ARTS

  /  

April 24, 2009

Shortcuts—Asher Roth

If Eminem’s new single “We Made You” doesn’t remake his career, at least we can listen to fellow white rapper Asher Roth’s debut Asleep in the Bread Aisle while we wait for the Real Slim Shady to return.

Hip-hop has always been one of those genres that idealizes a certain kind of lifestyle and image. And of course, all white suburbanites think they are the chosen ones to carry out its mission. In the midst of a sea of white rappers still pathetically imitating 50 Cent, two years after his last failure of an album and four since his last successful single, Asher Roth realizes that he is not one of the “chosen ones.” Instead of trying to recreate the drug-dealing, hard-knock lives of hip-hop moguls, he simply appreciates the music these people make and raps about his own experiences.

In that sense, Asleep in the Bread Aisle is caught somewhere between a motivational speech and Lady Gaga’s drunken anthem “Just Dance.” Tracks “Blunt Cruisin,” “Lad Di Da,” and “I Love College” demonstrate Roth’s failure to achieve a delicate balance, fluctuating between sober and drunk as he speaks about everything from self-worth to the value of self-inebriation.

Although Roth proves himself to be a talented M.C., the album’s guest appearances prove that the star of this one-man show is more impressive backed when by a cast and crew. Cee-lo dominates “Be By Myself,” a b-side from a Gnarls Barkley album that gives Roth about as much ownership of this track as Diddy has in his song “Come To Me” (featuring, but in all honesty starring, the Pussycat Dolls’ Nicole Scherzinger). On “She Don’t Wanna Man,” Keri Hilson softens Roth’s excessively nonchalant vocals.

Even the production on the album outshines Roth at times. On “Lion’s Roar,” Roth spits lyrics with a ferocity that would make the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz run for the hills; however, the production roars with just a little bit more intensity, putting Roth back in his den. “Bad Day” sounds like another day spent blunt cruisin’, where Roth’s acrid vocals are the only reason that day has gone sour.

Despite all of Roth’s palpable talent, the rapper still falls flat in creating an interesting persona that sticks. While Beyoncé has cashed in on her alter ego Sasha Fierce, and Kanye West successfully exploited his pretentious college dropout persona, Roth stays true to himself—a weed-smoking, booze-swigging white boy from the suburbs of Philadelphia. But when compared to Eminem, the white rapper crème de la crème, it looks like he falls into the ranks of the lesser Fred Durst and Bubba Sparxxx.