Listen To: …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

Listen To: …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

Wesley MurchisonFriday,20 June 2014

The Snap:

The Roots have cut their first album since Jimmy Fallon took over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno and brought the coolest backup band in TV history with him. Released in May, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, the group’s fifth, non-collaborative album since joining Def Jam Recordings, is further proof that fame in the form of playing for funny man Fallon hasn’t diminished the artists’ power to create introspective, soul-searching hip-hop. But as LaVar Burton likes to say, “you don’t have to take my word for it.” You can get a listen by ordering the album on Google Play, iTunes or Amazon.

The Download:

For all the glamour and glory that pervades rap, the Roots continue to prove that socially conscious hip-hop is as relevant today as ever. If hip-hop is a conversation — with each musician a voice, each group a political party and each subgenre an ideology — then the Roots are one of few dissenters in an otherwise clamorous symposium of vapid pandering and violent partisanship.

The album’s title comes from KRS-One’s “Step Into A World (Raptures Delight).” Yet where KRS-One’s rhyme was a humorous warning against losing control, the Roots pathos of sympathy bleeds the joke of all levity and remakes it into a dark comedy, however hopeful, about the trappings of a violent life.

A sullenness haunts the album from start to finish. The first track couldn’t be more of a clue this album is going to be a cinematic drama even if it was taken from a movie. Oh wait, it was. “Theme from the Middle of the Night,” with Nina Simone’s emotive, weighty vocals, sets the mood and dims the lights. With the opening credits of an intro track over, “Never” kicks in and the unmistakable sound of the Roots is full upon on the listener.

Patty Crash’s infantile, high-pitched voice sets the album’s psychology: a regretful indulgence wrapped in confessional lamentations. The chorus’s echo and the eerie creak of the synth embeds her singing deep into the recesses of your consciousness before Black Thought starts his brooding rap: “I was born faceless in an oasis. / Folks disappear here and leave no traces.”

The sexually explicit “When the People Cheer,” performed by guest member Greg Porn and mainstay Black Thought, prevents the funereal tone set by the two previous songs from engulfing the album. Aside from the two intermission-like breaks of “The Devil” and “Dies Irae,” the remainder of the album continues the thread of a despair commingled with hope.

The shortness of the album, a terse 33 minutes and 24 seconds, appears to be an invitation to fans to listen straight through. That’s probably why someone posted the album on YouTube as one, unending piece of music.

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Hat Tips:

LaVar BurtonDef Jam, Wikipedia, YouTube, Image Credit: Flickr

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