SRC / Universal Motown
2.0 out of 5
2.0 out of 5
It's hard to listen to the great ones without, you know, fantasizing about being Jay-Z. Just fantasizing; deep down we know emulating means flying too close to the sun, striving for narrowly specific glory most simply can't produce. In 99.4% of cases, said visceral indulgence (usually manifested by blaring woofers, mirror posturing) leads to admiration and little else.
I think most artists - however part time - digest Asher Roth bitterly. The whiteness is passe (established race-to-profit ratios notwithstanding), but it's the timing and avenues that sting. The Americana epic of suburban indoctrination, entitlement and dissent has never enjoyed a hip-hop protagonist until now.
A lot of motherfuckers could be Asher Roth, basically.
It's demographics: hip-hop fans turned note scribblers; turned software pirates; boarding at state schools with laptops and friends; in the 21st Century's tumultuous opening decade; trying to impress co-eds through a medium boasting 20-plus years of trusted assistance in running game on white girls; enjoying the best marijuana Mexican drug cartels can engage in anarchic, daylight shootouts over; coding DNA strands between License to Ill Beastie Boys and Marshall Mathers, have all been on this case for a minute now.
And when the net's piercing transmissions failed to disintegrate him, Mr. Roth won the space race. To the victor go the Delta Gamma pledges.
Asleep in the Bread Aisle, Roth's major debut, is mostly a series of diary entries from his 2008 summer vacation in Atlanta - a well-funded animal house wherein dude threw keggers that Akon agreed to attend.
Roth (the college dropout from Pennsylvania who sounds like Eminem and just got himself an iTunes hit) is a thoughtful baker at heart with a socioeconomic background that allowed for a full realization of his primary hobby.
Roth is an alright lyricist capable of compensating green chops with playful pop tie-ins.
Roth is a 23 year-old Lost Boy with a boner who made a shitty single and knows it: "'I Love College' is probably the worst song on the CD," he recently told us, "the labels hate when I say that."
The aforementioned item is, in fact, the worst thing here: a no-shit bastaridaztion of the chords from Weezer's premier single married to a no-shit recollection of the tingly feeling students get from waking up on a floor, drunk driving to get sustinence, watching playoff doubleheaders while waiting to be tagged in party pics. "I Love College" is a vehicle so vague, obnoxious and contrived I was ready to forget his obligatory "A Milli" freestyle was so earnest and hardworking.
"Hair like a troll doll...who am I trying to impress?" he cooly asks on silky opener, "Lark On My Go-Cart." The answer is rappers and rap fans, first and foremost, but mostly black people. Kelly Kapowski over Lisa Turtle is an across the board given, yet Roth opts for the latter in one bold, verse-closing, song-naming, look-how-liberal-I-am-didn't-you-see-me-in-the-Obama-shirt? power play line.
Then again, he is sorta the hip-hop Screech.
Bread Aisle's U2-we're all in this together songs are watered with gospel hooks for firmer roots and sharper message clarity. But after rounds of beer pong, Asher's philosophy is skewed: "La Di Da's" thesis advocates getting high and tuning out, "Sour Patch Kids" is a list of bummers ("Fortune 500 companies run the country...streets turn into a game of rugby"), "Fallin'" toasts his fuzzy childhood, uncreatively samples Ben Kweller, hams up the accent and his voice ends up sounding like Kenny Fisher's.
At his best, Ash Roth draws on palpable parallels to his audience and keeps it real: dismissing the logistics of young love with Cee-Lo ("no text gonna give me head"), venting about forgetting his iPod on a plane ("Bad Day"), nobly putting on his father for making all this possible ("His Story").
Problem is, Bread Aisle leaves the artistry boundaries unclear. Roth wants to be self-deprecating and geeks out over "Mario Kart," then he brags about his sex drive; he wants to evade police, smoke out with his boys, but only with "honies in the back." He wants to rap about being white, to resent the priviledge, to make the Eminem questions go away...by writing a song about Eminem's influence on his development.
Which brings up my final point: why are rap fans paying attention in the first place? It can't be the music. Do we relate to this guy and want him to succeed? Morbid curiosity?
If I may be crass, the best answer comes from album guest, Busta Rhymes, "I heard Asher Roth was getting ass in a loft."
- Ramon Ramirez