Released: December 6, 2011Best Tracks
- "Make My"
7. Why you should buy undun:
If the power to build a poignant album around a single theme strikes you as a virtue of albummaking, then the Roots have made one of the most important rap albums ever. But undun doesn't merit praise for its discipline; it deserves praise for outstanding execution, masterful string arrangements, and a fierce display of creativity.
6. Section of the review where I offer oblations at Black Thought's Delphic temple:
Black Thought is a surgeon of emceeing, reaching only for the most incisive effect each line and verse, each metaphor and punchline, can convey, and applying his skill accordingly. Listen closely and you'll hear him feeling around his tool box for just the right flow, the right vocal inflection, the right rhyme sequence. He's got an insanely nimble wordplay that can, in one breath, treat an elegiac scene and then spring into the spoils of success in the next, as on "Kool On." The song that's now intaglioed in my brain, "Sleep," has him employing the occasional pause as he unpacks Redford's postmortem psyche: "The past unraveled, adding...insult to this injury" and "Oh...there I go, from a man to a memory. Damn [long pause] I wonder if my fam will remember me." Those breaks say as much as his words. Thought is machine.
5. On the matter of undun's theatrical progenitor:
If undun has a progenitor it's not musical. Instead, it more closely resembles Christopher Nolan's Memento. In Memento, a man incapable of retaining new memory tries to solve the murder of his wife using a reverse narrative arc. Memento still strikes me as a jigsaw puzzle of movie, even after 2,869 viewings. Undun's reverse narrative, on the other hand, is easier to follow. In fact, rearrange undun and play it backwards and it still makes sense. Play Memento backwards and you'll end up in ER. OK, one more similarity: Memento succeeds due in large part to Guy Pearce's brilliant performance, just as undun benefits from the workmanlike consistency of Black Thought.
4. A condensed panegyric on undun that may come in handy during heated debates:
Compulsively musical. Curious. Smart. Elaborate. Cold. Tragic. Spiritual. Poetic. Inspired.
3. Where undun excels:
Undun is an indie film from a major studio. That's a huge economic eggshell to walk on. But if you're going to deliver a movie-like concept in song format, you better be dragging a sack made of gold bullion. Surely, the Roots drape gold bullion sacks all over undun. Chilling narratives roll in and out at a steady pace. Occasionally, grimly dressed words swap places with tassels of slinky grooves, as the Roots expound on the brooding neo-soul palettes they introduced on How I Got Over.
The music itself tells a story. This is where the Roots really shine. Listen to the four-piece climax that closes the album: "Redford (For Yia-Yoa & Pappou)" is chilling; "Possibility" lulls; "Will to Power" is the squawk of a man throttled by impending calamity; "Finality" is morning sunshine.
2. What undun is not about:
1b. What undun is really about:
Redford is a metaphor for anyone trapped in a calamitous lifestyle. And while the doomed hustler tropes may ring familiar, the Roots achieve superb aptness and freshness with their take. It's not just a matter of unpacking a puzzle for the sake of unpacking a puzzle; undun is a bleak reminder of the realities of the struggle. "It just as easily could've been me instead of ya," Black Thought proclaims on "Stomp."
1a. What undun is apparently about:
Redford Stephens. undun narrates the story of a hustler in reverse. With no concrete precept for action, Redford starts by emptying himself and engaging in his world. Each constructive step brings him closer to his inevitable fate. So each step forward is actually a receding step for Redford.