Asleep in the bread aisle

Photo courtesy of Asher Roth’s MySpace
Rapper Asher Roth releases first album

Rap’s resident frat boy, rapper Asher Roth, loves college and wants the world to know it this week when his debut album, Asleep in the Bread Aisle, hits stores.
After garnering national attention at this years MTV Spring Break and releasing his first single, “I Love College,”Roth celebrated the counterculture holiday, 4/20, by releasing his first album — which means, for his fans, the wait from inside the bread aisle is over.

The unapologetically white emcee (MC) from Morrisville, Pa., caught the ear of many with his infectious ode to beer pong and keg stands. Having released only an internet mixtape, produced by DJs Don Cannon and Drama prior to Asleep in the Bread Aisle, Roth’s rapid ascent into mainstream consciousness proves that the music industry still has an untapped market — college students.

The buzz surrounding the West Chester University alum and former elementary education major helped propel “I Love College” into one of the fastest growing singles in America. The song has spent 9 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at number 12.

His popularity has even sparked a cult-like following among the college educated and slacker crowds.

In addition, the 23-year-old’s trademark look spawned a signature varsity inspired t-shirt from the urban clothing line Undrcrwn. And recently, Roth was named one of XXL Magazine’s Top 10 hip-hop freshmen of ’09.

Although highly visible, Roth’s presence in and of itself is an anomaly. Forced somewhere between a novelty act and a credible rapper, most don’t know what to make of him. But to those confused about who he is as an artist, Roth on his 2008 mixtape, The Greenhouse Effect, offered his own description: “If Jason Bourne was to perform and join forces with Zack Morris they’d form my performance.”

The Greenhouse Effect became an internet smash, and rumblings about the pale-skinned MC were abound.

Quickly signed to Steve Rifkind’s SRC Records, Roth began work on his major label debut.

Asleep in the Bread Aisle is a lighthearted jaunt through the mind of a 23-year-old college student. With blithely titled songs like “La Di Da,” “Sour Patch Kids,” and “Lark On My Go-Cart,” it’s hard to take Roth serious as a rapper.

At times, however, Roth’s music feels like a rehash of a “Saturday Night Live” digital short. He raps about OshKosh B’Gosh overalls, MILFs, Teddy Ruxpin and getting as intoxicated as possible on cheap liquor. Nevertheless, Roth manages to interweave adroit lyrical rhyme schemes with comedic wordplay.

For instance, the songs “Bad Day” and “Fallin,’” illustrate Roth’s adeptness for storytelling — a gift that separates him from other rappers.

But to no avail the proverbial white shadow follows Roth. The rapper’s voice, and familiar cadence, conjures images of that other white rapper from Detroit. But, upon further inspection it’s obvious that the similarities are only skin deep.

Unlike Eminem, Roth’s disposition is atypically chipper. He doesn’t feel the need to “keep it real” or bolster his resume with tales of strife and turmoil. Admittedly, Roth’s just like millions of other suburban white kids who fell in love with hip-hop. He says “dude,” plays beer pong and the first CD he ever bought was Dave Matthew’s Band “Crash.”

Roth even mocks his own preppy lifestyle in his remix of the 2007 hit “Dey Know,” where he raps: “Excuse me waiter, where are my capers? For real? I don’t wanna be a pain but I ordered capers on this salad.”

Roth’s suburban candor has received its share of admirers and critics.

Danny Salas, afternoon music director at B95 radio, sees Roth as a breath of fresh air.

“I think Asher Roth is a welcomed change from the mostly “cookie-cutter” artists seen on MTV and heard on radio over the last year or so,” Salas said. “His longevity will be based on whether or not he’s willing to cater to the mainstream.”
On the other hand, co-owner of Fresno music and apparel store, FTK, Sam Hansen thinks Roth is overrated.

“He’s getting a lot of hype from fans, like the spring break crowd, who don’t truly appreciate hip-hop,” Hansen said. “I think he’s a ‘grade-A’ technical lyricist, but he’s bringing in the drunken frat boy, opened-toe sandal element into the game and that’s not what hip-hop is about.”

It’s true. Roth dresses like it’s eternally spring break. Complete with plaid cargo shorts from American Eagle, flip-flops and perfectly quaffed “bed-head.” Roth basically embodies everything hip-hop isn’t supposed to be. But, that may be the reason fans relate to him.

“Asher is just easy to swallow for people who aren’t hip-hop heads,” Hansen said. “The crowd he caters to is completely disloyal. They just want the latest party track to put on their MySpace—it’s the whole ringtone/social networking culture.”

Roth has built a fan base out of social networking sites. His first venture into hip-hop came when he released a song through his MySpace page. Shortly thereafter, Roth became a viral video star by re-making the video to Jay-Z’s “Roc Boy’s” and recording his unabashedly silly encounters with the likes of Akon and Ludacris.

“I expect any artist with a style that’s different from the norm to receive lots of attention,” Salas said. “It’s similar to the attention given to Lil Wayne or Kanye West after they changed up their styles and went the vocoder route with their music.”

Roth’s eclectic style and self-assurance have drawn comparisons to Kanye West who, like Roth, ushered in his own brand of hip-hop.

But Hansen disagrees with the comparison. “He’s Kanye without the swag, but hangs out in Hollister and wears pucca shells.”

Either way, Roth is living proof that hip-hop has inundated every corner of the world. He may lack a traditional rap pedigree, but has provided the largest consumers of rap music, upper-middle class kids, with a mouthpiece.

“It’s cool that hip-hop has evolved to the point where you can completely be yourself and be accepted as an artist,” Hansen said.

Perhaps, the cliché that talent is what matters most is true—and Roth is plenty talented, despite the “frat boy” schtick.

Still, if Roth had his way “he’d pass out at 3 a.m., wake up at 10 a.m., go out to eat then do it again, because he loves college — Ay!”

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2 Responses to Asleep in the bread aisle

  1. J Dunka says:

    Another comedic rapper. I enjoy his “I love college” song, it's pretty funny. We will have to see if he can last in the long term.

  2. humor goes a long way, although longevity is so politically based.

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