Many only know The Roots as the house band for NBC’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, while others know them as the Hip-Hop Band that brought some of the ILLest true Hip-Hop albums over the past 18 years, Do You Want More?!!!??!, Illadelph Halflife, Things Fall Apart, The Roots Come Alive, Game Theory, and Rising Down. Unlike most Hip-Hop artists today who have turned to the auto-tune and mainstream Pop Hip-Hop, The Roots have never lost “their roots.” Infusing Jazz, Blues, Soul, and even Indie Folk into their music, ?uestlove and co., continue their creative exploration.
In their 13th and latest album Undun, released Dec. 6th, The Roots expand on their focus and experimentation by creating their first “concept ablum.” The fourteen tracks of the album tell the story of a fictional character Redford Stephens (named after a Sufjan Stevens song), rewinding from the moment of his death to moments of his life where crime, tragedy, and a hopeless environment representing today’s society impact his life. Redford Stevens in the words of The Roots “becomes criminal, but he wasn’t born criminal. He’s not the nouveau, exotic, primitive, bug-eyed gunrunner… He’s actually thoughtful and is neither victim nor hero.” Undun is challenging to any listener, whether you are a Roots veteran, first timer, or just a casual listener. Each verse is a clue, each song a story entangled in Redford Stephen’s young and tragic life.
Undun’s is without a doubt The Roots most downbeat album they have released, but it is also their deepest, which is profound knowing Black Thought’s history of topical lyrics. While some could complain the album is confusing, gloomy, absent of a single and the fourteen tracks only span a total of 38 minutes. I say it exhibits the rich tradition of The Roots ability to collaborate and expand their creativity while staying true to their music.