It's been four years since his breakout single, 'I Love College', so maybe you can let Asher Roth's stigmatic "frat rapper" image slide, yeah? The Garage, the first stop on his European tour, plays home to real, organic hip hop in London on a pretty typical Wednesday night - cold, wet, drunkards stumbling down the street before it's socially acceptable - and the Morrisville, PA, rapper packs the modest venue.
DJ Kid Fury warms the gradually populating floor by spinning throwback hip hop classics, before local MC Chima Anya delivers a lively, comical set, highlighted by a game of tell-me-what-to-freestyle-about with the crowd. He wins.
The mood of the night ahead is already set in the warm, moist air as Roth strolls on stage in casual attire, his golden mane looking as hippy-like as ever. A live band - his DJ-slash-high-school buddy Wreckineyez included in the ensemble - makes the prospect even more exciting.
It's soon clear that this gig is not for the radio-educated fans as he opens with 'Dude', a free track which is a little over a week old on rap blogs. Even so, there's plenty of lyrical recall from the crowd, who are still muscling forward to get a closer look at their hero of the evening. Asher properly welcomes his followers by diving into cuts from his 2011 mixtape, 'Pabst & Jazz'; the drum-heavy, riff-churning 'Bastermating' sounding glorious in live instrumental form.
As if there isn't already a mini ocean of arms bouncing in unison, the hands start flapping once the blonde Bob Saget requests two wannabe MCs to join him on stage to rap along to 'Lark On My Go-Kart'. Things get even more involving when Asher then allows the winner of said lyric-off to pick two females from the crowd to bust their moves on stage. The white girl begins to seriously twerk that thing.
With the male-ogling out of the way (standard for any rap affair, really), the vibe mellows as the now sweat-drenched rapper places the proverbial spotlight on his backing band. A passionate rendition of 'La Di Da' unfolds into a jazzy interval, during which Roth sincerely professes his love for his fans across the pond. It's here when you realize he hasn't travelled across the Atlantic for an hour-and-a-half of sweaty chanting; it's to make a connection with the people who truly love his music.
Of course, it isn't long before Asher maxes out the energy levels once more by running through a devastating combo of 'Choices', 'G.R.I.N.D.' and - with no irony - 'I Love College', which is arguably the finest performance of the night. After the customary encore schtick, the ponytailed rapper - still in unbelievably high spirits - returns to cap the night off (for real) with two of his most-celebrated mixtape cuts, 'Rik Smits' and 'Roth Boys'. The dive for the stage almost has him swallowed whole.
Delivering an electric, impassioned and thoroughly warming performance, it's not hard to see that, on foreign soil at least, this man has a genuine fan base. Label issues have plagued Roth since the beginning (his new home of Def Jam isn't proving to be the most welcoming), and with his as-yet-untitled sophomore LP suffering unending setbacks, only one question remains to be answered: Why don't you go indie, Ash?
Words by Andy Bustard