Posted by: thecyberkrib | June 4, 2009

Concert Review: Asher Roth in Toronto




Asher Roth
@ El Mocambo
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Asher Roth phenomenon has officially touched Toronto. And they both will never be the same.

I’ll tell you straight up, after doing an interview with Asher, seeing him on MOD on Much, and watching his show at the El Mo: this guy is more than alright in my books. Sure, I was suspicious of Steve Rifkind’s intentions of signing him to SRC (you DO know that Loud Records was a potential signing home for Marshall “Eminem” Mathers at a point in time before Aftermath came knocking, right?), in part because of the proclamations that Asher’s auspicious debut was going to “eclipse Only Built For Cuban Linx” (word to the RZA: “Steve Rifkind musta been sniffin!”), as well as the supposed similarities to Slim Shady’s voice, among other questionable peculiarities in the Asher Roth saga (peace to Don Imus… not.)

So, I got the album, Asleep In The Bread Aisle. It’s cool, but nothing totally groundbreaking It’s not atrocious, but it’s certainly nothing near the level of Cuban Linx. But, when I saw Asher perform at the El Mocambo, I was sold on the kid. He’s got the playful and open-minded essence of hip hop’s energy alive in him, he really does. I’ve seen a lot of shows. I know it when I see it. For someone in their early 20’s to be putting on as seamless of a show as he did, and to give as much positive energy as he did, it virtually demolishes all ill will towards him and his various verbal faux pas. Even Eminem regrets saying some of the outlandish shit he said in the past. Once you take responsibility for your ignorance, make amends and then show and prove you have the will to be humble and learn, it’s all good in the hood.

So, it’s Thursday night. The El Mo is swollen with anticipating, drunken, anxious collegiate bodies. Sure, most of these people don’t come out regularly to rap shows here, but they came to see their new rap hero, and that’s what counts most, right? Asher Roth comes out not long after Justis opened up the show. Word was he held it down properly, and it felt like it as I walked in the sweaty hot box sauna that was the church of Asher Roth’s Screwface Capital christening. From the first ten seconds of Asher’s scrawny frame bounding out on stage while his DJ warmed up the needles and his live drummer heated up the skins, the people were ecstatic. And so was Asher.

You know the night’s gonna be something else when the MC takes a hit from a spliff lit by a screaming front row audience member before the show even starts. Not an advisable action for most first-show-ever rappers who want to continue a hassle-free live show career, but tonight, everything was going in Asher’s favor. The thick marijuana smoke was magnified by the shining lights, as the cheery hit “I Love College” dropped on the crowd. They sang along to almost every song, all night.

I don’t know who it was, but -somebody- taught Asher Roth how to rock a tight ass concert, and that’s exactly what he did. I really wasn’t a fan of the album, but this dude turned an above average LP into a wildly entertaining and satisfying live music experience, from start to finish. Snippets of Dr. Dre and Styles P weed songs primed the crowd for “Blunt Cruisin”, my favorite song on the album, and the introduction of Asher’s hype-ass hype man. And just when you think the show is gonna be mostly beats and rhymes and shit talk, all four of the performers got together to do a “Candy Rain” tribute to Soul For Real, complete with hand snaps and spin kicks while doing their best New Edition routine. Fucking excellent.

How can I dis the kid, when in Asher’s first time to Canada, he’s already putting “when I say ‘T’, you say ‘O’! ‘T.O.’! ‘T.O.’!” into his seamless segues? How about the two minute acapella about the poison meats and polluted environment we all are mysterious surviving in? Or his earnest proclamations to tell everyone to be “happy to be alive and free to make your own decisions”? Is that enough to give him more props than the average live rapper? Well, I’ll certainly give props to his fucking phenomenal live drummer, who embellished all the songs with some crisp 3-piece percussion pummeling throughout the night, as well as during his 3 minute solo. Also, DJ Recognize was almost immaculate with his timing, as there was no dead air the entire show. His DJ routine slicing up Digital Underground’s “Doowhatchulike” was pretty damn dope, except for one thing: it was almost scratch-for-scratch the exact same routine as one of DJ Roc Raida’s classic sets, all the way from the spinaround-spinal-fader-switch to the two-hand wheel-it-back pulldowns, with the nose doing the fader toggling. The record didn’t skip once, and the crowd loved it, but it was exactly the same as Roc Raida’s. I mean, Hip Hop Karaoke is amazing, and rap cover songs can be done great. But can DJ’s bite whole routines now, too? I don’t think so.

I digress. Shit was still mad on point. The whole show was fun, fresh, and interactive. And in true Screwface fashion, when Asher threw his water onto the steaming hot and excited crowd during his last song, someone doused him back, twice as hard, all over his shirtless chest, his pants, and the mic. Only a professional wouldn’t lose all composure. It was so very Toronto, on some “I may love your music, but I still will disrespect your ass when I see you in concert” shit. Ha. The crowd demanded more Asher after he left the stage, and with perfect timing, he returned to murder his ‘Roc Boys’ freestyle over Jay-Z’s horny American Gangster heater. Then he dropped the mic, and disappeared like a thief in the night.

But he’ll be back. That’s a guarantee. And it will be bigger than ever. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if he came back one more time before his sophomore album comes out. I’m sure Asher Roth and Toronto left that much of a good impression on each other.

Like I said, I didn’t think the album was that great. But the live show was fucking incredible.

Addi “Mindbender” Stewart

Side Note (video):
I discovered this video from one of Toronto’s marquee party promoters Ian Espinet, an inpromptu sit-down with Asher Roth at Pantages hotel beside late night 24-hour eatery Fran’s.

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