By Jake Krzeczowski November 15, 2012 8:38PM
Updated: November 16, 2012 7:54PM
Since vaulting to fame on the strength his 2009 hit single “I Love College,” Philadelphia artist Asher Roth finally feels as if he has found his place in the hip-hop world.
Explaining the environment as “similar to high school,” Roth, who performs Monday at Reggie’s Rock Club, feels comfortable inChicago. “It’s got East Coast tendencies with a relaxed West Coast vibe, while not losing that Midwest feel,” he said. “It’s kind of like this all-knowing, all-seeing eye that is Chicago.”
This year has been a watershed one for Chicago hip-hop music. With the rise of acts like Chief Keef, Rockie Fresh and King Louie, combined with a steady and restless underground scene, the Windy City has found itself popular with rap enthusiasts looking for the next big thing.
Before the spotlight found its way to Chicago, though, Roth championed several local acts who have gone on to monster success.
To be sure, Roth has had a bit of a backward rise through the ranks. Today, the norm often sees an artist release several free mix tapes online before finding fame on the big stage. Roth, though, hit it big off the bat but then slipped a bit.
After a disappointing major-label release (“Asleep in the Bread Aisle”), Roth sought “to build a foundation” in order to build credibility and a genuine sound.
“For the past few years, I’ve had to go back and fill in that foundation,” he said. “I believe in foundations; I always believe in wanting people to know what I stand for, that I’m not just a product.”
While looking for new sounds, Roth found himself drawn to the Midwest’s soulful, highly instrumental vibe. That search eventually paired him with the genre-bending Chicago-based band Kids These Days.
Roth then featured Kids These Days on his 2011 “Pabst and Jazz” mix tape. Several members lent a hand throughout, including trumpeter extraordinaire Nico Segal, who always injects a healthy dose of soul.
Roth has been sharing dates with the band on his “Fall Clashic” tour. “I was introduced to Kids These Days through a mutual friend; we remixed ‘Hard Times,’ and just rocked it from there,” Roth said. “The fact that we’re doing shows with them is great; people who don’t know them are in for a surprise.”
Also featured on the tape are his close friend Chuck Inglish of the Cool Kids, Rockie Fresh and production from local duo Blended Babies. The result is a project that’s Chicago to its core.
For now, the 27-year-old Roth takes solace in finding his place in the grand scheme of things: making music that might not top the charts but satisfies a uniquely creative spirit.
“People know who I am, they know what I stand for: progress of the sound, being a facilitator for people that we like,” Roth said. “I’m in a comfort zone now, I feel like I’ve carved out my niche in all this.”
With so many local contacts, Roth looks forward to returning to one of his favorite cities.
“There’s a lot going on in Chicago right now; the city has the ability to stay relevant in sound and push it forward,” he said. “I’m just excited to be back at Reggie’s to be a small part of it.”
Jake Krzeczowski is a locally based free-lance writer.