This suburban Philly rapper’s debut single, “I Love College,” is a smash on campuses, in clubs, and doubtlessly in cubicles across the country. It’s a masterpiece of simplicity, a raise-your-cup tribute to things an awful lot of people agree on (“I love women / I love drinkin’,” etc.). It even reminds us that date rape isn’t cool. While some have averred that Roth is nothing more than a fratty Eminem (he even nods to the influence on the sorta touching “As I Em”), his canny business model recalls that of fellow college dropout Kanye West — the regular-Joe populism, the up-from-nothing myth, the industry cred (a Don Cannon/DJ Drama mix tape, Cee-lo and Estelle guest spots), the hangdog charm, the brand consciousness.
Roth faithfully describes yet another facet of his product (himself) with each track. He’s the fun-loving stoner (“Blunt Cruisin'”), the sensitive lyricist (“La Di Da”), the weary loner eschewing groupies (“Be By Myself”), the social conscience (“Sour Patch Kids”), the reverent son (“His Dream”), and, of course, the Olympian lover (“Lion’s Roar”). The single may be a brilliantly dopey confection, but the rest just feels like someone’s marketing plan. Lacking the lyrical gymnastics and personality of his mix tapes and freestyles, Roth’s debut boasts a laziness that borders on contempt. Unburdened by Kanye’s melancholia or Eminem’s vertiginousness, Roth is perfectly likable, and perfectly bland.
Watch: Asher Roth, “I Love College”