Dig of the Week: undun
You’ve found yourself in the little corner of the internet, where I like to shine a spotlight on classic albums, from a musical and cultural perspective, that I consider highly essential and always in some way relevant to the current month. Sometimes regularly, sometimes less so. Nevertheless, always with love.
Yesterday marked 9 years since the release of ‘Undun’, the 13th studio album of one of my favorite bands of all time: The Roots. Formed in Philadelphia by Tariq Trotter a.k.a. Black Thought and Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson in 1987, the year I was born. This album carries a very special place in my heart since it has actually launched my love-affair with their music. Hearing the first two songs of this record in my friend Tina’s car shortly after it came out truly knocked my socks off *shoutout to Tina for letting me borrow this CD*. For me it was a crucial, game-changing moment that really put me on to the whole catalogue of the Roots at the time.
Released in 2011, ‘Undun’ turned out to be the bands first concept LP and it’s definitely a beautiful body of work that needs to be enjoyed in its full entirety. Every time I spin this one, it hits a little different. Particularly towards the dawn of this year we’re currently in. This album tells the tragic crime-filled life story of a young semi-fictional protagonist called Redford Stephens trying to turn the odds of survival in his favor. The biographical narrative is carried on in reverse, thus starting on Redford’s deathbed and ending at his birth, instrumentally. Musically, the way the songs are crafted challenges the sound of hip hop at the time, not only with the beats, but also the intricate instrumentation and rich atmospherics. The whole body of work is just so well thought through. It strikes many chords and captures the hardships of the times in an incredibly creative way.
Black Thoughts legendary lyricism, writing and delivery make this album a timeless piece of poetry and the guest verses by BIG K.R.I.T., Phonte, Greg Porn, Dice Raw and Bilal, amongst others, contribute to the adventurous setting of the storytelling. The themes of imbalance, self-reflection, morality and death raise a lot of existential questions on the meaning of life, and its purpose, social injustice, dignity, chasing the American Dream, the afterlife… and as the story unfolds, it urges the listener to really listen with open mind and ears, because there sure is a lot to chew on throughout this journey.
Make sure you reflect on ‘Undun’ when you get a chance to one of these days and immerse into the depths of this masterpiece. The Roots are truly ahead of their time and they never make the same album twice. Real hip hop at its best.
As a special treat, here’s the stellar performance of ‘The Otherside’ by the Roots together with Bilal at the Late Nite With Jimmy Fallon. Greatness.
Feel free to share the love & hit me up with what’s been catching your ears these days. I’m always on the look-out for music and would love to hear from you.