Asher Roth | Asleep in the Bread Aisle (Universal Recordings)

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cd_asher-roth.jpgCee-Lo and Busta Rhymes must have had to kill off their last chunk of community service because guesting on this album is like promoting the idea that one should bathe his or her child in stagnant water.

 

Ah, Asher Roth. Your Asleep in the Bread Aisle has already been hot, with suburban thumper "I Love College" lighting up iTunes and MTV, the album itself hitting #5 on the Billboard Top 200. For someone to write about you now is probably edging on the mundane, but I'll deal. This is a record that you'll either love or hate, an album you'll want to bump on Friday night or hope no one notices it in your Last.fm history. It's novel, whitebread, and lowest-common-denominator hip-hop that at times shows promise of being more than the sum of its parts but unfortunately falls flat on its lack of tact and wit.

First off, the lead single "I Love College" is a self-absorbed anthem for those who like to give state colleges a bad name. Sure, part of college is getting fucked up, being hedonistic and eventually maturing within your newfound freedom and responsibility. There's plenty of music celebrating youthful ruckus, but here it's more of an enthusiastic embrace of negative college stereotypes and frat-boy mentality. It's not documenting a period of one's life but glorifying a destructive and ultimately mundane lifestyle. Had there been a mention of failing out within one's first semester or getting pulled over a block away from the dorms and learning about local open container laws, "I Love College" would've been a much different song, maybe even a great one.

The rest of the album is the sort of thing you imagine a Dave Mathews fan to embrace outside of stadium concerts, Birkenstocks and cheap beer. It definitely appeals to the sort of folks who'd stop listening to Atmosphere if they found out that Slug is actually half black. Seriously, it's about as safe as a hip-hop album can get while still being something you'd hide from your parents. I don't think getting laid, getting fucked up or smoking weed has ever sounded so uncool. It's like going to church on a weekday. Cee-Lo and Busta Rhymes must have had to kill off their last chunk of community service because guesting on this album is like promoting the idea that one should bathe his or her child in stagnant water, or that it's better to drink rubbing alcohol "because it's cheaper." How there hasn't been a story planted where Asher Roth held these homeboys at gunpoint and motioned them to the vocal both is the sort of thing that staggers the mind. It would at least lend some edge to this plastic sword.

On "As I Em," Roth tries to distance himself from fellow white rapper Eminem, with whom he shares a similar voice. The problem is that I don't think anyone outside of shitty magazines or blogs would try to make a hard line between the two, or imply that Roth is ridding coattails. The truth is, Roth couldn't keep up with Eminem or any established indie rapper if he tried. It's the difference between Lil' Romeo and Rakim. And it's even more amusing that on "His Dream" he tries to stir up some emotions and lay down a sober track, but since it's not about smoking weed or stealing parking cones or accidentally lighting your friend on fire, it ends up about as moving as Paris Hilton volunteering in a soup kitchen.

Meaningless gestures aside, there are a few things to like about Asleep in the Bread Aisle. The production is quite enjoyable, with some above-average guitar work and a general shine of competence. It's a shame that, aside from a few verses on "She Don't Want a Man," Roth can't keep up his part of the bargain. Sure, you'll hear it at the club and people will go crazy as if were "Crazy Bitch 2" and you may even nod your head a bit but other, it'll probably give you a headache. Personally, I look forward to his next album, Weekend Nachos. D+ | Bryan J. Sutter

RIYL: Jungle juice, trucker hats, breaking and entering while black-out drunk

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