Review: Asher Roth, ‘RetroHash’
It’s pretty safe to say Asher Roth is one high mellow dude on RetroHash
“That party last night / was awfully crazy, I wish we taped it / I danced my a** off / and had this one girl completely naked,” sings Roth on one of the more memorable songs of 2009, “I Love College”. Yep, “I Love College” was Roth’s ‘ace in the hole’ for debut album Asleep in the Bread Aisle, which managed to debut at in the top five of the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. Even so, Asleep in the Bread Aisle didn’t exactly set up Roth to be the next great MC. Until his 2014 LP RetroHash, Roth hadn’t released a proper sophomore album. RetroHash isn’t quite the ‘second coming’, but it is definitely a big step up from Asleep in the Bread Aisle. AR definitely comes up.
“Parties at the Disco” initiates RetroHash in mellow fashion – who’s surprised? The high from the stoner vibe hits the listener from the jump, which is what we’ve come to expect from Roth during his brief career. Still, there is something more abstract and unique working here. He gets a nice assist from ZZ Ward vocally. “Dude” finds Roth collaborating with Curren$y, giving RetroHash a big hip-hop guest spot. The overall production is old school, very much in the Philly rap sensibility (dusty drums, prominent bass). This soulful production is definitely a blessing, providing a superb palette for Roth to spit over. Curren$y’s verse provides a sound contrast both stylistically and vocally compared to Roth. “Tangerine Girl” is a complete contrast to anything else that Roth has released up until this point. Finding Roth singing throughout the majority, “Tangerine Girl” is incredibly alluring. On the final verse, Roth does bust a rhyme, including a reference to the ‘nasty’ (“If you wanna fly better come inside / come along we’ll go for a ride”). I’m onboard – with the song that is.
“Pull It” definitely has a hook that inescapable if initially random: “One finger in the air just like this / one finger in the air and I’m gon’ pull it / yes I’m gon’ pull it, yell, I will pull it / yes, I’m gon’ pull it, yes, I will pull.” The verses clarify what Roth is referencing, with lyrics like “Only relation, I ain’t good at relationships / I ain’t no angel, but no, you never gave a sh*t…but separated, you call my name in ecstasy.” Basically, Roth is good at making love, but sucks with a more substance-requiring relationship. “Something for Nothing” proceeds, featuring Coyle Girelli. It’s not a bad track – certainly as mellow and chill as everything else – but perhaps it ‘floats’ just a tad too much. Still, the falsetto is sort of like whipped cream – light and fluffy, LOL!
“Fast Life” follows, featuring Vic Mensa guesting on the second verse. The groove and overall production has more soulfulness and bit more bite compared to “Something For Nothing”. If nothing more, the hook is truthful: “Fast life, someone’s always caught up in the fast life.” “Last of the Flohicans” catches the eye if for no other reason then its title. Major Myjah provides a sometimes-indecipherable hook for Roth (“…Just learn the truth / it’s all out of focus, focus…”), while the MC seems on autopilot, at least where his flow is concerned. If nothing else, Roth opens with a bang: “Last of the Flohicans / Go in for no reasons / Snowing for four seasons / F**ked up my whole weekend…” Major Myjah stays on board for the equally soulful “Be Right”. The beat and overall production – luxurious! Honestly, “Be Right” might edge “Last of the Flohicans”. If nothing else, Major sounds stronger here.
“I be on my own / scouring the globe in designer clothes”, sings Roth on the hook of penultimate track “Pot of Gold”, “Surfing on the waves, million dollar boats / really want to stay, but I gotta go / searching for the pot of gold.” While boasting of a come-up is fashionable, understandably so by many MCs, Roth seems to almost brush off the fame or all of the misconceptions with being famous. Honestly, a track like “Pot of Gold” makes you have more respect for the MC as he rises above the shallower things in life. And then of course, there’s the closer – SMH! “Keep Smoking”, featuring Chuck Inglish is definitely and appropriate closer, given Roth’s love of reefer. While it is sad that Roth invests in weed to almost atone for his issues, the approach he takes makes you sort of sympathize. Weed isn’t the answer obviously – even Roth sees that – but Asher just can’t let go of Mary Jane.
Overall, despite being incredibly low-key, RetroHash is a solid album. It’s not your standard rap album by any means – they won’t be playing this one in the club – but it is definitely enjoyable. RetroHash is definitely deeper than Roth’s major label debut album was. It’s not perfect mind you – the lyrics aren’t always ‘out of the box’ – but Roth has his moments by all means.
“Parties at the Disco” ft. ZZ Ward; “Dude” ft. Curren$y; “Tangerine Girl”; “Pot of Gold”
Asher Roth • RetroHash • pale fire • US Release Date: April 22, 2014