Celebrity: Straight Outta Morrisville

Rapper Asher Roth has been called the suburban Eminem — and worse. Dave and Beth Roth, his parents, just know he’s a good boy

“People say the most horrible things about him,” Beth Roth says. “When I read these blogs — and it’s really hard not to — it’s hard as a mother to not want to sort of just jump into the fray and say: You guys don’t know this person. You have no idea.”

The video for Asher’s second single, “Be By Myself,” shows buxom bikini-clad women dripping with paint in various Day-Glo colors.

“I actually didn’t dislike the video,” says Beth Roth. “He did.” She indicates Dave. “It’s psychedelic. I can see it being kind of trendy.” Beth says the organ riff in the new song reminds her of the Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” She has a music background. Her father was a jazz musician; she sang professionally. (“Steve Wonder, that sort of thing.”)

“Meanwhile, Asher is very respectful of women,” she says. “He has two beautiful older sisters.”

“The bloggers don’t know any of that,” Dave says.

“I know,” says Beth, “and as far as relationships that he’s had in his life, he’s been very respectful. So it just really makes me crazy when people make those comments.”

“But that’s his — ”

“I knowww … ”

“That’s his — he has a public persona. They’re not responding to Asher,” Dave says. He shrugs. “I just get pissed off when they drag me into it. Like when they say, ‘His dad probably bankrolled him, because he’s a white Jewish suburban rich boy.’ [The Roths aren’t Jewish or rich.] I didn’t invest a dime into this. All I did was stay out of his way. The other stuff, he set himself up for, because he’s a public persona, right? He wrote a sexist song, and he’s identified with that now.”

DAVE AND BETH Roth married in Los Angeles and moved East. They had daughters Ajaka and Tess, moved from New York City to just outside Princeton, and when Asher was three months old landed in Morrisville, still near the train to New York. Ajaka, 28, now teaches at a public school in Brooklyn, and Tess, 25, tutors in Harlem.

Asher attended a racially diverse elementary school and was a true Morrisville kid, which is to say he was an all-star Little League pitcher. When he was 12, the team went to the states. Dave and Asher wrote a rap they planned to perform at a team party, but Asher chickened out, Dave recalls. Asher was a class clown — some teachers loved him, others called parent conferences — but he was shy. He was in the Pennsbury High class of 2003 that was immortalized in the book Wonderland. Author Michael Bamberger spent the year getting to know kids, but Asher didn’t make the pages. He’d discovered hip-hop — Jay-Z, Eminem — and was in his friend Brian Sellers’s basement, making recordings. They sold their CDs for $5 at Yardley Harvest Day and at school, their book bags heavy with discs.

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