Album Review: The Roots – Undun
The legendary rap collective pair a gritty Hip-Hop narrative with a series of short films to create the Undun experience.
The Roots describe their 13th studio album as, “…the story of this kid who becomes criminal, but he wasn’t born criminal. He’s not the nouveau exotic primitive bug-eyes gunrunner… Just some kid who begins to order his world in a way that makes the most sense to him at a given moment.”
Our protagonist in the story is Redford Stevens, a street kid we meet at the age of 16. Seeing no other options in his grasp, Redford chooses a life of crime and we follow him until he meets a violent demise. The story opens as Redford awakes in the afterlife and begins to think about this past.
This album is an expected departure from the current swag-bitten rap majority. Arranged by QuestLove, Undun plays like the opening credits of a Blaxploitation film, soulful and funky. Black Thought is relentless in the seriousness of his lyrics, no punchlines, no cute metaphors, just raw storytelling.
The Roots make commendable picks in who they decide to feature on Undun. Mississippi newcomer Big K.R.I.T. lends his southern intellect and twang to Make My. Phonte and Dice Raw join Black Thought in painting a picture as vivid as any Gordan Parks snapshot with On Time and Bilal brings an almost gospel soulfulness to the percussion heavy The OtherSide.
Aside from the music of Undun, Director Clifton Bell brings the album to life in a series of short films released every Tuesday one month prior to the release of the album. The Roots tackle the concept album flawlessly. QuestLove’s compositions on Undun take the group to new musical heights.
3. Make My
4. One Time
5. Kool On
6. The Other Side
9. I Remember
10. Tip The Scale
11. Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)
12. Possibility (2nd Movement)
13. Will To Power (3rd Movement)
14. Finality (4th Movement)