Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Asher Roth "Asleep In The Bread Aisle" Album Review
This past weekend, I was up in Ithaca, NY, speaking on a panel at my Alma Mater, Cornell University. I was on a panel with a couple of Cornell grads who ran with their Ivy League degrees and went on to having a career in the music industry. Like the homie Londell McMillan, a fellow classmate of mine, entertainment Attorney and current owner of the Source magazine. I remember when me and him would run through the campus rocking doo rags, shell toe Adidas and fat laces, he rocked the Cazals. The event was truly dope. Between the students soaking up game, the crazy architecture sprawled out across the ginormous campus or the beautiful town of Ithaca, New York with all its gorges, mountains, rivers and quaint college town, it made me remember how much I loved college. Best effin four years of my life. I feel so grateful in that I was able to transition from Lincoln Place between Albany and Troy Avenues, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, with the crack jackers crack jacking up the block to waking up on campus, on late and lazy Sunday afternoons, with the crazy hangover from too much keg brew and with a young and warm co-ed snuggled up under my comforter, trying hard to not wake up in order to avoid her liquor induced headache from the night before. I loved college.
Which is why I was extremely amped to review Asher Roth's freshman album,"Asleep In The Bread Aisle". Having just mentioned him last week, it might seem like I got sucked into the hype beast surrounding dude, but other than "I Love College", "Just Like I Em'" and his "Roth Boys" freestyle, I did a great job of not having heard his work until I had the opportunity to listen to the album in it's entirety. Here's my review:
"Lark On My Go Kart"
Ahser starts the lp nice, spitting a controlled and smooth flow, white boy inflection and all. The track is crazy too, rolling beats, dirty bass, dusty ass sounding sample. I'm not mad, and now I see where dude says he studied Jay-Z, not in his wordplay but in his tone, on how he rides the beat while keeping his voice on a perfect and steady pitch. This track here is tight and right.
Slow and low dubbed out beat with traces of reggae and a jungle type break. As a dude whose first single is about how he loves college, this here is the required ode to weed smoking. His lyrics and flow sounds like Asher is spitting free association and under the influence. The song as a whole doesn't grab me, coming off somewhat lazy sounding, but I kinda could see how if I was in college this Spring, and this was being banged out of a dope system, in a small setting, with chicks dancing and with the scent of burning herbals wafting through the atmosphere, warm Guiness in hand, I might could like this a bit more.
"I Love College"
Me too! Perfect single. Never gave it this much attention before. Great pop song but with bass guitar licks that manage to sink into my system. Mellow ass hard beat. Roth does a great job of reminding me why college was the best time of my life. I wish this came out back then. Nice song to get up close to that cutie majoring in engineering, get her to take her study break back to your crib off campus.
"La Di Da"
Sounds like he's sharing some personal issues. Simple melody, soulful vibe, problem is I'm just not connecting with Asher. Not to come off all judgemental on dude, but this here sounds like he ain't really go through some hellish life shit yet, the type of shit that would give his message here just a little bit more depth, a bit more desperation. I don't believe him.
"Be By Myself (featuring Ceelo)"
Groovy song, good to hear Ceelo. Solid hook with Asher flowing, once again though, his words are lost on me. Very Gnarls Barkley sounding, like it should. Might have legs on alternative based college radio shows. Maybe.
"Don't Wanna Man"
Way over-produced for this album. Not bad production mind you, just too obviously and clearly aimed at the pop charts. I'm also starting to get annoyed that I'm not retaining any of dude's lyrics, not really feeling his mind-state. As different as possible from "I Love College" or "Lark On My Go Kart", both of which set the stage for that classic crunchy college album you might think this is, or might want it to be.
"Sour Patch Kids"
Asher goes in deep. Raps about issues like capitalism, war, America's games of lies and deceipt. Problem is Asher doesn't go deep enough for my liking. When I was in college, one of my boys was really heavy on the whole anti-apartheid divestment movement on campus. I personally think he went in only to score with the white chicks. No doubt I would show some support by attending some rallies, but my dude would go the whole nine, sleeping overnight in some janky ass cardboard shanties, all up in the snow and rain and mud. One of the few (if not only) Black dudes that was camped out on campus with a whole lotta white kids. The first time the cops came to bust that shit up and dragged his protesting ass straight towards the paddy wagon, his heels digging deep in the grass as he peacefully resisted arrest, me and my ignorant ass crew stood by the sidelines laughing our asses off as him being subdued was some of the funniest shit I'd ever seen. Just as I'm making it clear here that I wasn't the type to take certain issues on campus that serious is how Asher sounds, only with him trying his best to convince me that he is that concerned dude. Not bad, just not translating. I'm not believing him and I'm wanting to hear something from him again that can make me believe. Great rocking and bouncy funk track though. Good production.
"As I Em (featuring Chester French)"
Being as how him being white and having to be compared to Eminem must really be annoying, Roth comes off sounding like this is some valid personal close to home shit he's going through. Being that the whole white rapper thing is a real issue, Asher's delivery sounds sincere on this one, so much so that I really feel his pain. When Asher raps about issues that Asher really goes through, he sounds at his best. This is most definitely his lane, you know, the white rapper being misunderstood and unfairly being compared to Em. Tough dilemma to be in, but he pulls it off with flying colors. I believe him.
"Lion's Roar (featuring New Kingdom and Busta Rhymes)"
Decent Timbaland sounding pop track, horrible effin sequencing in that it follows "As I Em" which was a great transitional track for Roth to up the ante thematically/ lyrically for the rest of the album. The double time rap thingie is not for him. Busta comes in and does a great job though, carrying the track on his shoulder in order to assist Roth onto the next track. Great save on Busta's behalf.
"Bad Day (featuring Jazzy Pha)"
Bouncy laid back bounce. Pop rap story song about a plane ride gone terribly wrong, starting with Asher having forgotten to pack his i-pod. Same vein as classic 80's songs like "Parent's Just Don't Understand" or any Slick Rick rap tale of woe. Roth manages to come back into his lane after having swerved off a coupl'a too many times. I believe him on this one too.
A song about his father. Very autobiographical in nature. Decent song. Felt it would have been better and that I would feel it more if this was on his next album as opposed to his first.
Great song with Asher reminiscing back to the 7th grade when he first started studying Jigga, how he fell in love with rap wordplay. Asher's doing Asher. I believe him.
"Perfectionist (featuring Beanie Sigel)"
Decent braggadocio joint. Until Beanie shows up to murder him on his own shit. Interesting to see these two team up, but not certain that the whole odd couple thing works.
Jazzy slinky joint about what a rapper looks like and how Asher doesn't fit the bill. "How I Em" kinda already tackled this issue.
Let me be clear, I really like Asher Roth when he's doing Asher, or at least what I think him doing Asher is. Not trying to pigeonhole his artistry, but Roth sounds more at home when he's rapping about shit that sounds like he's experienced or gone through first hand. "I Love College" was the perfect set up for that perfect college album based on issues and situations that most freshmen in college go through. As much as I wanted to love this record as a whole, it sounded like it was all over the place. Over ambitious even. Doesn't mean that there aren't a good deal of singles on "Asleep In The Bread Aisle", the album has plenty. This album will do very well for all the obvious reasons, and being what it is, I'm not mad at that. It just sounds like being the freshman that he is, Asher was way too eager to go from frosh to J.V. in sixty seconds, missing out on the perfect opportunity to drop that classic freshman album.
That being said, "Asleep In The Bread Aisle" gets 3 out of 5 Combat Jack Salutes.