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Album Review: Asher Roth's "RetroHash"

Asher Roth

Rap Album


Artists like Asher Roth are caught in the ultimate musical Catch-22. When your introduction to the world is a hit like “I Love College”, and you’re subsequently labeled/saddled with the “Frat Rap” descriptor, you’re left with few options.

Even if you can actually rap, (which Asher most certainly can), you’re almost destined to always be in search of a similarly-sized hit while also trying to progress as an artist.

After a first album of mostly “I Love College”-style beats and raps that flopped hard, Asher went through the phase most young rappers go through of trying to legitimize himself as a true MC to his peers and “real” hip-hop fans, only to come out the other side with a smaller fan base.

The criminally underrated “Rawth EP” with Nottz went by without so much as a peep from the rap community in spite of the lyrical dexterity put on display by Roth.

I say all of this as a preface to the review of this album because his history as an artist plays into the direction he went. It’s clear that he’s shed the need for approval from the rap community or anyone really, as the album is unlike anything else he’s produced.

To say it’s more “musical” than his other work is a weird way to describe it, but in truth that’s what the aim of this album seems to be. It’s less of the rappity-rap-rap his fans have come accustomed to and more of a laid back collection of tracks displaying his progression as a musician more than anything.

The Blended Babies-produced songs all have the same summery tinge to them, taking you back to the late 2000s when “hippie-hop” was trying to become a thing (and then never actually did). He manages to wrangle in some choice features from Vic Mensa, Chuck Inglish, and Curren$y, almost trying to make sure people remembered it was a rap album at it’s core.

None of his verses stand out, which is surprising for a Roth album. That’s not to say the verses aren’t good, but the album seems more focused on creating full, sonically mature songs instead of just a beat, melody, and some rhymes.

On a first listen, his fans may not like what they here, as it’s a huge departure from what you expect a Roth album to sound like and none of the songs are veritable “hits” in the classic sense. But it is clear that Roth has shed his need for peer approval or commercial success, which may bode well for future his projects, assuming he eventually finds his way back to what many fans would call “traditional” hip-hop.

The Must Listens:

Dude ft. Curren$y: You can always count on Curren$y to throw in a solid verse, and it's the best beat on the album, for better or worse.

Tangerine Girl: I liked this song mostly because it was so out of left field in comparison to the other stuff he's done. Theres almost no rapping, and it only comes at about 2 minutes into the song.

Fast Life ft. Vic Mensa: I really didn't like this melody and the message was a little bit too do-gooder for my tastes (although I applaud him for having his heart in the right place). Vic saves this song from being an also-ran, proving (once again) that he really needs to be featured more often than he is right now.

Best Lines:

Gotta look before you leap but lose faith before you preach
And just think before you reaching for the handle of your gun
And you running from what you done to become what you never wanted to
Hunted you want to run, running from the sound of the sirens.

Last of the Flohicans: Probably the only song on the album featuring some serious bars from Roth. 3 verses of some solid, old-fashioned rappity-rap for the fans of his old stuff.

Best lines:

No need for fantasy, fancy I'm not a stuffed guy
Don't puff my chest out, not impressed with dumb lies
I'm stumped (Why?), on how the well dries up
Leaves the whole entire countryside left to fry
I testify, and to the best of my abilities
Silly me knows, it really should be left to God.

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