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GUY RAZ, host:

Zoe also asked the group to take a listen to this song by a new, young rapper named Asher Roth.

(Soundbite of song, "Fallen")

Mr. ASHER ROTH (Rapper): (Rapping) Couldn't hide the fact that I wanted to rap. Bought Jay-Z CD with my own pension. And that was back around '98 with the Langley sniffilin, Money ain't a thing. And even though I really couldn't relate, I kept studyin, and listenin and stuffin my face. And now...

Ms. ANN BAILEY (Host, "Breakfast at Sulimay's"): I kind of like that song. I'm going to give that boy a big hug. It's rap, but it's good. It's like a nice, soft rap. You could hear the lyrics, and he wasn't controversial.

Mr. JOE WALKER (Host, "Breakfast at Sulimay's"): The only thing I wish was the drummer would be a little more subdued so I could hear the lyrics better, but it was just another rap song to me.

RAZ: That song, "Fallen," by Asher Roth, may have failed to excite Joe Walker, but Roth is exciting plenty of other critics with his fresh, freestyle form, but more on that in a moment.

The first thing you need to know about Asher Roth is he's white, a 23-year-old kid from the middle-class suburb of Morrisville outside Philadelphia. And not only does he not hide this biographical detail, he celebrates it.

Mr. ROTH: Being proud of where I'm from has been much more beneficial than trying to hide it and just blending with the crowd.

RAZ: Earlier this year, Roth scored a hit. He's now sold more than a million copies of his frat boy party anthem called "I Love College."

(Soundbite of song, "I Love College")

Mr. ROTH: (Rapping) 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. I wanna go to college for the rest of my life.

RAZ: The thing about Asher Roth is he desperately wants to be taken seriously, but "I Love College" is Asher Roth's biggest hit, his calling card and possibly, he admits, his biggest liability.

Mr. ROTH: That's just a dumb song. It's true. It's the least thought-provoking song you could probably come up with. But in the same respect, it's kind of a good starting point and a good reference point for us to start a broader topic of conversation.

RAZ: What is that topic of conversation? I mean, you say the song is a dumb song. I mean, it's about smoking weed, getting a girl naked, drinking a lot. A friend of yours gets sick. I mean, what's the conversation you're trying to provoke?

Mr. ROTH: Well that's the thing. It's not - the conversation isn't based off of that. That's the lifestyle in which I can talk to these people. Hey, I come from that same world as you do, and that's - you know, that's why it sold a million copies plus just because people are relating to it.

(Soundbite of song, "I Love College")

Mr. ROTH: (Rapping) Man, I love college.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Hey.

RAZ: Hip-hop is a phenomenal commercial success, and it's been estimated that anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of hip-hop music in America is consumed by young, white kids like Asher Roth. And yet, the suburbs haven't really produced a commercially viable, or for that matter, a respected white rapper, that is until Asher Roth, according to New York Times critic Jon Caramanica.

Mr. JON CARAMANICA (Critic, New York Times): There's a certain set of skill that hip-hop classicists really cling to, a certain rigidity of rhyme structure, tricky internal rhyme schemes, rhyming syllables throughout the lines of different verses. These are all things that Asher does incredibly well.

(Soundbite of song, "Lark on my Go-Kart")

Mr. ROTH: (Rapping) Poor metaphor pedicure get your feet fixed. Walk in my shoes for a few you gonna need it. Yeah get your Wii Fit to practice your fris with. Need a few weeks before you can compete with. Razor Ramon flow oh so sharp. You can take Kapowski. I'm gonna a take lark on my go-kart, go-kart, go-kart...

Mr. ROTH: Caramanica predicts that Asher Roth will be the most successful white rapper since Eminem, and while he's best known for a somewhat puerile college anthem, Asher Roth is betting that his other works will get more attention, lyrics that touch on the Barack Obama-inspired activism that marks his generation.

On the track "Sour Patch Kids," Roth makes an earnest pitch for volunteerism.

(Soundbite of song, "Sour Patch Kids")

Mr. ROTH: (Rapping) Donate your dollars. Raise a dollar, help a mother, save a father, 'cause poverty is probably our biggest problem and it ain't gonna stop with Obama. To save the world we must start at the bottom.

The last thing I want is people to be like, hey, that's that "I Love College" kid, and that might be a stigma that I'm forced to live with for a very long time. I personally want people to think, to ask why and why not and not just through my music, just genuinely in life.

RAZ: But to get to that point, Asher Roth will first have to navigate past the graveyard of one-hit wonders who preceded him in the world of hip-hop.

(Soundbite of song, "Sour Patch Kids")

You can catch Asher Roth on tour this summer, and you can hear more of his songs at npr.org/music.

(Soundbite of song, "Sour Patch Kids")

Mr. ROTH: (Rapping) I don't hear you. I don't hear you.

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