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Freedom fosters creativity like nothing else. Asher Roth realized that firsthand when he officially made the move from his native Philadelphia to Los Angeles in early 2013. Like countless other musicians before him, he sought the storied creative spirits of the Hollywood Hills, setting up shop in Beachwood Canyon and embarking on his latest musical journey. That road led him right to his second full-length album RetroHash [Ingrooves].
When he began writing, Roth had recently emerged from a rather tumultuous period. Separating from his record label, he found himself a completely independent artist. There were no boundaries. There were no expectations. There were no rules. Instead, he got the opportunity to pursue any muse he chose.
"I found a spot, and I embraced Los Angeles for what it is to me—a great place to create. I got the chance to be myself. I didn't have A&R's checking in on me or lingering 'major label' expectations. I hung out and made music. I could slow down for a minute in California. It was exciting."
Teaming up with frequent production collaborators Blended Babies behind the board, also recent West Coast transplants, he uncovered a different side of himself as an artist. Of course, he still can spit bars with the best of them, but he began singing more and introducing other instruments, like guitar, into his music. The result is a hip-hop hybrid steeped in classic rock bombast and expanse.
"You rarely hear guitar in hip-hop," he goes on. "It's got some grit. This record feels like a Monday in California. It's beautiful, but there's a light haze. It's a freedom album for me."
Airy production pipes through the first single "Tangerine Girl" as his falsetto takes center stage. As the bounce increases, he delivers something of a true California anthem.
"That song embodies our whole ethos in the studio," he exclaims. "We went out for a walk, got some tacos, came back to the studio, and I laid that melody down. We gave it some bars, and it's meant to shift the lens of how people see me.”
Elsewhere on the album, "Fast Life" cruises into new territory with its six-string shine and inspired cameo from Vic Mensa. Roth also raps a cautionary tale about an old neighbor from Morrisville, PA who lost her way in a fog of drugs and tragically passed. "
"She was really smart and sweet," he sighs. "She got caught up with the wrong people, and she ended up overdosing. For some reason, I felt like I wanted to tell that story. Growing up can be tough."
The album's laidback recording sessions at Blended Babies' studio allowed for other guests to contribute at will. Chuck Inglish of The Cool Kids trades verses with Roth on the album's smoky send-off "Keep Smoking," while ZZ Ward lends her overpoweringly soulful pipes to "Parties at the Disco."
"We needed a female on it," he goes on. "ZZ is from close to my neighborhood and we had a similar upbringing. She's inspired by a lot of different styles of music but finds herself pulled towards jazz, blues, and classic rock. She came into the studio and just killed it one day."
In order to give audiences the complete RetroHash experience, Roth performs the album in its entirety during a packed 2014 tour of intimate venues across the United States. It opened up the doorway into this next phase of his career in a perfect setting.
"You've got to hear it live," he affirms. "That was the best way for everybody to get into it."
Roth is no stranger to the road either. He's toured alongside everybody from Kid Cudi and Chuck Inglish to B.o.B and Blink-182. In addition, his first full-length, Asleep In The Bread Aisle, landed at #5 on the Billboard Top 200 upon its debut and yielded the platinum-certified hit "I Love College."
"I'm focusing on the future and the present, while acknowledging the past," he concludes. "I hope I can inspire people to be themselves. I'm taking risks and being myself. I want to promote that same freedom that I felt throughout this whole ride."