“What are you listening to?”
“Asher Roth.”
“Aw man, the ‘I Love College’ guy?”
“Uh, yeah.”

It’s been 5 years since Asleep in the Bread Aisle; an album that Def Jam put out to capitalize on the success of Asher Roth’s debut single ” I Love College.” It was an important moment for Asher, but a rushed effort that now serves as a cautionary tale. A reminder of how major labels are much less concerned with artist development than they are with an image to sell. Paul Roth has since shed the frat boy facade, and has become more hippie than hit maker, going the indie route to preserve his artistic integrity. Now he’s back, almost 5 years to the day with another offering. Looking to have a career on his terms.

Asher Roth should continue to executive produce his albums. At a time where rap albums can be as long as 18 songs, 10 minimizes the possibility of filler, making it easier for casual or uncertain fans to try it out. Asking Blended Babies to produce this entire effort ends up paying off. The beats on RetroHash rely heavily on bass guitar, as well as acoustic and blues guitar, a fitting platform for Asher to showcase his lyrical ability and surprising gift for melody. Songs like “Pull It” and “Tangerine Girl” help introduce a side of Asher that even avid listeners haven’t heard yet. On these songs, the eclectic side of Asher resurfaces, but not in the way we’re used to. His vocals aren’t powerful or bold, and they don’t display great range, but they’re soothing and endearing enough to make you sing along. While both tracks are standouts, they seem incomplete. As if they’re each lacking one big piece that would make them otherwise amazing songs.

On “Parties at the Disco”, he sounds like that one relative everyone in the family loves to hear sing. Many other rappers use their music to draw a line between themselves and the listener, but Asher has always reminded us he’s one of us. Songs like “Dude” and “Keep on Smoking” do a great job of keeping that tradition going. However, the magic isn’t always there. Asher’s gift for wordplay is unquestioned, but the choruses on “Be Right” and “Pot of Gold” become annoying after just a few listens, and “Dude” would’ve  been better without a feature. Curren$y’s flow is all over the place, and his subject matter fails to fit with the theme of the song.

Unfortunately, there are many Asher Roth fans that may come away disappointed with this effort. Many of us love hearing him tear beats apart one at a time, leaving the hooks to others and sometimes having no hook except for an old school rap sample. They’d be missing the point though. Asher Paul Roth is an artist first, and wants to continue perfecting his craft and reaching his audience with fun, positive music. RetroHash isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s a moment of triumph for him. A time to learn what works for him and what doesn’t, and to do it on his own terms, which is exactly what I’d want for a relative of mine.