On a cold New York afternoon, Asher Roth gathered a small group of journalists to preview his debut album, Asleep in the Bread Aisle, due out April 20. While a few finishing touches still need to be put in place, the album is essentially done. The Pennsylvania rapper warns those listening to put aside any expectations for good reason; while he still shows shades of the jokey freestyle MC heard on mixtapes, Asher’s songwriting proves he’s bringing more than a bunch of funny punch lines.
One of the biggest surprises on the album is Oren Yoel, an unknown producer whose beat got to Asher’s people by a stroke of luck. Upon hearing Yoel’s one track, Asher met, bonded with, and ended up working on the bulk of the album with him. Yoel’s tracks provide a cohesive sound to the album and complement Asher’s lyrics by bringing something new to the table.
“If no one else is going to say what I want to say, then I’m just going to,” Asher explains simply of the album’s tone. Asher forgoes the fantasy life of most of his predecessors and sticks to everyday subjects that rap fans can relate to, even if it is more fun to pretend to go to the clubs and “make it rain.” But that doesn’t mean Asher Roth isn’t having fun with his music; he’s just doing it with a few beers instead of champagne.
As usual, a few details of the album are sure to change by its release date, but based on the goods we heard, Asher Roth is in the perfect position to defy expectations and actually live up to his hype.
Check out the official tracklisting below, which includes 13 records featuring rapper Ludacris, pop duo Chester French, and funky MC/producer Cee-Lo, plus production from Don Cannon, Novel, and more.
1. “Lark On My Go-Kart”
A hard break and fuzzy pianos back Asher on this straight-forward opener. No hooks or odd structures, just Asher on the mic making sure listeners know that even though he doesn’t like to call himself a rapper, he’s got rhymes galore.
2. “Blunt Cruisin’”
Heading more towards the conceptual songwriting that Asher prefers, he tells a story about smoking blunts in his homeboy’s car and provides listeners instructions on the best ways to do the same. The beat speeds and slows throughout, moving fluidly with Asher’s funny-because-it’s-true verses.
3. “I Love College”
A little bit of old-school hip-hop and a little bit of folk rock blend together behind Asher revealing how much fun college is if you don’t count going to class. The first single, “College” is a good display of Asher’s ability to be humorous while still staying grounded in reality.
4. “Bad Day” featuring Jazze Pha
Jazze provides the hook to this story about a really aggravating trip on the way to a friend’s wedding. Anyone who’s flown commercial in the last 10 years will know exactly why something as seemingly mundane as a trip to the airport can easily turn into a horror story and Asher takes the opportunity to tell his.
5. “Be By Myself” featuring Cee-Lo
This is one of the tracks that Asher is most excited about. During the listening, Cee-Lo’s vocals hadn’t been mixed into the track yet, but his unmistakable sound on the references that we heard is something to be excited about. What Asher’s not excited about, however, is dating the girl he’s talking to in this song, explaining to her that he’d rather just be by himself.
6. “Sour Patch Kids”
Asher gets political with commentary similar to his “A Milli” freestyle. His management hinted that there’s a possibility of a well-known, conscious-minded MC jumping on this track at the last minute, but the specifics were kept quiet.
7. “She Don’t Wanna Man”
This is a possible second single and probably the most pop-ish song on the album. On a song that he says was inspired by his two older sisters, Asher talks about a girl headed to the club to have a good time with her friends instead of being hounded by guys. Various names are being discussed to sing the hook (i.e. Lady GaGa, Keri Hilson, Jazmine Sullivan, Estelle).
8. “As I Em” featuring Chester French
Asher knows critics compare him to Eminem, especially since the topic has come up in every single interview he’s done since his career took off. He takes the opportunity to deal with the subject, acknowledging the complexity of the issue and, hopefully, putting the issue to rest once and for all. “If I don’t talk about what people are already thinking,” he says, “then they’ll just keep thinking that. You have to go at the blockage.”
9. “His Dream” featuring Miguel
In an attempt to make a positive hip-hop song about an MC’s father, Asher pays tribute to his father who sacrificed his own dreams of becoming a writer to provide for the family. Asher talks about carrying the torch for his father’s dreams and thanks him for making his music career possible.
10. “La Di Da”
Another possible single, Asher brushes off the frustrations of life and the game on a soulful beat from Don Cannon (Ludacris, Busta Rhymes).
11. “Leo the Lion” featuring Ludacris
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to hear Luda’s verse but judging by the bouncy, syncopated track and Asher’s rapid-fire flow, he’ll be right at home. Oren Yoel continues to show his diversity, moving from the more traditional style he uses on much of the album to a more modern party-starter.
This is the story of Asher’s courtship with hip-hop and his rhyming beginnings. Any hip-hop fan will probably identify with parts of this tale and think back to the records, tapes, and CDs from their own younger days.
13. “Nothing You Can’t Do”
As it would turn out, in between the blunts and keg stands, Asher was in college studying to become a teacher, a job that he still actually plans to go back to one day. He gets inspirational for the closer, reminding listeners that there’s nothing they can’t do if they put their minds to it since life is too short to waste on nonsense.
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