Asher Roth - Retro Hash (Album Review)

Asher Roth rode in on the hipster rap wave of about five or so years ago. He had the bonafide summer single "I Love College", he sounded sort of like Eminem, and he was friends with other up and coming artists like The Cool Kids. His 2009 debut album Asleep in the Bread Aisle had some serious stuff and some tongue and cheek stuff. One look at the cover echoed the "college" looking image Asher had at the time. It was met with a somewhat mixed reception, but it still had a hit single and huge blog buzz. That was the kind of thing that was really gaining traction in 2009’s music market. Since then Roth has been trying to get a follow up album out. After numerous label changes, album title changes, and shifts in interest in hip hop/rap music Roth has succeeded. I went into this wondering what Roth's new album would sound like in a post hipster rap world, one where we've seen second or third wave "hipster" influenced hip hop acts. Many of those have also become blog world darlings. Still I stood steadfast in thinking this album could have a lot of potential. I mean after all I can't deny that Asleep In The Bread Aisle was an album I thought was pretty good when it came out.

Retro Hash, an anagram of Asher Roth, comes out five years after Roth's debut album. It's hard to believe it's been half a decade since an official album. Roth has released a few mixtapes. Pabst & Jazz is basically a free album, but it's still hard to believe a guy who had a massive single like "I Love College" has had to wait this long. Long gone are the looks of college on the album artwork. Instead the cover features a cowboy-ish looking photo of Asher that has been made completely red with a background of yellow, orange, and green. I think the artwork looks kind of neat and it definitely fits the somewhat laid back sun drenched sound of the album. Oren Yoel produced most of Asleep In The Bread Aisle. This time around Roth's main production team is Blended Babies.

The album kicks off with "Parties At The Disco" which shows Asher showcasing some of his growth from his previous albums. It has a smooth sound and I think it's a good introduction. It's one of my favorite songs on the album. "Dude" is the second track and it's a track that has been out for a while. If I'm not mistaken it was released by Roth about a year ago. It features Curren$y and it features a similar style to his debut album. I almost feel like it was included to create a bridge between the sound of the first album to the sound of the second album. It's a good song but it's been out a really long time and feels a little dated. The album’s lead single "Tangerine Girl" is interesting and a really beat driven song. The beat has this kind of interesting washed out summer sunshine feel to it. It definitely showcases Asher's want to do some different things on this album. Honestly though it feels more like a Blended Babies instrumental with Asher providing some guest raps. The song is 4 minutes and 24 seconds long and Asher doesn't begin rapping until around the two and a half minute mark. It's a short rap and when over it still leaves over a minute of just beat driven sounds. It's definitely a neat song, but it wouldn't have been my choice for a lead single. "Pull It" and "Pit Of Gold" remind me a lot of "Tangerine Girl" in that they are really cool sounding songs, but they feel more like Roth is the guest instead of the star. "Pot Of Gold" a little less so than the other two.

"Something For Nothing" showcases a change in sound and direction for Roth in the right way. I really like the song. The beat is super catchy and Roth's rapping is good. "Last Of The Mohicans" to me is a big standout on the album. It might be the best song on the album and it definitely has some single potential. The album ends with "Keep Smoking" and the song features Chuck Inglish of The Cool Kids fame. I think it succeeds in some of the sound experimentation far better than a song like "Tangerine Girl" and I really liked the sound and vibe of the song. The Chuck Inglish feature was interesting as well.

Production wise Blended Babies was probably the perfect pick for this project. They've created a ton of really interesting sounding beats for the album. It creates a great backdrop and sometimes it even sticks out more than Roth himself. That might have been intentional in terms of sound and vibe. Either way it mostly works for the album. Just listening to songs like "Something For Nothing" and "Fast Life" showcases how a production team and artist can come together and create pretty fantastic sounding songs.

So when it's all said and done as a whole Asher Roth has a pretty good follow-up album on his hands. It showcases his growth. It's very different from Asleep In The Bread Aisle. It’s a little less humorous and a little more serious. The album accomplishes a very successful vibe. It does have a few pitfalls when Roth feels more like a Blended Babies guest than the star. Overall though it doesn't change the enjoyment of the album. It's hard to say that if you liked the first album you'll like this one. It's very different. It has a different vibe than most of what I've heard from Roth, but it’s still an enjoyable release. It sounds like a really good summer album. You have to think about it though. Most of Roth's original fans are probably out of college at this point (unless they are pulling a Van Wilder) and the growth might be just what they are looking for. Five years can definitely change you as an artist, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. I think overall five years has made Asher Roth a better artist. This is a stronger overall album than his debut and well worth checking out.

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