Just when you thought their music could not get any better, The Roots have “dun” it again with their new concept album, Undun. Their 13th studio record and first concept album follows the fictional character Redford Stephens in reverse chronology, beginning with his death in the opening instrumental song “Dun”, and moves along, with each song representing another chapter in the story of Stephens’ life on the street.
I listened to the album twice before I truly appreciated just how cohesively put together it was. Flowing like a soundtrack to a movie in reverse, the flawless, striking beats and carefully written verses move the album and its listeners along the path of Stephen’s turmoil stricken life.
It is difficult to pinpoint one particular song, mainly because it is when listened to in sequence that the listeners experience the entire story. “Kool On” immediately hooks you in with the initial atmospheric vocal intro that leads into best beat on the album. This song, featuring Greg Porn, Black Thought, and Truck North, is a feel-good tune that tells of Stephens getting ready for a night out on the town. “Tip the Scales” is an account of Stephens’ contemplation of the fairness of the justice system, which leads into the poignant instrumental suite built off Sufjan Stevens’ song, “Redford – for Yia Yia and Pappou”.
Notwithstanding the many positives about this album, I feel that it does have a few subtle shortcomings, one being the album’s length. In total, the album plays for just over a half hour, leaving me, and most if not all other Roots fans, wanting more. Secondly, there are a few tracks (“One Time” and “Tip the Scale”) where the choruses don’t seem to measure up to the others on the album, not to mention some of the Roots’ hooks in the past.
That being said, everything about Undun demonstrates the constant stream of inventive and imaginative thought that is put into every Roots album. They have been a progressive, talented group for over 20 years, and show no signs of slowing down.