Is it possible to critique anything by Asher Roth without bringing up “I Love College”? The Pennsylvania-bred rapper isn’t the first, and definitely wont be the last, artist struggling to sever the ties between past and present. His (now distant) past concerns a track’s popularity that dismissed Roth’s work as a serious emcee. His present? Deeper, more thoughtful affairs like RetroHash. And while RetroHash doesn’t come close to perfect, we glean enough to believe that Roth has his niche, and he’s comfortable as hell within it, producing more than enough tracks worthy of replay.
RetroHash exists in the most earnest of arenas. Again, to recall “I Love College” for a minute, Roth raps about what he knows, which is just living, man (and smokes, but despite the title this isn’t entirely a weed album). “Fast Life” follows this blueprint and it has to be considered one of the better tracks of the spring, genre be damned, thanks to a medley of story-telling raps (including some great bars by Vic Mensa) and a hook that should leave you pleasantly surprised with Asher’s ability to sing. Also, get used to that idea, because it’s a reoccurring theme, heard again on “Pull It” and “Tangerine Girl,” both of which work incredibly well in a laid-back, soulful way.
And then there’s “Dude,” brimming with silly white-boy brags: “Chillin’ in some shorts/sippin’ on a cold one, sittin’ on the porch/only chop sticks, I don’t ever use a fork.” His cadence is as laid back as his brags are funny, and the more uptempo track works because of the same kind of humble ethos mentioned above. And then Curren$y comes through with gasoline and matches, destroying what remains. And when you consider the amount of corny, back-patting tracks that get brought to attention on a regular basis, this form sees Roth sitting near the head of the table.
So what brings the affair down a couple of notches? For starters, there’s not a lot of variety, and sitting through it might come off a bit arduous for those in the audience used to a heavy 808. And while it never feels right to say that a project isn’t good because of what it’s not, lack of diverse flavor is definitely a knock. There are lazy days when RetroHash just makes sense, and there are realer, more hectic and ultimately more frequent days when, yeah, it’d be cool to kick back and try to appreciate everything around you, but you’re already behind at work and it’s only Tuesday.
If this is the trajectory that Roth is going to be following from here on out, there should be some bigger, better things to come. For now, feel free to handpick whatever highlights you see fit from RetroHash. And don’t worry: there are plenty to be had.