Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Asleep in the Bread Aisle

I have to start this one with some talk about being over hyped.

I first heard Asher Roth not too long ago. I started seeing some posts of his material on 2DopeBoyz, and eventually decided to click on one of the links. "I Love College", I guess the first single off this debut LP, Asleep in the Bread Aisle was humorous - good for one listen. Despite the sound and feel of it, I wouldn't call it a summer anthem or anything. I didn't really take him seriously at all either. Over the next few months I saw more and more posts with him on the site, commentary about how dope he was and how we should all be paying attention, and several credible MCs lending their co-signs.

Before I knew it, I flip past MTV and see his face all over it. And, I mean ALL OVER IT. Even my little sister(s) know who the guy is now. I guess when you're a young, white college kid and make a song about young, white college things though that should be the audience you attract. So, fine. Asher's one of the up-and-coming faces in music. I'll bite. But, last night I see the same commercial 3 times in a ten minute span - "...experience the album hailed by critics as a classic...Asher Roth...". Are they kidding?? The album with "I love College" is a classic? What critics are saying this? I then go to the site I mentioned previously and see that the entire backdrop of the site is an ad for this album. Ads and commercials everywhere, both on mainstream music television and on a reputable hip hop website.

This is what over hyping a project does. It is now impossible to live up to the expectations set forth from these media outlets. At some point the music has to speak for itself, and it's best to do that without biases. Plus, Asher is now pretty much a pop sensation before, or as his debut album drops - and that makes it hard to be viewed as a credible MC for a lot of people. Hence, the backlash from some on the net if you read the comments section after a blog post, or check out discussion boards. So, while his marketing team has done a good job at biasing some people in a good way, others were hit in the opposite way. I guess we'll have to wait and see if it all works out.

The certain biases I hold tell me that if MTV is heavily endorsing someone it means nothing except that a bunch of people that don't have their own opinion on music will flock to iTunes and cop all they can from Roth. And, this is true. It will happen. However, a few sources I respect have endorsed the product too. So, I have to at least hear the album when it drops, even though I've only been mildly impressed with the, say 4 or 5 tracks I have heard up til this point. Based on those tracks I think he has potential. Asher has a nice flow, and can put syllables together well. Not necessarily words or concepts, but syllables.

I got my little promo and have listened to the full album now. So, here is my take.

Asleep... begins with a nice little drum beat for the song "Lark on my Go-Kart", but goes downhill with a bunch of rhymes that are silly, but don't really fit together in any way. The next song is an uninspired, token weed song. I used to really like these odes when I was younger, but now I think there are enough out there to listen to. Weed is fun. Tell me something I don't know. I'm personally tired of these songs. They add nothing to most albums, but length anymore. And, in this case it's especially true.

As I continue with the next few tracks, I get the impression that Asher is exactly what he seems to be. A college kid that doesn't pay much attention in class, and hasn't experienced much in his young life to speak about. So, he must resort to shallow songs about college parties and nonsense. This would be fine of course, and even fun if the songs were put together well. I mean, Devin's topics don't really stray from pussy, weed, and alcohol, but I love listening to his stuff when I'm in the mood. The problem is the songs are just not that entertaining to me.

Things begin to pick up though with "As I Em", where Asher spits honestly about what he feels about the comparisons to Eminem, and how the pressure is on for him to deliver something of the highest quality for fear he'll be forever remembered as a gimmick rapper otherwise. The word play on "Bad Day" is top notch no doubt. Asher's showing his ability in that respect and as far as that goes this may be the strongest track. But, the story is just not that interesting, and the incredibly weak hook from Jazze Pha doesn't help it out at all. "His Dream" is a song that really alludes to where Asher could be headed as an MC. It's descriptive, personal and intriguing. The album ends strongly with "Fallin" - an interesting autobiography of Asher as he discovers hip hop music and gets inspired to do what he's doing.

Overall, I'd say almost half of this album is really worth listening to. Asher Roth has moments where I can clearly see how promising an MC he really is. While the whole album is honest, which I appreciate, he needs to really work at making the partying songs better if that's what he's going to focus on. Everything doesn't have to be serious or deep, but it does need to be enjoyable and memorable, and too much of this album is forgettable. The potential is there to craft a classic album in the future, but this one doesn't pass the test.

I'd give it 3 out of 5.