Sometime yesterday afternoon, the following tweet popped up in my timeline:
I didn’t just excited, I got very excited. Unfortunately it was quitting time and I was about to head home. I briefly considered listening to …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin on the way home, but decided against it when I remembered listening to the last Roots’ album, undun, for the first time in the car and not liking it. But then when I listened to it at home, I did. It didn’t lend itself to driving and I figured that this new album would kind of be in the same boat, which was not in the same car. If you know what I mean. Okay basically what I mean is recent albums by the Roots aren’t really driving music. Those days seemed to have ended with 2010’s How I Got Over.
So now fast forward to this very minute.
Let’s check out …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, courtesy of the fine folks at Pitchfork Advance.
Track 1: “Theme from the Middle of the Night”
It’s peanut butter jelly time. For me. Not the Roots. Delicious. Wait, is this the start to a Roots’ album or background music at a small Italian B.Y.O.B.? Real interesting start regardless. Roots’ albums have always started somewhat non-traditionally, especially for hip hop albums.
Track 2: “Never”
I know Patty Crash. Not personally. I know of her. She’s a Philly gal and her voice kicks off this second track with a Questlove beat. You could say that now the album has started and about a minute and a half in Black Thought makes his first appearance. This is slow and deliberate. Quest’s beat is heavy and determined and there is not much else- just the original two doing their thing. Patty is back for the hook- all I see is never. This sounds like if Radiohead recorded in south Philly. Just vocals, beats and keyboards.
Track 3: “When the People Cheer”
The lead single, accompanied by a strange video I don’t really get. It features Greg Porn, who had appeared on other Roots’ songs. This is the first “true hip hop” song on the album and is more upbeat than “Never,” although that wouldn’t take much. I get the feeling this is going to be a darker album and more on the atmospheric side of things. And I haven’t eaten taken a bit of my sandwich yet. It’s just looking at me. I love Black Thought- his voice, his flow, his lyrics. They’re so rough and raw sounding. He spits with so much attitude. It kind of sounds like Patty Crash is singing the hook for this tune too.
Track 4: “The Devil”
The devil looks a lot like you and I.
Track 5: “Black Rock”
Okay, that was quick. Still has a Radiohead vibe…well until Dice Raw comes in. I love the piano line. This is borderline aggressive. It’s the first semblance of energy I’ve heard so far. Really, tight and thumping groove. Eff word, that piano! I really like this song. It’s the first one I’ve been a fan of, a 100% on board fan of. I’m also a fan of PB & J sandwiches and can’t understand how someone couldn’t be. It’d be like not not liking chicken or The Wire.
Track 6: “Understand”
Some more Dice. That dude has such a distinct voice. You know it’s him as soon as you hear him- probably something all rappers strive for. Second straight song with a real hip hop vibe to it. An organ runs parallel to the rhyming of Dice and Black Thought. Porn is on this one too. What other songs was he on?
Track 7: “Dies Irae”
Hello. Sounds like violent changing of radio stations. And now a laser fight. And some dude yelling in something other than English. Feedback. Strange noises. This probably means something to someone.
My sandwich is done. It was delicious.
Track 8: “The Coming”
This is a very piano-heavy album. A lady singer, Mercedes Martinez, comes in to sing what I’m assuming is the hook.
Porn was on “Radio Daze” and “Walk Alone” on How I Got Over and “Kool On” and “Stomp” on undun. Assuming it’s the same dude. On How I Got Over he’s listed as PORN. Can’t be a coincidence, though. I’m saying it’s the same guy.
Lots of piano. I hear somebody screaming, again, Mercedes sings. I close my eyes again, but never wonder, I have seen it all.
Track 9: “The Dark”
Another real determined beat by Questlove, straight up sixteen notes on a crisp high hat. An easy sounding piano line and more chesty flow from Black Thought. He always spits like he has something to prove. I admire that. He never sounds comfortable or relaxed. He’s easily one of my favorite rappers, probably in my top three along with Mos Def and Guru. Method Man would probably be fourth.
This song is okay. I like the beat.
I’m just not sure what I’m listening to here.
Dice comes in after a string-filled interlude- I still run with those angels. Dice always brings it too. I often wonder what he does in between dropping in on Roots’ songs. I know he dropped a solo joint a little while back and for a hot minute, had his own record label which featured a dude named Rone on it. But his main thing seems to be adjunct member of the Roots. Not a bad gig.
Is this music the Beatles would be making if they were around today? I’m not saying that they’d be rappers. I’m implying that they’d be making music on par with this- real out there shit. Or maybe they would be rappers. Who knows? Paul McCartney seems up for anything.
Track 10: “The Unraveling”
Cool drums; still kind of sounds like hip hop Radiohead. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Is Radiohead even around anymore? Is it okay if I say that I don’t really like Radiohead? I almost feel like it isn’t. But whatever, it’s true. I’m not a fan of Thom Yorke’s vocals (looks over his shoulder cautiously.)
So this album is definitely atmospheric. It’s mature. But I think maybe more mature than I am because honestly, I’m not sure how often I’m going to listen to this. I’d much rather listen to Game Theory or How I Got Over. I’m sure this album will have an audience, just not sure that audience is me. By no means am I jumping ship on the Roots- I just don’t think I’m down for this particular voyage.
This album is definitely about something. I don’t know what that is.
a man with no future…
Track 11: “Tomorrow”
Okay, I like this. Bouncy and light. Someone is whistling, good for them. I associate whistling with a good mood. Send a message to a god in heaven, I’m thankful to be alive. This song is probably about as pop as the Roots are going to get and it kind of reminds me of “Birthday Girl,” a bonus track on Rising Down. Same vibe and if atmospheric is the buzz word, then yes, it has the same kind of atmosphere. This dude Raheem DeVaughn is on vocals and he has a great voice.
Everyone wants tomorrow right now.
I’d kind of like a more hip hop-ish album from the Roots.
Maybe they’ll do something like the next time around. I doubt it, though. This seems to be their thing now. They get their kicks on The Tonight Show, but they get their serious on with their records, which I suppose is a fair trade off.
It just might be more a trade off for them instead of us, the audience.
Top Photo: Danny Clinch