April 23, 2009

 

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Sach O would rather be listening to Smif N Wessun or Scarface. Come back next week for much better records.

Two big-budget major label rap albums are dropping this week. One is by a slightly geeky frat boy whose hit single is an ode to keggers, and whose attempt at a “lyrical track” (ahem) involves the words “Go Kart”. The other is by a portly Haitian guy who’s been beefing with 50 Cent, and whose album revolves exclusively around cocaine and the objects/women that are available if one successfully distributes cocaine.

One of these records is funny, can you guess which one?

You’d be forgiven for assuming Asher Roth’s, Asleep in the Bread Aisle, would be good for a chuckle. Everything from the album cover, to the novelty single, to the 4:20 release date, promises light-hearted fun and good times. Full disclosure: I’d heard exactly 2 Roth songs prior to his album leak, so I’m out of the loop in terms of the blogosphere’s love/hate relationship with the guy, and nothing on Asleep in the Bread Aisle has managed to convince me to pick a side. Rather, all it’s done is left me wondering how Frat Rap’s wunderkind could be so…dull.

Asher Roth’s cardinal sin as a pop/party rapper isn’t a lack of skills, wack beats, white privilege or snarky irony: it’s not being fun. From tracks about driving p-noid to overly earnest laments about poverty to bitching about a bad flight (what’s the deal with those peanuts?) Roth spends most of his time outside of his goofy garsh-shucks comfort zone in a misguided attempt to be a capital-A Artiste. Bad look when your fan base mirrors Seth McFarlane’s. Even “I love College” is oddly joyless if you stop and think about it with its solo “Freshmen” and “Chug” chants. Dude sounds like he’s in the deadest party ever.

Maybe it’s just false expectations: the Beasties were funny, Em was funny, The Lonely Island (whose own recent release trumps Roth’s in every department) are fuckin hilarious. Mainstream white rappers are expected to go the comedy route. The problem is, if I’m in the mood to hear a serious Caucasoid rap about his life, I’m far more likely to grab a Def Jux record than anything by a guy who’s hit was about beer-pong. In all fairness, the record ain’t wack and I’ll take a frat boy over a bunch of metrosexuals rapping over Lady Gaga any day but ultimately, Sublime rap? Why bother?

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Deeper than Rap–on the other hand–may be the funniest thing I’ve heard all year. Now y’all know me: I’m entirely intolerant to any ironic appreciation of Hip-hop in an attempt to rescue wack rappers. The Yin Yang Twins are tards, NOT “exploring rap minimalism”, Souljah Boy is wack, NOT “expanding the ways we receive music” and for God’s sake I’ve been calling out Wayne on his gold-to-crap ratio a couple of years before it was fashionable. But Ross IS FUNNY and I see no other way to enjoy his music other than pure comedy (sort of like Cam if Cam couldn’t rap).

His shit’s high-brow too: he perfectly dead-pans his lines in the middle of what has to be the most bombastic production ever given to a rapper. We’re talking Busby Berkely shit here, if Berkely had a serious jones for powder. In fact, in terms of mainstream rap production, Deeper than Rap is pretty much the logical conclusion to this decade’s excesses, marrying the south’s love of synths to classy Blueprint soul, to form a monstrosity so shiny that the fact that an ex-correction officer is talking about coke over the tracks seems asinine. I mean, coke HAS to be involved right? How else do you end up with a record that makes Duran Duran sound earthy and under-produced?

But the beats would just be cheesy if paired with the wrong rapper; it’s Ross’ vocals that elevate the record to the apex of hilarity. Apart from being particularly clumsy (though not charmless) on the mic, Ross seems totally oblivious to the fact that he’s in the rap version of Spinal Tap (apologies to NWH), and that his name brand-dropping, seafood eating, drug dealing lifestyle is totally unbelievable. He’s like Bolt: the man raps like shit is actually happening when (even before he got exposed)  it was clear to all but the most gullible observer that Rick Ross has seen as much coke as Robert Plant has Elves and Fairies (which is to say, a fair bit but not nearly enough to merit several records on the subject).

This obliviousness is why 50 Cent couldn’t sink Ross: how are you going to mock a man who thought the hook to “Maybach music” was a reasonable idea? Bringing up Ross’ past and Baby mothers’ is like dissing Wayne for kissing Baby: Rick Ross might not talk about aliens but like Weezy, the guy is clearly living on a whole other planet. And you know what? It’s reasonably entertaining. More so than Jeezy’s recession raps or Kanye’s fish-dick ego-tripping, Ross’ dopey coke raps and all-star guest hooks are fun. Deeper than Rap is light, over-the-top fluff that’ll be perfect for summer BBQs and that’s all it needs to be. After all, if you can’t laugh at a bumbling ex-CO who sees himself as half Barry White half Pablo Escobar…who CAN you laugh at?

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