Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Roots Rip Through Concept-Heavy "undun" Album Tracks (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)

Let's face it, "orchestral" and "concept album" are basically taboo words in The World of Hip-Hop; Terms which are not generally met with the most positive fanfare. Though, there are of course exceptions for every rule: Kendrick Lamar's incredible 2011 mixtape street album, #Section80 - A fictionalized account of this generation's all too real prescription drug dependency and alarmingly high tolerance... and The Roots' just-released [Dec. 6] landmark 13th commercial effort, undun. Over the course of it's 14 tracks, ?uestlove & The Roots Crew effectively flesh out the life story of one Redford Stephens, undun's titular character. Stephens' primary traits were grafted from a number of real life inspirational sources including The Guess Who, Sufjan Stevens' "Redford" character (Michigan), Black Thought's own friends-family, and a few small-time Philly drug dealers.

Frequent Roots collaborators Dice Raw, Truck North, Greg Porn (The Money Making Jam Boys), Bilal Oliver, and Phonte all have co-starring roles in the 40-minute short film that is undun. I must say, The Roots have done a fine, fine job crafting this "orchestral concept album," which really is one step above their last album, How I Got Over (2010). HIGO was very much breed between filming daily takes @ Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; Many of the album's Indie Rock-leaning guests [Dirty Projectors, Monsters of Folk, Joanna Newsom] were noticeably spawned from 2009-10 show performances. undun is much darker in comparison and amps up the level of concept spread throughout the album(s). Aside from a DJ Rogers sample used on "One Time," the album is essentially sample-less.

Redford Stephens' story is essentially told in reverse: death-life... as the album starts out with a flat line-led intro, "Dun." Familiar elements of Rock, Jazz, Reggae, Funk, and Deep Soul are interwoven amidst undun's complex storyline. Big K.R.I.T. and D.D. Jackson also make note-worthy appearances on separate tracks, strategically positioned @ either end of the album. Thusfar, "Make My" has served as lead single of sorts, while "Will to Power" is an Avant-Garde romp that's placed as the 3rd Movement of an intricate string-based suite. undun has the power to appeal to a number of fan markets: The casual Hip-Hop head looking for something slightly left of "the norm," while it's intense plotlines will indefinitely satisfy Roots pursuits looking for a bit of [deep] food for thought. I'm going to have to say that undun was hands down one of The Best Albums of 2011! Surf on over to okayplayer to pick up an EXCLUSIVE T-shirt/CD bundle for just $30.00.

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