Music Feature

Review: Asher Roth with Nottz - 'The Rawth EP'

by Bill Chenevert
His new EP is better than haters want it to be
Well, it's 2011 and we're in the doldrums of the music world. Seems like there's no records coming out or shows to go to? You're right. But last week I got an email from my girl, Kathryn Frazier, over at Biz3. She was passing along the good word that Asher Roth has a new EP out, a collaboration with Nottz, and it's free to download. Let's rewind back to 4/20/09, when Ash put out Asleep in the Bread Aisle. It was a rather striking lightning rod in the culture of hip-hop. Here was a scrappy Pennsylvania boy with "troll doll" red hair who rapped about college, weed and girls. Everyone talked about Eminem and Snow (remember "Informer"?), whites in hip-hop, and the hype machine that might've pushed him to sales and success. Lots of haters questioned his talent. As it turned out, the record was full of sick tracks and impressive collaborations. Now, before the 2011 release of a new LP, The Spaghetti Tree, we're treated to a very solid eight-track EP called The Rawth.

Nottz is a producer from Norfolk, VA, who, it seems, made the acquaintance of Ash in 2k9 recording a bonus track for Asleep. He's produced since '98 and a fairly impressive roster, to boot: Busta, Rah Digga, Biggie, Snoop, Cassidy, Ghostface, 50, etc. Seems now he's taking his turn on the mic. Ash isn't even close to the only emcee on this EP. But it's Roth's slow and steady delivery on the opener, "Don'tcha Wanna Be (My Neighbor)?" that kicks things off. The light and airy bells of Mr. Roger's opening theme are sampled (brilliantly), before a sing-songy "Welcome to the world that I'm from" hook floats atop a deep and catchy breakbeat. Roth's verse opens, fittingly, with "Welcome to Morrisville, PA, about 25 minutes north of Phill-ay, where I was born and raised, and I learned my ways, yo the Morrisville pool, man, those were the days." Splashes sound off. There's something real humble here; rapping about being a white, suburban-raised pool-going white boy playing little league. He's so far from the hood and gang-banging, but that doesn't mean he's far from capable of producing some impressive raps and beats. "Break Bread" follows, where again, a Joanna Newsom-esque harp intro doesn't prepare you for the fat, thick beat that's about to bust you upside your head. A high-pitched loop of some kids singing "Should we break bread? We should raise our bread" is a fun and subtle touch, the kind of thing Ash is good for. These flourishes of ecstatic samples harken us back to an obscure old-school hip-hop record for me, The UMCs' Fruits of Nature. On this track, Ash raps (classically), "smokin' blunts, gettin' drunk, guess I'm just another sucker, hunh? All of a sudden bubble butts wanna fuck." So things haven't changed; he's still a young, single, 25 year-old coming to terms with trying to make a name for himself in the rap world. And having fun, too.

"Gotta Get Up" is another gem, a riff on the bummer of waking up in the morning. Not that we know why he'd be getting up, anyway. It features D.A. of Chester French, who sings the hook beautifully. D.A. and Ash met while recording Asleep, too, because he sings the hook on "As I Em," as well. His debut LP also shined because of his stellar collaboration with Cee Lo on "Be By Myself." Roth clearly knows how to employ a voice to lay down a catchy hook. The duo also sample a Cold War Kids song, "Hospital Beds," on the "Coming & Going" track that features Rhymefest. Nathan Willett's plaintive, emotive voice fits in nicely here. The closer, "Nothing You Can't Do," is a keeper, too. There's something great about how comfortable Roth feels on simple, spare beats that emphasize the simplicity of his hip-hop flavor. He uses beats that you can hear the hi hat, the bass thump and the snare roll (like on the brilliant Asleep opener, "Lark On My Go-Kart"). "This life is all that matters, my time is all I have and, I came here to prove that, there's nothing that you can't do," he sings in the chorus. Corny? Nah, it's actually kind of inspiring and touching. It helps to come to The Rawth EP with a love for Asleep in the Bread Aisle. A fondness for old-school hip-hop helps, too. He gives us simple, almost under-produced records, and no grand ambitions; just to make solid, head-bobbin', fun times for blunt cruisin' tracks. (School Boy)

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