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Positive Feedback ISSUE 61
may/june 2012


The Roots, undun
by Jimmie Bustillos


roots undun

First off, I would like to announce that I had not originally been a Roots fan, until I heard this album. I kid you not, upon hearing the first couple of tracks I said, "Why the hell have I not listened to The Roots before? Seriously?!" This album has so many great things going for it in its originality, rawness, lyricism, and tranquility. I had never paid attention to any of the Roots older songs, remixes, and whatever else is thrown in that category, because they simply never caught my ear's attention. I will admit to hearing one or two tracks at get-togethers, parties, and kickbacks (hang outs between friends). I did not have much anticipated response of wanting to hear more of the band from what I can recall. What really caught my attention with this album, though, is simply the lyricism in each rapper's verses, and the interactions between them during each verse. Black Thought (lead vocalist/rapper) of The Roots has great hooks and metaphors sprouting up between each verse, and they resonate 30 seconds later during each song. Undun is, for the lack of better words, an album with many artists collaborating to produce a hip hop album about growth, prosperity, maturity, mistakes, and poverty. The album itself is supposed to tell the story of a fictional character called Redford Stevens, who is based on a Surjan Stevens song.

This album is supposed to play in reverse chronological order, detailing Redford's poverty stricken life. Although it plays just like a regular album, there are added elements that can give you that dynamic of storytelling, starting from the first song and on toward the last track. There are classical influences in the album, detailing 5 songs that exclusively build and fade. The diversity of the album showcases the great talents The Roots has as a band musically. The band literally dives into indie, alternative, neo-soul, classical, jazz, hip hop genre's, and meshes them together.

When you listen to the song "One Time," you get the instinct right away of a struggling man through the vocalization in Black Thought's lyrics. The song is pretty mellow throughout, the piano melody feels like it has some neo-soul influences. It is a pretty catchy song for something that sounds so serious, and that is including rappers Phonte and Dice Raw who talk about life of hard crimes. Another song that caught my attention is "The Otherside", which also has some serious undertones. This song is more uplifting though, because it has a pick-yourself-up mentality. The hook is sublime, and each verse seems to cover all the bases with a backing jazz feel to it. Finally, "Stomp" brings in that raw hip hop drum beat with some lyrics depicting moments that are out of control in Redford's life, from what it seems.

I could go on more about this album, but alas it is too much to simply just write about it. Each song brings in a new element, the melodies are dynamic, moving, and can be intense. It has jazz, classical, indie, neo-soul elements, and everything just blends so well. This album is great, but don't take my word for it, give it a listen, you just might like it.