BETH ROTH THOUGHT the family’s little Colonial house on a quiet side street was a bit messy inside for a guest to see, and it was too rainy to meet under the wisteria on the pergola in the Roths’ back garden, so it was settled: wine at the Yardley Inn. Beth Roth is a radiant, earthy 56-year-old, a Stevie Nicks blonde who teaches yoga at a farmhouse studio in Newtown named the Prancing Peacock.
“I could just say I’m a yoga teacher and leave it at that,” she says. “I’m also an astrologer. It’s one of those things that other people may … ”
“Cringe at,” Dave interjects.
“ … feel uncomfortable with,” Beth continues. “I’m an astrologer, and I read tarot cards. So the kids grew up with a kind of metaphysical mom. And they’ve got their dad.”
Dave Roth, 55, is the son of a Navy officer. Stanford graduate. Now helps run a design firm that makes websites and buildings easier for people to navigate. “Dave and I come from different planets, and we’ve had a successful marriage for 30 years because of that, I think,” Beth says. Both of them end their e-mails with the word “Peace.”
“When we heard early iterations of the songs that were going to be on the album,” says Dave, “I told Asher, I like the songs, but this is a lot about smoking dope, chicks and booze, getting laid. There’s gotta be something else to write about. His defense was the label was telling him: This album has to be like you’re 23 years old. You gotta write this one as a kid, for the kids. They rejected some of the songs that made him sound a bit too mature, you know?”
Asher definitely didn’t have to go to the library to learn about smoking dope, chicks and booze.
“I mean, there is an aspect,” Beth says. “There definitely is an aspect. … ”
“I don’t care,” Dave says. “I know who he is. And we have conversations about it: Why did you choose that?”
Dave admits there could be an upside, too: “I Love College” may get more kids interested in higher education. “The Army should ask him to write a recruiting song,” Dave says.
Asher Roth is a suburban, white kid in an urban, African-American game, so questions about his provenance, his legitimacy, about the extra attention that great white hopes receive in certain professions, have been part of the buzz from the start. He’s been compared to Eminem. But Eminem had a famously troubled life, and growls: “When you see my dad, tell him I slit his throat in a dream I had.” Ash is feeling fine.
Critics and bloggers have found plenty to hate on. In April, student protests at a Vermont college over “I Love College” and other lyrics demeaning to women (one of Asher’s earlier, Internet-only tracks was called “Rub on Your Titties,” for instance) got Roth thrown off a concert lineup. Asher later fanned more flames: At Rutgers to perform, he posted an ill-considered Twitter message (are there any other kind?) joking that he was “hanging out with nappy headed hoes,” a reference to Don Imus’s racist comment about the college’s women’s basketball team. He was crucified online. His most forgiving critics allowed that he’s immature, and comfortable in a multi-racial work environment — and had misjudged his license to talk smack.