Asher Roth, Jazz Café, London
Wednesday 18 January 2012
Emerging onto the stage with his (now long) ginger locks, this white Jewish rapper looks no more like a hip hop star than he ever did.
But fresh from signing a new record deal with iconic hip hop institution Def Jam Records, this Pennsylvanian MC is back with his sophomore album ‘Is This Too Orange?’ And, although it’s been three years since his breakout frat-boy hit ‘I Love College’, Roth’s still not entirely wholesome.
As becomes clear when the stoner-grooves on ‘Blunt Cruisin’’, a track about getting high in your car, ooze out amidst the bobbing crowd. ‘I got the money, who go the dutchies? You got the munchies? I got the weed’, he drawls.
Yet he’s hardly your typical rapper either. Truculently pacing across the tiny stage peddling self-mocking witticisms about suburban life, lines like ‘Me and Teddy Ruckspin stirring up a ruckus/Egging all the houses, smashing all the pumpkins’, from ‘Lark on My Go-Kart’, serve as a reminder that this middle-class rapper still isn’t striving to represent anyone he isn’t.
And more importantly, his newer music still contains his old characteristic blend of irresistible beats, hooky refrains and his own seamless delivery. Tracks like ‘Common Knowledge’ with its layers of synths rippling over reverb-sodden beats, sound every bit as beguiling as the tracks on his first record.
Even his brave choice to cover D’Angelo’s neo-soul classic ‘Brown Sugar’ is well-executed and briefly exposes that unexpectedly tender facet of his vocal prowess.
Unsurprisingly, however, it’s Roth’s show-closer, and ode to student hedonism, ‘I Love College’, that spawns the most delight amongst the audience. Yet Roth, himself, seems the most jubilant when the deep gravelly bass line on ‘Hard Times’ kicks in. Asking the audience to rock back and forth with him, spirits continue to soar throughout the following track, ‘G.R.I.N.D. (Get Ready It's A New Day)’, which, with its summery drums, hook-laden chorus, and almost disco-like breakdown is enjoyable enough to compensate for the slight nausea the lyrics trigger (particularly the middle eight which preaches ‘happiness isn't about getting what you want all the time, it's about loving what you have’).
Nausea aside, for spreading such positive vibes and retaining an unapologetic approach to his middle class background, Roth should be commended for embracing the accessibility of his music. So what if he’s more like Superbad’s McLovin than he is Eminem? He’s pretty good regardless.
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