Monday, October 17, 2011

Going Back to Our Roots

Word dropped a few days ago announcing The Roots' new concept album slated to come out December of this year. Entitled Undun, the album is going to be a “existential retelling” of the life of Redford Stephens, a man who was murdered at the young age of 25 in 1999. I was unable to find more information about Stephens but I am speculating that his story is one of symbolism, one that challenges common narratives of young black men while exploring the intricacies of "ghetto life." The band's drummer ?uestlove (Questlove) explains more:

"undun is the story of this kid who becomes criminal, but he wasn’t born criminal. He’s not the nouveau exotic primitive bug-eyed gunrunner like Tupac’s character Bishop in “Juice”… he’s actually thoughtful and is neither victim nor hero. Just some kid who begins to order his world in a way that makes the most sense to him at a given moment… At the end of the day… isn’t that what we all do?”
I think the concept, like the band itself, is brilliant. It took some time for The Roots to gain success in the mainstream, with their fourth album Things Fall Apart being the first to go gold. And although they have made it big, they have been able to stay true to their uniqueness. Hip hop fans respected the insightful content and complexity found in Black Thought's lyrics, giving the group street cred. Critics appreciated their artistry which blended traditional hip hop beats with jazzy, live instrumentation.

The Roots have continued to grow throughout their career with many of their music tackling a variety of social issues. Undun may not sell a mil in its first week like a certain, lesser talented, squeaky voiced rapper but I am expecting nothing short of greatness. I remember back when rap songs used to tell a story. Well, not really considering I'm only 22 but that is besides the point. Many great hip hop songs featured storytelling but to my knowledge, the concept has never been expanded to an entire album. So this December I'll be at the record store, coppin this album. Until then, I'll be rockin' to their throwbacks.

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