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Review: The Roots 'Undun'

December 06, 2011|Ernest Wilkins

***1/2 out of four

Let’s get the semantics out of the way. This album is not a “rap” album. It is not for anyone whose only knowledge of the Roots is through its new “day job” as house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” The Philadelphia crew’s 10th studio album is a stone-cold concept record that I had to listen to three times to catch everything. Working backward to tell the story of a hustler named “Redford” (a Sufjan Stevens reference, BTW), Roots members find themselves in “throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks” experiment mode. You won’t find stand-alone tracks or “singles.” (Translation: You’ll need to play the record all the way through.) You will find heavy orchestral numbers, top-notch guest work from names like Big K.R.I.T and Phonte, and an ending (beginning?) that will leave you wanting more. Which I believe is the whole point, isn’t it?

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