[22 May 2014]
Future rap historians will no doubt come across the expansion of frat-rap in the 2010s. Frat-rap (or Frapt as I’m attempting to trademark it as) is the sound of artists like Mac Miller. White college age dudes rapping about exorbitant lifestyles, acclaimed by bros across the world and generally panned by everyone else. But something happened. After the days of “Donald Trump”, Mac Miller actually released and was featured on albums that strayed away from the Greek life base (just hear his guest verse on Freddie Gibbs’ Pinata). Similarly another titan of Frat-rap has gone down strange avenues. It’s been awhile since Asher Roth released get-black-out-drunk anthem “I Love College”, but it’s a mark he continuously tries to scrub off. His surprisingly good mixtape Pabst & Jazz had rappers like Action Bronson jumping on board. Retro Hash is Roth’s largest foray into an odder world. Lead single “Tangerine Girl” doesn’t even have Roth rapping until the second half. Roth attempts to mix stoner vibes, psychedelic overtones, and the kitchen sink together in a fairly experimental release. It never becomes cohesive enough to be called great, but it’s just what Roth needs to distance himself from “I Love College”.
Roth is always been a bit of a weirdo. Post Asleep in the Bread Aisle started taking oddball chances. He toured with Kid Cudi, B.o.B, and….Blink-182? He also left his major label to join Federal Prism, an indie label formed by TV on the Radio’s David Sitek. There’s also rumors of an EP with Pete Rock in the works. So those of you looking for “I Love College Part. II: Electric Boogaloo” are in for a disappointment. For everyone else Retro Hash is a mixed bag. Roth’s nearly comatose flow isn’t enough to make an entire album and Roth is smart with his guest choices. ZZ Ward’s bluesy voice is a welcome addition to breezy opening tack “Parties at the Disco”, and Vic Mensa drops a speedy verse on “Fast Life”. The best feature is Curren$y on album highlight “Dude”. It’s a fine stoner rap piece that’s built around a slinky drum sample and upright bass. Roth makes it an exercise in humor and absurdity. He references Workaholics, The Big Lebowski, and claims he’ll “trick or treat at 30”. He also tries to impress a lady with his intellect, only for it to fail spectacularly. “TED talks on the iPad / Old search says Bang Bros / My bad.” Curren$y, for his part, is less silly and claims that you’ll “never met another nigga higher or hotter”.
When Roth goes solo things get a little sketchier. He tends to fall into another white rapper trap; hyper-positivity. “Pot of Gold” and “Be Right” are in line with Macklemore’s believe in yourself mantra. “I’ve decided I’m a do my thing / And stay proud / Used to be some doubt / But now the whole world’s my playground,” he raps on “Be Right”. It’s great that Roth has that confidence, but in song form it turns a sappy. It’s clear that these songs can’t just have Roth rapping on them. His laid-back flow isn’t enough to support a song by itself. “Tangerine Girl” is the challenge to the formula with its odd psychedelia and hazy production. It’s a step in a weird direction, but perhaps a direction that Roth should explore.