It took lucky number 13 to do it, but the Legendary Roots crew finally released a concept album. The album follows the life and death of the fictional Redford Stephens. Looking at the awesome artwork, I assume that’s him at the end of the booklet.
As Roots albums go, the album moves back to what I originally loved about the band, and that’s being a BAND. Live instruments flow throughout, and Black Thought returns as one of the strongest rappers and lyricists in the game.
Speaking of instruments, the 4 part orchestral section is led by Sufjan Stevens in a collaboration I didn’t anticipate. Then again, I didn’t expect the ones from their previous album, How I Got Over. The gorgeous section encompassed one of my favorite parts of the album over about 5 minutes of high tuned string love.
My second favorite moment is the 4th track, One Time, featuring Dice Raw and Phonte. Those two are many-a-time collaborators on Roots albums (I think Dice has been on at least 6 Roots albums), and their verses here solidify that feeling even more.
Phonte’s verse was the best of the trio. A taste:
We wildin’ out of control until we all make the funny papers like Comic-Con
Feared in all streets so if you ever see me out in yall streets Find another one to occupy
Finally, my favorite moment on Undun was easily the 6th track, The OtherSide. Opening with the solid beat by Questo, Kamal kicks off the light keys before Black Thought drops the first line, “Yo, we obviously need to tone it down a bit…”. From here, the lyrics are the best timed and written on the album. Porn jumps in on the third verse with a good point:
Be an asshole when the shit hits the fan Or bet your life on a bluff and a bad hand
The best part however, was the chorus; Bilal comes in with something that sounds like sampled soul music over Kamal’s organ keys:
We’re all on a journey Down the hall of memories Don’t worry bout what you ain’t got Leave with a little bit of dignity Never loved what I had Always felt like I deserved more But when I Make it to the other side That’s when we’ll settle up the score
Bilal is a powerful asset to any song, and I feel nostalgia to All Matter from Robert Glasper’s album, Double Booked (which you should run out and get if you slept on it a couple years ago, but I reviewed it).
I got to see The Roots live this year for the first time (which is where I took all these pictures) at Outside Lands, and with Undun in the arsenal, they truly can’t be stopped in the live show game. Don’t miss their tour, whenever it happens, and you can bet your ass I’ll see you at the LA show.
Undun dropped today, and was worth the wait.
Until next time my friends,