Asher Roth - Asleep In The Bread Aisle

Posted April 23, 2009
Tags: Asher Roth,

In order to understand white rappers, you first have to understand VIPTSD (Vanilla Ice...

Asleep In The Bread Aisle Album Review

In order to understand white rappers, you first have to understand VIPTSD (Vanilla Ice Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). The year was 1990 and hip-hop had become just mainstream enough to be commercially successful. Where there’s money there’s white people, so the hip-hop community was understandably wary of outsiders cashing in on the culture, but even in their worst nightmares they couldn’t have seen Vanilla Ice coming. In fact, the Ice Ice Baby phenomenon was so traumatizing hip-hop still hasn’t fully recovered. And so, like a Vietnam vet who dives into the bushes every time a car door slams, hip-hop cringes every time a white guy grabs a mic, prepared for the worst.

Even today VIPTSD casts its shadow over every white rapper, it’s legacy is the price of admission for white people to play the game. Only Eminem has ever fully overcome VIPTSD, so it’s inevitable that every white rapper gets compared to him, which would explain the constant Em and Asher Roth comparisons. Slim Shady and Roth do share a style heavy on internal rhymes and pop culture references, but otherwise they’re distant cousins at best. While Em is a lyrical genius driven to greatness by a tortured past, Roth is suburban rap’s wet dream, an undeniably talented and intelligent rapper who reflects the party-hungry privilege of his upbringing. Roth will either open a new chapter in hip-hop history or sink under the weight of VIPTSD, and if his debut album Asleep In The Bread Aisle is any indication, it could go either way.

If you’re thinking “wait, who’s Asher Roth?” let me put it this way; he’s the I Love College guy. (It's a shame that’s how he’s currently best known, but it’s the truth). I Love College is a half-rock, half-rap ode to higher education, and I do mean higher. Delivered in a voice so laid-back it’s more talk than rap, Roth paints a picture of a time in life where drinking is a priority and responsibility is a dream. It’s the perfect recipe to spark a party, and make older folks desperately wish they were still 19. As a former college dropout I’m more Kayne than Asher, but true anthems are rare, and College is a true anthem. College’s success is a great opportunity for Roth, but it will ultimately haunt his career unless he follows it with more hits, which is why Bread Aisle spends much of its time doing musical keg stands for its core constituency. Just take Be By Myself, a tribute to the joys of single life bursting with Roth’s usual assortment of wordplay and wit, backed by a very Gnarls Barkley-esque chorus from Cee-Lo. (On a side note, no one’s buying this album for its production, but newcomer Oren Yoel does surprisingly innovative production work throughout.) Unfortunately, not every track on Bread Aisle is as enjoyable, most notably the failed attempt at a “for-the-ladies” track She Dont’ Wanna Man and the funny but sophomoric Bad Day. Roth is rightfully enjoying his musical youth, but if he’s still making tracks like Bad Day in five years he’ll be the rap equivalent of the guy with a college degree working at Starbucks.

If Roth was simply a beer-fueled party rapper this review would be over, but despite the wishes of those eager to place him in a box, he’s also a boundary-pushing lyricist with a socially conscious edge.La Di Da is the closest Bread Aisle gets to the ceaselessly creative MC fans heard on Roth’s mixtapes, an intricately produced track that features Roth weaving in and out of the rhythm with precision: “isn’t it visible, dealing with digital...fidgeting through email, when the issue is pivotal.” A similarly skilled side of Roth’s rap personality shows up on Sour Patch Kids, a cut that finds Roth expanding his lyrical world beyond his campus: “It ain’t gonna stop with Obama, to save the world we must start at the bottom.” Bread Aisle contains just enough of these gems to make it impossible for serious hip-hop heads to dismiss Roth, including his full exploration of the Eminem’s comparisons, As I Em, and the captivating Lark On My Go Cart, a track that bridges the gap between Roth’s collegiate and adult music. Tracks like these prove that Roth is fully capable of overcoming the VIPTSD plague, but it’s going to take more originality, creativity and passion than the often too easy offerings of Bread Aisle to elevate him above the pack. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go do Jager shots until I hurl.

(Want to know what albums I’m reviewing next, along with some random hip-hop musings? Follow me on Twitter. Tweet at ya boy).

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted April 23, 2009
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