means for something/someone to be “insanely racist”.

                The “white rappers” comment was actually mostly a joke about the ways that white rappers end up on the hot seat for trying to appropriate blackness or trying to embrace their whiteness.

  12. cicely May 9, 2009 at 11:22 am Reply

    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.”?

    • young_ May 9, 2009 at 11:49 am Reply

      Cicely, I definitely believe that evidence of individual intent and beliefs should be determinative in figuring out whether someone like Roth is a racist and/or driven by white privilege-white entitlement. But I don’t think that is the source of my disagreement with the PB crew. I think its really more a matter of us having very different ideas about: (1) the validity of making certain types of logical inferences; (2) the degree to which certain types of dumb/immature/offensive comments speak for themselves as evidence of racism, white privilege and white entitlement; (3) the importance of seriously considering plausible alternative explanations in instances like this; and (4) the relevance of various types of other context about rap and rappers in general.

      I hate speaking for other people (especially those who have questioned my motives and called me names LOL!!), but I got the sense that they believed that Roth’s comments were unequivocal proof of his racist intent and motivations. Throughout the chain there were numerous instances where various people interpreted Roth’s comments as indicative of a belief that white=right and black=bad, or that his whiteness makes him superior to nonwhites, where I just couldn’t quite cosign on those interpretations. I think the heart of the disagreement is really probably as simple as that.

      • cicely May 9, 2009 at 12:32 pm Reply


        is the “plausible alternative explanation” that he’s “dumb and immature”? what other plausible alternative explanations are there?

        it seems like you find a lack of validity in the logical inferences that you find people to be taking. do think that lack of validity is informed by the differences in understanding about what constitutes such things as white privilege, white entitlement, white supremacy, racism, etc?

        do you judge “the degree to which certain types of dumb/immature/offensive comments speak for themselves as evidence of racism, white privilege and white entitlement” based on intent? if not, how do you judge it?

        what relevance do you think is lacking regarding “various types of other context about rap and rappers in general”?

        • young_ May 9, 2009 at 2:03 pm Reply

          Yes, I think a very important alternative explanation is that he’s ignorant and immature. Clearly not mutually exclusive with him also being a racist, but I think it’s a difference worth taking seriously.

          You may very well be right– from some of the comments, I gather that I have a very different understanding of terms like racism, white supremacy and white entitlement, etc. than the PB crew. To be honest, I’m still not sure that I understand what definitions some people have been using. But I get the feeling that even if they did share my definitions of these terms, we’d still each come down on different sides.

          I’m not sure how to answer your question about judging “the degree…” I guess it basically just involves asking myself whether the evidence presented (i.e. statement x, statement y) necessarily support my understanding of the claims against him.

          The only relevant context that I and a couple other people tried to offer was that rappers often say dumb, unthoughtful things, that young people who listen to rap can often be very uninformed about rap’s diversity, and that plenty of people (including rappers) have long complained that modern rap has devolved into just being about “drugs/rims/hos” or whatever.

  13. cicely May 9, 2009 at 11:24 am Reply

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

    • G.D. May 9, 2009 at 12:59 pm Reply

      lol. you’re good.

  14. t.o.a n. May 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm Reply

    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.

    • young_ May 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm Reply

      I think it’s certainly relevant and I agree with you. Black people say dismissively foul stuff about rap and its mainstream content all the time and aren’t considered racist. A black person could have said almost every one of his quotes, verbatim, and been relatively fine (even though he would have been just as ignorant). I tried raising a version of this point before but was shot down for trying to shift the subject.

      • blackink May 9, 2009 at 3:24 pm Reply

        Again young, where do you get this stuff? Who do you talk to? You’re painting a very broad brush here, don’t you think?

        No, I think a black musical artist (or any black person, for that matter) could certainly say what Roth said and have it be considered racist. For instance, I think Bill Cosby’s “analysis” of the problems besetting the so-called black community ventures into racist territory.

        But I think the point is: no one is calling Roth a racist. Or at least I’m not. However, what he’s said about “rap and its mainstream content” is racist. Maybe that wasn’t his intent. Maybe he wasn’t trying be malicious. But the content of what he said had the same effect. It was offensive to the point of being racist.

        I know plenty of black people who call out other black person for saying racist garbage? And I think if, say, Lupe Fiasco, said the same ignorant, foul things, we would have been inclined to call him on the carpet.

        I think, all too often, we set a really high bar for racism. Like, you have to be wearing a bedsheet, burning a cross in someone’s front yard and unapologetically call someone “nigger” to meet the standard. Of course, a lot of people are going to fall short in that case.

        But it ain’t just white octogenarians from Philadelphia, Mississippi, named Cletus who are racist and say racist things, you dig?

        • young_ May 9, 2009 at 4:06 pm Reply

          Cosby? Really? If Roth or another white guy had said a fraction of the things Cosby did, it would have been curtains. Blaming poor black peoples’ situations on their flawed values and morals? Implicitly saying that its ok for police to shoot black people over poundcake? Making extraordinary generalizations about poor people spending ridiculous money on their kids’ shoes, etc. No comparison… not even close.

          Aside from your Cosby analogy, you’re basically just offering your personal opinion, which just happens to be different than mine. That’s cool but I just want to make sure we both see it for what it is. But you and I both know that if I went on a google mission, I could probably come up with tons of interview comment and lyrics from black rappers with unfair generalizations about the lurid subject matter of contemporary hip-hop (backpack rappers and, more recently, “black hipster” rappers among others have been great for these kind of sound bytes). But judging from your skepticism about whether rap has even changed all that much in the last 15 years, I doubt you and I will get very far talking about hip-hop together.

          Your non-sequitur kkk quips aside, you’re right that some people set the bar for racism too high, just like some people set it too low (or more accurately, don’t set a bar at all but just think they know it when they see it). I would be really interested in hearing some type of coherent explanation about where that racism bar should be.

          • G.D. May 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm Reply

            just because Cosby’s rants weren’t met with universal opprobrium doesn’t mean his comments weren’t racist. Indeed, a lot of people saw his pound cake speech that way and called it such. The fact that his comments were held up as much-needed soothsaying by white social conservatives — the same folks who have been traditionally sympathetic to racist sentiments — sort of underscores that point.

            were his comments given a pass by a lot of people? of course. why? because he’s a black person, and a black person with an extensive philanthropic history with black organizations. he was treated differently because his relationship with the people who were the targets of his venom is fundamentally different. That doesn’t make his comments any less fucked-up. Black people use ‘nigger’ pejoratively toward other black people all the time. It’s gross and should be called out, but it matters when the speaker is black.

            Seriously, fam. Why is this so hard to grasp?

            So here’s where we stand: i think that Asher Roth said bone-headed, racist shit. i also think that Bill Cosby said some bone-headed racist shit, arguably more explicitly so. you don’t.

            is that about right?

            let’s agree to disagree and dead this.

            • young_ May 9, 2009 at 5:14 pm Reply

              But the target of Roth’s comments were some RAPPERS, not black people as a racial group, the black poor, the black masses, etc. That and a whole bunch of other things make his comments very different than Cosby’s.

              And I appreciate you for acknowledging and defending the difference/double-standard based on the race of the speaker. but you were the first person to do so (others like blackink basically denied there was a double-standard) so I’m not sure why you’re asking me why it’s so hard to grasp, as if we had covered that ground before. (If you did some time earlier and I missed it in all of the comments, my bad).

              But ok, I’m agreeing to dead this from my end.

              Peace fam.

              • Jay Smooth May 12, 2009 at 1:21 pm Reply

                That’s not a double standard, at all.

                It’s a standard, doing what any properly functioning standard is supposed to do. A standard is not supposed to render the same verdict about everything it judges, if it did so it would not be a standard.

                Standards are used to group things into different categories, or distinguish between some things that are acceptable and others that are not, by assessing the relevant differences between those things.

                A double-standard is one that makes such distinctions without having any relevant qualitative differences to justify it.

                Bill Cosby being Black is a meaningful, qualitative difference. So judging his words differently is not a double-standard. It’s a good old, plain old standard.

                • young_ May 12, 2009 at 1:32 pm Reply

                  I hear you (and GD) on this point, but I always think we need to be very, very careful in assuming that the race of a speaker/agent is in fact a “meaningful, qualitative difference.” I’m more persuaded by the relevance of Cosby’s long, prior and continuing, record of public service than his racial identity in interpreting the meaning and intent behind his remarks.

                  • G.D. May 12, 2009 at 1:34 pm Reply

                    so you’re suggesting that were he white, and had a long record of giving to black colleges and scholarship funds, that you’d view those remarks through the same lens?

                    • young_ May 12, 2009 at 1:40 pm

                      I know I’m in the minority on these types of questions, but honestly? Yes, I believe that I would see his comments through more or less the same lens.* But that’s actually a deceptively difficult thought experiment though, because it’s very hard to imagine a white person with that background using the precise rhetoric, allusions, diction, and intonation that really gave Cosby’s speech its… “spark”.

                      *FYI, as a possibly relevant aside– I never agreed with all the fuss about white kids using the n-word either, provided that they were absolutely clearly using them in the non-hostile, non-pejorative contexts that many of us often use it.

                  • Jay Smooth May 12, 2009 at 2:06 pm Reply

                    I am never anything but very, very careful when I speak of race.

                    If you’re sitting in a bar with your spouse, you wouldn’t see any difference between you kissing your spouse on the neck and calling him or her “honey”, and me walking up and doing the same?

                    It is only natural and fair to judge the same interaction differently if a different relationship is involved. Bill Cosby was speaking about a group of which he is a member…he was speaking about his own. That is a different relationship than any white person could have with the topic, no matter what else is on their bio. And it’s a difference that matters.

                    BTW regarding the exchange with Cicely above, I think it’s important to keep in mind that “intent” and “beliefs” are two different things. Beliefs often exist in the form of ingrained assumptions, that you act on without making a conscious choice to.. people often act upon racist beliefs without necessarily intending to do so.

                    • young_ May 12, 2009 at 2:18 pm

                      See…I understand your position but I think it’s actually extremely debatable whether Cosby was in fact really talking about a group that he belongs to. The specific group that he spoke about was poor black people, and he did so with a very self-righteous, stereotype-ridden, morally villifying, us versus them, approach.

                      And for the record, if I punched you in the face for trying to kiss my wife at a bar, I can assure you that your racial identity itself would not be meaningful or significant lol.

                    • G.D. May 12, 2009 at 2:27 pm

                      And for the record, if I punched you in the face for trying to kiss my wife at a bar, I can assure you that your racial identity itself would not be meaningful or significant lol.

                      but that’s not what…oy, nevermind.

                    • young_ May 12, 2009 at 2:33 pm

                      [that’s just me making a silly joke, by the way, I get Jay’s point and obviously I don’t mean no harm]

                  • Jay Smooth May 12, 2009 at 3:14 pm Reply

                    “The specific group that he spoke about was poor black people, and he did so with a very self-righteous, stereotype-ridden, morally villifying, us versus them, approach.”

                    Those are indeed meaningful distinctions, for which he was rightfully criticized.

                    And by that very same logic, if he were also white that’d be another form of meaningful distinction, which would rightfully bring an additional form of criticism.

        • young_ May 9, 2009 at 4:09 pm Reply

          And for the record, at least two of your counterparts called him straight-up racist during this thread and even questioned my intentions (and called me mean names) for withholding my agreement.

          • G.D. May 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm Reply

            we called you mean names? LOL. come on, duke.

            • young_ May 9, 2009 at 5:05 pm Reply

              Yeah man, Shani-O called me a troll!! I might never be the same again. LOL

              • shani-o May 9, 2009 at 5:13 pm Reply

                Yeah, I’m sorry about that, it was childish, which is why I changed it almost immediately.

                I can recommend a great therapist, if you need it, tho.

                • young_ May 9, 2009 at 5:15 pm Reply

                  Thanks, just giving you a hard time… didn’t realize you had changed it. Feel free to send me that therapist info when you get a chance tho.

  15. […] interviews Dan Charmas, in an interview that touches on some of the points that came up in our sprawling conversation about Asher Roth the other […]

  16. Acknickalous1 May 17, 2009 at 2:16 am Reply

    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.”

  17. Acknickalous1 May 17, 2009 at 5:49 am Reply


    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!

  18. Acknickalous1 May 17, 2009 at 6:49 am Reply

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

  19. LaJane Galt May 27, 2009 at 9:04 am Reply

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

    • young_ May 27, 2009 at 10:05 am Reply

      C’mon… in the whole wide world of the internet, you couldn’t find somewhere more timely (and applicable) to paste that link?

    • Jay Smooth May 27, 2009 at 4:47 pm Reply

      Aw c’mon. 🙂 I know that link and it’s a great one, as were coffeeandink’s contributions to the Racefail debate. But I think it’s off base to package that link within a glib dismissal of the effort Gene and his readers put into this discussion.

      Of course the convo got bogged down at times as any such convo will, but it also elicited a bunch of sharp & cogent responses (from Cicely, BitchPHD and others) that did a great job of clarifying the issues, and seemed to reflect a full awareness of the tactics and patterns coffeeandink describes.

      So I think the PostBourgie community deserves more credit than you’re giving here. 🙂 But again that link is always worth sharing.

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