Having a day job apparently has upped the productivity of The Roots. Since becoming Jimmy Fallon’s house band five years ago, the group has released six albums which includes duet albums with John Legend, Betty Wright, and last year’s Wise Up Ghost with Elvis Costello (and people that the Lou Reed / Metallica pairing was odd). More surprising than the output is that spending their days with the annoyingly chipper Fallon has gotten increasingly moody.
The Roots never were a party group, always focusing on the underbelly of hip-hop but 2010’s How I Got Over saw them collaborate with indie artists like Dirty Projectors, Joanna Newsom and repurposed the Monsters of Folk song Dear God. That was followed by undun, a concept album about the life of an urban youth told in reverse chronological. Now the band is back with ...and then you shoot your cousin and with a tite like that, you can guess no one will ever pick one of these songs in a lip sync battle with Fallon anytime soon.
The new album is another concept album, but much looser than the last but still touching on recurring themes like urban plight and thoughts on God with a soundtrack more foreboding than the previous album. After a Nina Simone song plays, the album starts up with a haunting choir on Never setting mood very well for what is to come. That is followed by When the People Cheer which sounds like old school The Roots. Black Rock hit like classic nineties rap, taking back the genre from the hip-pop that has littered the radio over the past decade.
Understand follows Dear God to church, this time with gospel type organs that shakes the pew and features the chorus, “People ask for God, 'till the day he comes. See God’s face; turn around and run. God sees the face of a man. Shaking his head, says ‘he'll never understand’” As moody as the album gets, it does end with the hopeful Tomorrow which even open up with some whistling which you can also find yourself smiling during. The song is a satisfying ending to maybe the tightest album the band has produced yet.
Song to Download - Understand
...and then you shoot your cousin gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.