Despite perceived shifts in focus, late-night show status, and rumors of halfway-break ups, The Roots continue to reap rewards from their studio presence with their latest effort, “Undun“. Without getting overly hyperbolic, this is one of the better concept albums we’ve ever heard, a truly well-rounded collection. Each track plays out like a scene in a play, which delineates the tripped out story laid out in the following Okayplayer press email:
“undun is an existential re-telling of the short life of one Redford Stephens (1974-1999). Through the use of emotives and Redford’s internal dialogues the album seeks to illustrate the intersection of free will and prescribed destiny as it plays out ‘on the corner’. Utilizing a reverse narrative arc, the album begins as the listener finds Redford disoriented–postmortem–and attempting to make sense of his former life. As he moves through its pivotal moments he begins to deconstruct all that has led to his (and our own) coming undun.”
Certain tracks stand out immediately, such as “The Otherside”, featuring keys that debilitate your knees, while Black Thoughts’ classic vocal cadence, and the instrumental potency just further cement this collective’s role as the most evolutionary group in Hip Hop. Phonte guests on “One Time” and kills it, while P.O.R.N. guests on multiple tracks, as The Roots’ newest heavily-featured co-conspirator. “Lighthouse” is a welcome departure for the band, combining a cryptic chorus (“if no ones in the lighthouse, you’re face down in the ocean”) with more subtle keys, which furthers the albums’ incredible overall balance. “Possibility” into “Will To Power” and then “Finality” to close the album is one of our favorite musical moments ever recorded. Aside from specific highlights, of which there are many, it’s the cohesion and diligence done in creatively portraying an intriguing and highly ambitious concept that makes this record so damn good.
When you take that backstory, and add The Roots‘ clinical aptitude, their latest effort makes for an incredible piece if audible art that we suspect has the ability to reel in nearly anyone. To call the melodies on the record indispensable would be a drastic understatement; nearly every track delivers itself tactfully as a modern delicious head-nodder, and the ones that don’t, are skilled in their ebb and flow, and do a great service in rounding out the depiction of the story. This band has the patina of a group of musicians who have long-since cemented their space amongst the hungriest students of sound.