…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin
19 May 2014 (Def Jam)
By Joe DeBonis
The Roots have had a long and illustrious career punctuated with /mu/essential albums, a night gig playing for Jimmy Fallon on his own show and then the Tonight Show and of course being known as one of the few rap groups that are brave enough to use actual instruments. It’s always been seen as a unique way to go in the rap sphere seeing as most rappers focus on the persona they must create with the voices and lyrics, rather then the beats and backing tracks that usually take a back seat to the rapper’s personality. The Roots though, take an opposite take on this balance of rapping and beat production. They embrace the fact they have such a varied lineup of live instrumentation and allow tracks to focus on the real drums being played or the actual piano and guitar notes being struck. There is a certain fullness that is able to be achieved every time a Roots song is played that other rap songs just can not ever hope to embody simply because there are real pianos instead of a recording of one playing the notes. This element allows them to take more risks and leave the tracks alone without rapping over them for longer because there is more substance. On “The Coming,” there is an almost 20 second intro of static followed by piano. Any radio friendly rap song could never hope to do that and still gain the listenership they have and because The Roots take that risk, their albums hit that much harder.
Of course, that is not to say the Roots do not have anything meaningful to say. Undun was an entire album told backwards of a drug dealers sad life. This time, … And Then You Shoot Your Cousin follows in the same footsteps in the sense it also is kind of a concept album but on this album, each song is told from a different person’s perspective instead of a full story like on Undun. The stories range from life on the streets to just stories of every day life and the point was to be able to tell different stories under the guise of music. One of my favorite lines on the album is, “What’s for breakfast? Same as yesterday, a cheeseburger and a 40-ounce,” off of “Black Rock.” It’s not a very deep line, nor does it say anything of any real substance, but it is about as real as you can get. Living a life in the ghetto or being poor, sometimes breakfast really is a cheeseburger from McDonalds and a 40-ounce. The Roots have always been great at capturing emotions and situations and making them seem extremely realistic through song and their latest album is no different.
Rappers always try and keep close to their base and where they came from. There are a good amount of rappers that do a good job of telling stories of where they came from and how different life could have been for them. The Roots on this album do an excellent job of just telling average people’s stories. They don’t put any flare or drama into the stories; they are what they are. That realness allows this album to have a greater chance to stick with people while other albums may not have that aspect available as readily. It is enjoyable to hear these stories told over such captivating music and when there are lines like on “The Dark (Trinity)” that say things like “ I’d rather OD than be the next OG,” a true genuine feeling of understanding is created with the listener. No rapper today would ever say something like that; of course they want to be the next OG. An average person though sees life a whole lot differently than famous people and getting to hear their stories is an enlightening experience. The Roots have always been talented musicians but this album is just the next step into the path of becoming better storytellers, a talent that sometimes is forgotten in today’s rap game.
Rating: Loved It