After making 12 albums over the course of 18 years, The Roots have finally produced their most avant-garde project yet, “Undun.” The conceptual album follows the downfall of fictional character Redford Stephens in this advisory account. Based off of two key songs – the Guess Who’s “undun” and Sufjan Stevens’ “Redford” – the album is a 14-track story that starts off at the tragic end Redford’s life and regresses backwards.

The album spins a tale about Redford’s venture down the wrong path, centered on bad decisions that forever alter the course of his life. It is about falling apart and the self-realizations that Redford has as everything unfolds. Each track is laced with the sort of despair and desperation that you would expect to come with a chaotic career in drugs and hustling.

The album kicks off with the flat lining of a heart monitor in “Dun” and progresses into low-key, dark “Sleep” that glimpses into Redford’s last moments as he accepts his death. “Make My” showcases newcomer Big K.R.I.T, Dice Raw and Black Thought as they explore Redford’s addiction to drugs and criminal activities that have become a prominent fixture in his life. “Kool On” is a 70’s funk-tinged jam that focuses on the glamorous upside of illicit doings and “The OtherSide” is Redford’s recognition of his impending death – and perhaps the ultimate foreshadowing of what is to come in a lush blend between old school R&B and a piano driven backdrop. As for the four part movement at the end, it is better left for fans to experience firsthand and without the influence of critics.

As far as conceptual albums go, it is a rarity to see one executed in hip-hop/neo soul. It is an interesting look into how storytelling can be infused into songwriting – a difficult feat for any artist. With a few core albums that have already set the tone, “Undun” is a multi-faceted addition to a very short but innovative list. The use of several featured artists strengthens the album and its intention to give a multitude of full-bodied voices to Redford’s colliding psyche. It plays out like a doomed Greek comedy, but that is its charm.

The Roots have been the type of group that have given into their artistic cravings, which has ultimately benefited those looking for music that goes beyond typical thematic fare. With that being said, this album takes listeners back the beginning of the Roots’ career with “Illadelph Halflife” and is a strong addition to their already impressive collection of albums.

About the Author

Aimee Mandle
Aimee Mandle
Aimee enjoys catching up on new music and movies and she loves writing about them! Reviewing just about everything for iSPY, Aimee has become one of our go to sources for the best up and coming "stuff". Reach out to Aimee for any suggestions or comments.