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Asher Roth

Asher Roth is this white kid who raps -- the internets is all abuzz about him, and has been for some time. But lately, it's because  of his off-color comments about nappy-headed hoes and socially irresponsible black rappers. His foilbles -- and subsequent apology -- serve to remind us all that while rap music has been embraced by people all over the world, these people are not stakeholders. They feel too comfortable to use, abuse and critique the culture from an entitled stance without offering anything back into it. Many are just fans of the music, curious negrophiles and hipsters who like the music, but have little regard for the people. They aren't stakeholders, and it shows. Their behavior is not racist, per se. It's just dismissive, which may argauably be worse. Hip-hop culture is in peril and has been for some time. Roth makes me remember the first time I knew that the culture was in trouble.

I remember watching this young white DJ come-up in my neck of the woods whom, after first writing him off, I came to respect. He put out a  tipsheet called "Da Ill Butters" and these mixtape in the late 90s that were just awful. He couldn't put two records together with a string and he didn't know enough about rap music to be giving any "tips." His mix game was leaking oil (arguably) until the advent of Serato and his skills increased. He practiced. His ears got better. Then he applied his marketing savvy by creating a brand that came to be quite formidable. What I dug about him is early-on he routinely did food and clothing drives, put local artist on all his mixtapes and steadfastly refused to play "gangsta" rap, "pop" rap or any record that used the word "nigga," which made alot of sense to me. He seemed to know his place and his space, within the culture. He felt some responsiblity to the hip-hop community, and I respected it. His faux urban affect didn't past muster, but he grew out of it, thank God.  Ala Eminem, he had alot of black co-signers, and he needed them. Eventually, though, he didn't.

Once homeboy got up int the game good, his steez changed. He went from underground tracks to playing Puffy and The Hot Boyz, rockin' records that dropped n-bombs left and right. The charity work fell off. I caught him out one night and asked him why he changed his style. "You need to tell your brethren to stop using the word," he said, kinda smugly. I can't accurately describe my dissapointment, because as wonderfully talented as Mick Boogie is, he couldn't/wouldn't make this one stand, which, given how important a DJ he has become, would have been impactful.

He wasn't a stakeholder, merely a fan and profiteer and didn't feel the urgency of saving the culture from the pop music machine. His commitment was to the dollar, and not the culture. To be absolutely clear I have never heard him call anyone a nigga  or disparage anyone's race -- he's one of the nicest guys in the business. He still routinely puts on Cleveland artist and producers and by way of disclosure, you should know that he and I have had verbal skirmishes here and there, but we're on good terms. He left Cleveland for New York, which is perhaps the smartest thing he's ever done. I wish him well.

Mick's color was never the problem: it was the entitlement and his refusal to acknowledge it that I found disquieting. I would often tell him that when you are a visitor in someone's house -- or culture -- the polite thing to do is to be gracious. He didn't get it. Today, he's a good kid who's grown into a fine yong man and one of the most important DJs in the world. He's become a symbol of the culture's evolution but I can't decide if that's good or bad.

White people have changed hip-hop culture forever, and I suspect many still doesn't get it or feel any responsibility to the culture or the people. Asher Roth is certainly among those. Roth is so talented, and it's a shame to see his ignorance and sense of entitlement cause him to jump the shark so soon out the gate. I wonder, how we impart to lovers of hip-hop music --- most of whom hold no stake in the growth or disintegration of it -- the importance of respecting hip-hop culture, and hip-hop people.