Asher Roth fought long and hard to shed the frat boy image created by his debut single, “I Love College”. At the core of this artist is a backpack rap, lyrically driven hip-hop head, but you’d never know that from the way he was initially marketed. He did truly redeem himself on his 2012 Pabst and Jazz mixtape, which played solidly like an album, one too underground for the major label machine to market. After a relatively quiet 2013, Asher resurfaces with the cleverly titled Retro Hash, now sporting long braids and a curious change of wardrobe.
The exterior is not all that has changed with Asher, as his sound has too. He’s undergone a shift in sound and style, opting more for laid back, rock driven tracks that find him singing more than rapping. Make no mistake, his flow is still tight, such as on the very early 90′s Hiero-esque “Dude”, or on the album’s best track, “Something For Nothing”, where guest Coyle Girelli takes up the singing duties.
But the big problem with Retro Hash? Asher can’t sing, yet he tries incessantly. It’s not that he’s off key – he can hold a note without autotuning – its just that he’s no better than the average person, impressed by their own acoustics in the shower. Songs like “Pull It”, “Pot Of Gold” and “Fast Life” with Vic Mensa grate on the nerves, mainly because it just seems so unnatural. It’s as if the label again is stepping in and forcing him to reach out to that college demographic, yet he doesn’t really know how to, beyond bad making stoner rock.
The drums are still raw, but the album’s Hendrix-esque guitar licks are overbearing, coming off as a trite attempt at being something he really isn’t. It is clear that Ash wanted to step outside the box and do something different here, but in doing so he’s alienated the rest of his small, dedicated fanbase that actually cares. Puff, puff, pass.
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