April 22, 2009

My Gut Reaction: Asher Roth - Asleep In The Bread Aisle (April 20, 2009)

So I'm trying something new this time around: Instead of running all of the Reader Reviews back to back over the course of the next couple of weeks, I'm going to instead disperse them randomly in between my normal posts. This comes after receiving feedback from some readers advising that those particular write-ups shouldn't distract folks from the main reason they visit the blog. I've always felt that seeing someone else's opinion makes for a more well-informed, well-rounded decision-making process, but maybe that's just me. So we'll see how it goes this time around. And besides, if I did run all of the submissions in one shot, I wouldn't be able to write about what is arguably the second most highly anticipated hip hop album by a white rapper in 2009, Asher Roth's Asleep In The Bread Aisle.

Most folks who frequent hip hop blogs will be aware of the Asher Roth backstory, but for those who don't know the guy from Adam, he's a rapper from Morrisville, Pennsylvania, who was signed by Steve Rifkind (late of his biggest venture, Loud Records, which was once home to some of the biggest names in hip hop) and is now being promoted as yet another Great White Hope for our chosen genre. His mixtape freestyles have been met with acclaim (as has his official mixtape, The Greenhouse Effect: Volume One), and the man has even helped prevent a fucking terrorist attack on American soil. (True fact.) But the only exposure Asher Paul Roth has received in the mainstream (read: on radio and on MTV) is with his formerly-Weezer-sampling "I Love College", which was not really representative of what the guy is capable of. But whatever: Eminem had to release "My Name Is" before people got the really disturbing shit.

So, does he have anything worth listening to on his debut disc?

This is actually a pretty effective way to introduce Asher Roth to the masses, although he says absolutely nothing of substance over the lo-fi production by Oren Yoel and David Appleton, one which recalls the feeling of a far superior track, "Sure Shot" by the Beastie Boys. For his part, Asher throws in only the second reference to the San Antonio Spurs that I've ever heard in hip hop (the first was from his own "Cannon!!!" freestyle from The Greenhouse Effect: Volume One), so that was weird. Also, I'm kind of surprised that nobody in hip hop recorded an ode to Kelly Kapowski prior to Asher's drooling all over Lark Vorhees. But maybe nobody else in hip hop will ever admit to watching fucking Saved By The Bell eight times a day.


Somewhere, there's a rapper that could rip the shit out of this blunted, marching beat. Asher Roth's not that guy. This track is literally about cruising around while smoking a blunt. A potential destination is never even considered. I picture tons of teenage white girls loving the fuck out of this track.

I've already said my piece on "I Love College", the non-Weezer-sampled version of which appears on this album, but I listened to it again anyway just to see if it works within the context of the album as a whole. Unsurprisingly, it sounds the same as it always has. Hearing actual curse words and Asher crooning on the hook (something that is removed from the radio version, since the word "weed" is deleted every time it pops up) was a nice touch, but my dismissive opinion of it hasn't changed any.

This wasn't what I was expecting after reading that Don Cannon produced the track. Asher's rhymes are pointlessly simply, and his hook is lame as shit, but you just know that this song will become a self-empowerment anthem for kids if Asleep In The Bread Aisle sells a massive amount of copies. Which you know it will.

I don't like how every song that features Cee-Lo today reminds critics and listeners of Gnarls Barkley. The man had a solo career before hooking up with Danger Mouse, you know. Anyway, Cee-Lo elevates this material beyond its sophomoric status by turning it into, yes, something that reminds critics and listeners of Gnarls Barkley. Sigh.

The fuck is this shit?

Kind of like a "Lark On My Go Kart 2.0", so if this ends up being the third single, I won't be surprised at all. Asher sounds better over these guitar-sample-driven beats than on the more conventional hip hop stuff. I imagine the NBA swiping the instrumental to promote the playoffs during their constant advertising promoting Kobe and Lebron, as if there weren't literally thousands of other players in the league. Sorry, I got off on a weird tangent. But I kind of dug this track.

The much-anticipated track on which Asher Roth directly confronts the Marshall Mathers elephant in the room. Asher's lyrics are impressive (and are a far cry from the non-sequiturs from "Sour Patch Kids"), but you know who I can't fucking stand? Chester French. And they ruin the song in more ways than one. Although ruining it in just one way is bad enough.

Remember back in the 1990's when Busta Rhymes and DMX were battling each other for the title of Cameo King? Well, Busta Rhymes won: DMX has had to deal with newer and more creative legal concerns as each year passes, and all Busta does is chug along, cashing every check that comes his way, whenever he isn't catching another DUI conviction. Acquiring the man's services is not entirely unjustified, though, since he blows Asher Paul Roth out of the proverbial water on this boring-ass song that recalls Eminem's flow (and subject matter) on his "Superman".

Asher's retelling of his bad day at the airport and afterward reminds me of some of J-Zone's best lyrical work, except for the fact that J-Zone is much funnier and much more self-deprecating, and the fact that this song sucks. It doesn't really matter if you forgot your iPod, man: besides the fact that not having your mp3 player is more of an annoyance than an actual problem, if a baby is screaming in your ear on the plane, noise-cancelling headphones will not block it out.

Huh. Didn't see this one coming. This song is deeper than it should be, for a track on an album titled Asleep In The Bread Aisle. If you're only cognizant of Asher Roth because of his freestyles and "I Love College", you may be surprised.

Just like The Lonely Island before him, Asher ends his debut album with an autobiographical track, explaining how the first rap album he ever owned, Jay-Z's Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life, first sparked the idea of actually rapping for a living. Unlike Andy Samberg and company, though, Asher is (probably) telling the truth on here. It's good to hear that the man is capable of stringing rhymes together into a coherent story: Asleep In The Bread Aisle would have benefited heavily from more tracks like this. Well, maybe not songs exactly like this: it wasn't my cup of tea.

When you download Asleep In The Bread Aisle off of iTunes, you get two free bonus tracks that won't appear on the store-bought disc.

I'm not sure why a track featuring a name-brand artist (relatively speaking, I suppose) was cut from the retail release, but this track isn't that bad. I've never been a huge fan of Beans, but he sounds alright. The star attraction takes the time to completely outshine his guest, though, which I suppose he had every right to do.

Taken from his mixtape, The Greenhouse Effect: Volume One, so if you already have that mixtape in your possession (or on your hard drive), you already have this song. I always thought it wasn't anything memorable, and that still holds today.

The following bonus track is only available on the U.K. version of Asleep In The Bread Aisle (which I do not own), but due to the high caliber of guest involved, I'd be amiss if I didn't mention it somewhere.

It's easy to hear why this was left off of the album: it has an early De La Soul-type vibe to it, which wouldn't have fit with the rest of the disc. The hook is more than a little bit goofy, but the overall message is good, and both Asher and Ricky finagle some good rhymes out of the subject matter. Probably worth tracking down on a lark, but I wouldn't order the U.K. import just to get this track specifically.

THE LAST WORD: With the incredible hype surrounding the man, Asleep In The Bread Aisle was doomed from the very day the project was announced: there is no possible way that Asher Roth's debut album can meet all of the artificially high expectations that hip hop fans have. So, and this shouldn't be a shock to anybody, the disc doesn't hold up. Asher seems to have deliberately dumbed down his message in a trade-off for mainstream success, rendering much of the disc not much better than the shit on the radio. Production-wise, though, the beats (mostly provided by Oren Yoel) aren't bad at all, but what Asher chooses to do with them is disappointing. The guy has actual skill, hints of which are found sporadically, and hopefully his next project will be more of a showcase for it, although I'm sure that, for those of you that care, the man just fucked up on his one and only shot. If you're a fan of pop rap, you could do much worse (in fact, "Lark On My Go Kart" and "Sour Patch Kids", two of the goofiest songs on here, are the best tracks), but if you want something with meat on its bones, you'll want to skip this one. Sorry, Charlie.



  1. i want to kick asher roth's ass

  2. Asher has potential but yeah, he sounds bored sometimes... but hey, i guess that's how he is: being a frat-boy must pay off big-time! lol

  3. who is this white boys wackass wanna bee mc
    can u actually review something worthwhile

  4. NOoooo! The great white hope! oh well I guess apathy will do

  5. I wish he gets his ass handed to it by a truck. Or some shit. Annoying pothead rappers.

  6. AnonymousMay 18, 2009

    why does everybody like this guy? hes fucking trash!! he doesnt know how to rap to old school beats

  7. AnonymousJune 20, 2009

    this guy to me is an Aesop Rock wanabe

  8. If you're up to a huge review and want to hear a real white rapper I recommend Celph Titled's 'The Gatalog: A Collection of Chaos'.

  9. Celph titled is cuban

  10. An Apathy or Celph Titled album review would be cool.....

  11. i get a feeling this asher dude is trying to get a name for himself through rapping to do other shit like acting. seems like a bitch ass n*gga to me.

    since when is it cool to sound like eminems twin brother minus all the skill and entertainment?
    he must be thinking people were on his dick bigtime when he released this.