Undun is The Roots most ambitious and shortest record to date. Clocking in at only 39 minutes, the Sufjan Stevens-inspired album nevertheless tells an urban tale of the unmentioned death of a street thug told in reverse. Here band leader ?uestlove, mistakenly thinking he was Gaspar Noé and Charles Burnett (just look at the Killer of Sheep-influenced cover), decided The Roots should move on from being adult contemporary rap to pretentious adult contemporary rap. Think How I Got Over but with a narrative to anchor the songs to a singular theme. The success of the album is largely based on your nostalgia for The Roots – whether you prefer them just jamming a jazzy rap joint or their more meaningful works.
Here Black Thought restrains himself from his free flow rap jams, there’s actual songwriting involved. “I’ll leave the memories here, I won’t need them/ If I stop thinking and lie, now that’s freedom” (as on ‘Lighthouse’) is the kind of phrases you’d hear from the man on Undun, there’s zero hard body braggadocio on the record surprisingly. The Roots staples like Dice Raw, the amusingly named Greg Porn and Truck North lent voices that don’t sound out of place with Black Thought, they’ve become part of the band. Undun is the rap canon’s equivalent of a Bruce Springsteen street-level record, the potency of its effectiveness is up to your own hip hop bias.
LISTEN TO: ‘Kool On’ ‘Lighthouse’ ‘Tip The Scale’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Black Thought, Common, Mos Def
Ghetto literature @ theroots.com.