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His college partying paid off

Asher Roth's rap single 'I Love College' is matriculating up the

March 14, 2009|Charlie Amter

Just six months ago, few people outside of hip-hop heads who stumbled across Asher Roth's MySpace page or blog had heard of the up-and-coming rapper. Now, thanks to the seemingly unstoppable single "I Love College," savvy marketing from Scooter Braun and maybe even the fact that the 23-year-old's pals helped take down a madman on an airplane earlier this year, Asher Roth somehow has made music fans forget all about Eminem's long-awaited comeback.

"I didn't know 'I Love College' was going to be 'the one,' " Roth said, somewhat sheepishly, from Atlanta earlier this month.

The charismatic college dropout -- he was an elementary education major at West Chester University of Pennsylvania -- is connecting with teens and twentysomethings on campuses nationwide this spring, thanks in no small part to his laid-back, laconic delivery and lightweight lyrical content.

"I was mostly there for the experience," Roth said of his college years. "Everybody partied there . . . . I didn't do the fraternity stuff, though."

Roth got his start rapping over other people's beats and selling mix tapes for $5 when he was a senior in high school. "We just used to download beats off the Internet, and we thought we were cool."

These days, his friends aren't the only ones who think he's cool: "I Love College" is now one of the most downloaded songs in the country, with more than 350,000 paid downloads.

How did the white rapper manage to sneak his way into the Top 20 of Billboard's Hot 100 this week? Setting aside rich production from Ben H. Allen for a moment, enter music industry impresario and SRC Records Chairman Steve Rifkind, the man who helped make Akon a fixture of urban radio and who, in 2007, signed Roth to a five-record deal after having him freestyle for only a few minutes.

"We knew we had something special with him over the summer last year," Rifkind said from his Florida home. "Now, all formats are really embracing him: You got rock, you got pop, you got crossover . . . the kid can spit."

According to Rifkind, the SRC team is "just kicking in right now" behind the scenes to take Roth to the top of the charts. "We're firing it up on the radio level. We knew we had something on the alternative side, and we're just taking chances right now" at urban radio.

This month, Rifkind has Roth hitting key college markets such as Boulder, Colo., and College Park, Md. Earlier this week, he filmed a "Spring Break" special for MTV in Panama City, Fla. And he has a string of shows lined up at South by Southwest next week in another college town, Austin, Texas.

Roth will drop his anticipated full-length "Asleep in the Bread Aisle" on April 20, and SoCal residents curious to see if Roth can hold it down live will have their chance soon. The Morrisville, Pa., native recently was added to the lineup of the two-day Bamboozle Left music festival at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine for April 4 and 5.

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charlie.amter@latimes.com

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