While being a Caucasian in hip-hop is nothing new, there has always been an air of doubt surrounding MCs of a lighter shade. So, on his debut, Asleep in the Bread Aisle, the unassuming Asher Roth looks to stake his claim and plant his flag as a bona fide rap star.
Lovers of lyrics should look no further than the album’s first selection, “Lark on My Go-Kart.” Over a steady yet commanding drumroll, Asher drops free-associative rhyme patterns like, “Mario Kart skills are outrageous/Play me any day, and I’ll be the best racist/Wait, no, erase it, meant to say racer.” The Busta Rhymes–assisted “Lion’s Roar” is more proof of Roth’s verbal dexterity, and while the Dungeon Dragon surely steals the show, the rap rookie holds his own with a double-time flow over the drum-and-bass-inspired track. Naturally, the fun-loving “I Love College” sets the Morrisville, Pennsylvania, native up for one-hit-wonder quips, but he quickly silences haters with the Don Cannon–produced “La Di Da” and the party-starting “She Don’t Wanna Man,” featuring Keri Hilson.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle that Roth must overcome before he is fully accepted is the comparisons to another great White hope, Eminem. The young’n confronts the elephant in the room when he contends, “’Cause we have the same complexion and similar voice inflections/It’s easy to see the pieces and to reach for that connection,” on the tongue-in-cheek “As I Em.” Then Asher begins to really set himself apart, celebrating his own nuclear family and wholesome upbringing on the acoustic “Fallin’” and “His Dream,” a touching ode to his father’s parental sacrifices.
Asleep in the Bread Aisle is by no means perfect—the politically fueled “Sour Patch Kids” is a noble attempt, but it dampens the album’s lighthearted theme. And while amusing, the story-driven “Bad Day” begins to wear thin after a few listens. Still, with his first shot, Asher more than proves his musical worth, crafting an album too good to sleep on. –ROB MARKMAN