The Roots | Undun

Def Jam (2011)
By MICHAEL C. WALSH  |  December 14, 2011
3.5 3.5 Stars


The year was 1999, and the Roots were entering a cool-kids club thanks to the release of Things Fall Apart. You can probably rattle off the names of their fellow travelers: Black Star, D'Angelo, Common, et al. Perhaps foremost though, was producer J Dilla. Questlove once praised the late great's drum programming as "musically drunk and sober at the same time." And 12 years later, we have the Roots 13th studio album, their most fully realized effort since Things and the first to pay proper respect to Jay, who died in 2006. There's a concept here: a gangbanger's life story told in reverse. But the "concept" is almost irrelevant. Despite the album's discordant tendencies, MC Black Thought comes as brutish as ever, and their now-standard cast of collaborators (P.O.R.N. and Dice Raw) sound more at ease over these lanky beats than they did on more combustible previous efforts. It's uncertain if Undun will ever be hailed as a "classic," given the malleability of that term amongst hip-hop heads. But at the tail end of a year in which mixtapes have usurped full-lengths — in terms of both quality and press coverage — its satisfying unity is a rebuke to the disposability of the blogosphere.

THE ROOTS | House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St, Boston | December 26 @ 7 pm | All Ages | $35-$45 | 888.693.2583

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