While the Roots serves as the house band for the Jimmy Fallon late night show, they’ve haven’t gone mainstream. Their 13th studio album, the riviting Undun, finds hip-hop’s hardest working band creatively at the apex with a thought-provoking and groundbreaking new concept album that signals that true hip-hop still has a beating pulse!
Anchored by Philly classmates/bandmates Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, undun is an existential re-telling of the short life of their fictional character, one Redford Stephens (1974-1999). The album gravitates around Redford growing up in an urban landscape struggling with survival. He is forced to juxtapose between the choice of making something of himself or living a life of fast money and crime, and he chooses the life of crime. 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.
Released on December 6, 2011 with it’s initial single, Make My, the CD dropped to critical acclaim with many hailing it as one of the year’s best – and their best work!
Inspired by The Guess Who’s song “undun,” the group created the character based on the Sufjan Stevens song “Redford.” Undun features an eclectic blend of guest stars including Aaron Livingston, lyricsts Big K.R.I.T., Phonte, Dice Raw, P.O.R.N., Truck North, Bilal, and Stevens. The groups latest effort highlights them reverting back to their original “roots”, by returning to lyrics revolving around struggle and making something out of nothing.
The genius of undun is that The Roots continue to expand and push the boundaries forcing their audience examine not only the tone of their work but the circumstances that Stephens’ endures during his short life. Effortlessly moving from mainstream to underground, The Roots are an anomaly in that they create music and art that matters!!!!