THIS WASN’T EXACTLY what Dave and Beth Roth expected when they dropped their son Asher off at West Chester University in 2003, to study to become an elementary-school teacher.
It’s Friday night, 12:30, and there’s a stoopid vibe at the Bamboo Bar on Delaware Avenue. Seems like there must be 2,000 21-year-olds here, gulping long-neck Coronas, stirring watery pink drinks in plastic cups, trying to look hot or, failing that, cool (or, failing that, dangerous). The line outside had been 50 yards long to get into this not-so-secret after-party. It would feature a set by Asher Roth, Morrisville, PA’s own worldwide hip-hop sensation, fresh from a teenybop music festival in Camden earlier in the day, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in New York the night prior, and, before that, two weeks in Germany, Paris and London. His first album, Asleep in the Bread Aisle, dropped three weeks earlier, in April. It debuted at number five on Billboard’s U.S. sales chart and briefly became the top album on iTunes, pushing aside the Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack. Roth is no gangsta rapper — the 23-year-old, as white as Michael Phelps, is known for wearing a joke sweatshirt that says “COLLEGE” (he left West Chester after two years) and for his lyrics celebrating the pleasures of life without parental supervision.
Now Roth, all fuzzy blond hair and adorable smile, strolls onto the Bamboo Bar stage in a striped sweater, looking like somebody’s little brother.
“Hello fuckin’ Philly!” he shouts to a surge of noise. “This is like coming home for me. Is West Chester in the house?” Scattered cheers. “Bucks County in the house?” Slightly louder. “Philly!” Crickets. “Jersey!” The house roars.
“If you wanna have sex and smoke weed tonight, clap your hands!” he says, and the slow riff begins for his catchy first single, “I Love College” — an instant inductee into the frat-party canon. Every few lines, Roth holds out the microphone. Everyone knows the words:
That party last night was awfully crazy,
I wish we taped it
I danced my ass off and had this one girl completely naked
Drink my beer and smoke my weed, but
my good friends is all I need
Pass out at 3, wake up at 10, go out to eat, then do it again
Man, I love college …
“Honestly, of all the songs, when ‘I Love College’ was chosen as the single, I was appalled. I couldn’t believe it,” says Beth Roth, Asher’s mother.
“We thought it was the worst song on the album,” says Dave Roth, Asher’s dad.
“And the song goes platinum,” Beth says. “So I’m going, What do I know?”
Dave and Beth Roth agreed to meet and talk, about what it’s like to have your youngest child become a poster boy for blazing some weed and getting drunk girls naked. But also about parents and kids: how we may not appreciate everything they say and do, but in the end it’s really not our call. We want our children to become independent, happy, successful, but it needs to be on their own terms. They can even still be good boys and good girls, and fine adults, when they go through stoopid stuff, which (close your eyes and cover your ears) they all do.