Rapper Asher Roth loves retelling a heartwarming true holiday story that’s going around his native Philadelphia.
Outside a subway stop, an old man is accosted at knifepoint by a street thug, who demands his wallet. The fellow complies, but calls the kid back to offer him his coat, too.
“He says, ‘If you’re out here jacking and stealing, you might as well be warm,’ and then he invites him out to dinner,” says Roth, who appears in The City today, likely playing material from his 2009 debut, “Asleep in the Bread Aisle,” featuring the hit “I Love College.”
Roth goes on, “When the check comes, the kid gives the man back his wallet, the guy gives the kid $20 and pays for the meal, and now they’re friends — the kid comes over several times a week and just kicks it with the older gentleman.”
The fable’s moral?
“A lot of people are operating out of fear or desperation these days, especially in city life,” Roth says. “That’s the vibe nowadays. And it’s more lopsided than ever with the whole 99 percent and Occupy stuff and all these fear tactics. But we can’t ever forget — we’re all in this together.”
That is why Roth is donating proceeds from his current club tour to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger. “I believe in taking care of your community,” he says. “In starting small to impact the bigger picture.”
The dates support Roth’s new self-issued “Pabst & Jazz” mixtape, which follows last year’s “Seared Foie Gras With Quince and Cranberry.”
“Is This Too Orange?,” his sophomore album coming out in March on Def Jam, includes work with an increasingly adventurous roster of collaborators, such as Akon, Kardinal Offishall, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell Williams and Nottz Raw.
“I’m enjoying these different outlets right now,” he says. “I can give the fans options, as opposed to, ‘Here’s 10 songs and that’s all you get.’”
Roth, who broke big with the suburban-slacker-slanted “College,” says his everyman accessibility has become his calling card. “It’s a character trait that — for better or worse — really works for me,” he says.
He warns against overthinking “Orange” numbers such as “Oops,” “Lunch Box” and the upcoming single “Party All the Time.”
“The listener will really be able to feel how much fun it was when we were making this record,” he says.
Similarly, don’t overanalyze this charity tour, Roth adds. “I’m not trying to save the world, I’m not trying to make a statement,” he says. “But if I can share a little love during the holidays? Well, why not?”
Where: 330 Ritch, 360 Ritch St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. today
Contact: (415) 541-9574, www.330ritch.com