We can measure a good life by the quality and amount of minor details to which we pay our attention. Philadelphia’s Asher Roth, 34, knows this well. His latest album, Flowers On the Weekend, embraces the minutiae of a simpler life. The album feels like a relieved exhale for Asher, who has done everything in his power in the past decade to elevate himself beyond his 2009 hit “I Love College.” Forgoing partying, Flowers dabbles in the importance of fun and fulfillment in life. It’s a breezy album meant to emphasize the lightness of being and the importance of taking in all this world has to offer us that may otherwise go overlooked. There is an ease to this music; Asher Roth sounds less like he has to prove his rapping chops and more like a relaxed beat poet going off of muscle memory.
“A key goal of mine, with this new music, was about slowing down,” Asher Roth tells me over the phone. “Even a time like now, there is a realignment going on. Long story short: I was able to get home and comfortable, and around people that care about me.”
With comfort in mind, Flowers feels like an album dedicated to springtime excitement and taking in every minor victory life has to offer. It’s a well-timed record—the world is ending, after all—that reminds us of the necessity of taking deep breaths and stepping away from the news cycle. As Asher tells me, the record was made in a small shed in Fairless Hill, PA, away from the bustle of the industry and any undue influence. It was an album made for the love of music, to heal both the listener and Asher himself.
Of course, Asher Roth’s happiness is hardwon. The man did not reach a point of peace without endless setbacks and hardship, feeling like he was in over his head. With the help of his village and deep breaths, Asher has come to a place where peace—finally—comes naturally to him.
“It’s healing for me,” Asher concludes of his new album. “Not for nothing, I have stress from what people pegged me as from my earlier stuff, 10, 12 years ago. It’s been so hard for people in the outer audience to allow me to grow. I’ve been doing that on my own and doing that through music. It’s a hard thing to do. So, making this music was healing because it was growth for me.”
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: The new album, Flowers On the Weekend, feels like an embracing of the simpler things in life. Could you talk to me about where you were at mentally when you came up with the concept for the record?
Asher Roth: I was home, you know? I moved back to Philadelphia and closer to my family and the things that matter to me. It’s tough if people listening to this album aren’t familiar with my story—being plucked from what I was doing in school and moving to Atlanta, then New York, and then Los Angeles. All of that time was important for me to realize [I] want to have a sense of home. So much of my time was spent kind of whimsical. It was all happening so fast. A key goal of mine, with this new music, was about slowing down. Even a time like now, there is a realignment going on. Long story short: I was able to get home and comfortable, and around people that care about me.
There years ago, you told us: “The stuff that comes out of Philadelphia is authentic.” How did that Philly authenticity influence this album?
I don’t think there’s a lot of music business around here, so decisions aren’t made with the business looming over the music. It’s nice to just make music for music’s sake. I’m not saying that wasn’t the case with earlier music, but when you sign to a major record label, you have an obligation to sell records. Asleep In the Bread Aisle was my only major label release. After that… I wasn’t getting any real support. Everybody I was working with, their attention moved somewhere else.
I went and started making music for music’s sake. Seared Foie Gras, which was the tape that came after Bread Aisle, was just me rhyming to rhyme. [With this album], we’re working on writing songs with meaning and not just rhyming to rhyme. [On] “Still Got Some,” the refrain is: “Lately, I’ve been feeling unwanted.” That’s not us trying to sell records. Music is one of the only healing outlets we have. Philadelphia has provided me with a place to have a home—a place you can come back to that kind of smells and feels like you. You’re not around people that want something from you. That authenticity and my surroundings have helped me make music that, to me, is healing and comfortable.
You spend some time on Flowers talking about having fun and ignoring celebrity. How important is fun at this stage in your career?
It’s everything! I understand the reality of work not being fun for a lot of people. This is from a fairly privileged perspective, that I get to make music for a living. What’s fun, also, is I would be [doing] it anyway. If I was serving beer across the street, I would come home at night and probably make rap songs with my friends as an outlet. That’s who I am. We all process emotions differently. For me, keeping it lighthearted and fun helps me get through my trials and tribulations. It helps me get through the inundation of all the terrible news when I wake up and read bad article after bad article about what’s wrong. Keeping it lighthearted helps keep me optimistic.
Flowers On the Weekend breathes well—it’s a springtime record for sure. How did you go about curating that lightness of sound in an era where everything is dour?
A lot of the time, people can be subconsciously influenced by what’s around them. We’re just in a little shed in the woods of Fairless Hills, PA, making this album, not influenced by anything other than our thoughts. Being away from [the music industry] allowed me to pull my influences and made it easy not to try to compete with other people’s stuff. When I reflect on it, it was easy. We weren’t trying to do anything. The theme of the album came later; the music came first. Ultimately, I think Flowers On the Weekend can be interpreted a million different ways, and I love leaving it open. Both flowers and the weekend are small joys in our lives, small victories, and we’ll take them where we can get them.
Life is made up of the small victories.
Yeah, I would agree with that.
What statement do you hope Flowers impresses upon longtime fans who have grown up with you?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure what my intentions are, but I know I want this to be a healing record. The album’s very conversational. I’m not rapping all fast, to the point where you can’t understand me. We’re not sacrificing lyrics for the sake of a catchy melody. There’s a conversation there, and I hope this album is something people sit down with and listen to top to bottom. Take a deep breath. You mentioned the album breathes well. I talk about breathing right off the jump. That’s so important.
I get stressed out. I know some people are like, “Asher’s so carefree.” That’s not necessarily the truth. Some of the things I use when I get stressed out are breaths. Hopefully, this music allows people to sit down, not pace around, and just take a breather. There’s a lot of power in thought and observation, and not feeling like [we] have to be doing a million things at once. Hopefully, this music is a time out.
It’s healing for me. Not for nothing, I have stress from what people pegged me as from my earlier stuff, 10, 12 years ago. It’s been so hard for people in the outer audience to allow me to grow. I’ve been doing that on my own and doing that through music. It’s a hard thing to do. So, making this music was healing because it was growth for me. Hopefully, other people listen to it and feel like they can do the same thing.
From that same 2017 interview, you said, “I’ve had wonderful moments of being in the limelight and being part of a celebrity culture, but I didn’t necessarily feel happy or fulfilled.” Are you happy now?
I am happy—thank you. I appreciate you asking me, and I hope more people ask other people if they’re happy, and if they say, “No…” I hope they ask, “Why not?” That conversation is healthy. I’m blessed to have both my parents still in my life. A lot of older people in my life remind me happiness is a mindset that takes a lot of work… A lot of us are going through it. You see it with these alarming statistics about mental health and how important it is for us to be with each other. We need each other. You’re seeing it with the quarantine as well. People need people, and when I have the support of other people, and people to make music with, and someone like yourself having an interest in the music, that’s the small fabric of my life that makes me happy.