Monday, March 9, 2009

Why Asher Roth will NOT be a one-hit wonder

I know what you're thinking: "Great, another white, 23-year-old hip-hop blogger is jumping on the Asher Roth bandwagon...big surprise."

Granted, your skepticism is warranted. "I Love College," after all, is a gimmick song. His nasal voice is also eerily similar to another white rapper you might have heard before (see left), so the kid's still got plenty to prove before he wins over fans, much less fans of "true hip-hop." (Those quotes are for a separate blog post, but I digress...)

Gimmick it might be, but give the guy some credit. The 21st-century college lifestyle hadn't yet been made into a song; Asher noticed and he NAILED it. As if my fellow recent college grads didn't miss college enough already, now I can simultaneously laugh and cry every time "College" comes on.

Thanks to some friends at Universal, I've spent the last week dissecting Asleep In The Bread Aisle (in stores 4/20 - duh), and have concluded just what this blog post's title says...Asher ain't going nowhere.

As a whole, I found Asleep to not necessarily be an outstanding body of work, but more of a testament to why this guy deserves so much hype -- a characteristic very similar to Lupe Fiasco's debut. The skills are there, no doubt about it. With that in mind, if our great white hope continues to mature in the ways Lupe did -- more consistent production and a more refined direction of "who he is" -- we should expect platinum plaques for years to come.

Roth's aptitude as a wordsmith is evident right off the bat with the album's opening track, "Lark on My Go-Cart," named for Asher's fantasy joyride with Lisa from Saved By The Bell. The track offers Eminem's humor, Aesop Rock's acerbity, and the quiet confidence of your funniest stoner friends, all rolled (no pun intended) into one. References to Cheetos and Teddy Ruxpin will keep the potheads happy and the 80s-babies listening, respectively. The album jumps immediately into cannabis cornucopia with "Blunt Cruisin'," an no-holds-barred ode to suburban blazing and avoiding the po-po. If only this song was around when I was 17!! These tracks offer something that has never been available to the masses: a hip-hop album by the white people, for the white people.

Here's the thing: Eminem is a great rapper, sure. His angry rage and resentment toward his past made it easy for parent-hating kids to easily relate. But his psychotic nature made it so that the rest of white America could never REALLY connect. Asher isn't trying to be anything except himself: a pale, scrawny, suburban MC, with a sense of humor that deserves your attention. Period.

For a number of reasons, I can't comment on specifics regarding the rest of the album. What I can tell you is this: this album is more than the frat house soundtrack that the skeptics are predicting. Asher spits (and spits well) on everything from partying to politics, chasing girls to chasing dreams, and everything in between. Knowing that they will never disappear, Roth approaches the Marshall Mathers comparisons head-on with an entire song dedicated to just why he is NOT that other guy. On a less serious yet more newsworthy note, the Michael Phelps fiasco has proven that Americans are less offended than ever by marijuana use...and I think this will only work in Roth's favor. So once your head clears up from all that 4/20 haze, go to your local record, iTunes...and pick up Asleep In The Bread Aisle. A five-star album it isn't, but it surely leaves a lasting impression that keeps me itching for more.

Still can't get enough? Click here for DJ Semtex's 25-minute "Story of Asher Roth."

"Allen Iversooooon, Hakeem Olajuwooooon"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A letter to

Please stop letting the public think that digital music is worth less than it is.

Clearly we understand the difficulty in trying to compete with a monster like iTunes. So how do you try to keep up? You look at what iTunes promotes, then swiftly slash your prices on the exact same featured artists and try to play ball.

Exhibit A: Troubadour, by K'Naan. K'naan was relatively unknown before last week, when his major label debut dropped. iTunes was ahead of the game, making it a free Single of the Week and discounting the album to $7.99 to those who liked it.

You, Amazon, upon learning this, quickly discounted the album to a whopping $1.99. Two dollars! For a whole album! What a deal! If iTunes is selling it for 5 bucks more, I'd be a fool to buy it there, wouldn't I?

Exhibit B: No Line on the Horizon, by U2. Clearly the biggest album dropping this week, and by a long shot. And how does any business drive sales to its products? With great deals, of course! The album is available for just 4 bones on Amazon, compared to 10 at iTunes. And again, why waste the extra cash on iTunes? Seems like a no-brainer if you ask me (that is, if you're a big-enough tool to actually like the most overrated band of all time).

I could list countless examples but you get the point. But, Amazon, I warn you of the long-term repercussions of your actions.

What your customers probably don't realize, is that you are taking a massive hit by offering these albums for so low. The record labels give the same wholesale price to Amazon as they do to iTunes, Best Buy, or whomever -- and when you sell an album for 2 bucks, you're taking $2-3 in the red column with each purchase.

Amazon's logical explanation must be, "if people see these great deals, they'll come back and our customer base will keep growing." And Lord knows it needs to. But these "great deals" can't last forever if you want to stay alive. 2,000 sold K'Naan albums = a $6,000 loss. That will add up after awhile.

Moreover, you are catering to a larger problem: the idea that music is not worth as much as the price for which it is sold. Most people steal all their music these days, and the few that don't are barely willing to pay $10 for a CD. If you keep convincing a customer that an album is worth your $4, your $3, even just $2 -- but not $10 -- how is anybody supposed to profit from album sales? HOW?

Please stop the gimmick, before it's too late. A great album IS worth your $10. Plain and simple.

(I started to use the rest of this space to express my strong dislike for U2 - and specifically, that Pope-wannabe on your left - but I would've written for hours. Besides, I'm all about the love, I keep my Haterade in the fridge. I hope you enjoy whatever album you've bought most recently...especially if it's Troubadour, not No Line on the Horizon.)

Side-Note: How to Rob an Industry Hipster

I called this a "side-note" since this isn't officially a post, but holy crap is this video post-worthy. Dude finds a way to diss every artist ever featured on DDoff Daily; a must-watch if you're a fan of the music that gets featured here on a daily (no pun intended) basis.

Monday, March 2, 2009

2009: The Year of the Early Adopter (Take 3)

(Thanks to Mike for hooking me up with the "lost post." A new one is coming soon, I promise)

There's little doubt in my mind that you've heard this song before: "Day 'n' Nite," by Kid Cudi. Heck, you've probably also heard the remix a million times as well. Moreover, I'm willing to bet you've known about this track for six months, or even a year.

What's crazy is that this video is only five days old. But you know the song, because you're reading blogs like this one on a regular basis; you're interactive with your music, you want to know what's popping before it pops.

You, the eager listener, are what's known as an early adopter. DJs and industry folks are the tastemakers of popular music -- we hear it first, and if we like it, we'll let you know about it. The early adopters are second-in-line in this hierarchy of music discovery; they want to know what's out there as soon as possible, so that when you finally hear it on the radio, you can look cool and tell your friends, "oh, that song is old. I loved it...last year!"

Early adopters used to be few and far between...but with music blogs and social networking becoming more commonplace by the second, the gap between tastemaker and early adopter (and consequently, early adopter and casual listener) is shrinking at an exponentially rapid level.

As far as quality of music goes, I think this is a good thing. We can weed out the crap more quickly, enjoy what we like, and point our proverbial middle finger at the rest.

On the other hand, the ridiculous speed at which we get our information is killing our attention spans; we're less likely than ever to fully dissect a song for all it has to offer. We know 30% of the lyrics to 2,000 songs, instead of 100% of 200.

If you haven't seen or heard Kid Cudi's instant classic, you're a casual fan. We hope you enjoy the song, we really do! But to us, you're a wee bit behind.