The Roots’ New Project Will Be Another Concept Album
The Roots have a busy schedule ahead of them with the continuing transition into Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show, but that hasn’t stemmed their creative ambitions; they put out a collaborative album with Elvis Costello last September, titled Wise Up Ghost, and have been in the studio working on their own 11th studio album, which Questlove tweeted last year was set to be called …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin. Details have been pretty scarce so far, but Black Thought hopped on the phone with XXL this week to discuss the direction of the project, and some of what to expect.
“We’re close to being done on it, it’s coming soon, hopefully sometime this Spring,” Thought said. “It’s called And Then You Shoot Your Cousin. It’s conceptual; it’s another concept album in the spirit of undun, but it’s not just about just one kind of character, we create quite a few different characters in this record. It’s satire, but in that satire it’s an analysis of some of the stereotypes perpetuated in not only the hip-hop community, but in the community. I don’t know if that makes any sense.”
Thought expanded on some of the differences between ATYSYC and undun, their critically acclaimed 10th album from December 2011. That project was positioned as a day in the life of a character named Redford Stevens, whose first-person narrative of the day of his tragic death served as a metaphor for the plight of urban youth in America. This one will not be so centered on one character, however.
“We created some of these characters that we kind of see,” he continued. “We as artists, musicians, Philadelphians, New Yorkers, we as black men, we’re familiar with very many of these characters, and we kind of introduce them to the rest of the world in a manner that makes them more easily understood than maybe seeing it.”
One of the defining things of undun, outside its narrative, was its length—just 38 minutes bookended by a symphonic act that provides the backbone to the project. ATYSYC may not have that same type of pocket, but it will still be on the shorter side.
“Hopefully you’ll get something new from it every time you listen to it, you’ll hone in on something different,” Thought said. “It’s short enough to do that, to take in, to digest in one sitting, so to speak. I think right now it’s at maybe 34 minutes; there may be one or two musical things added on to the record that I know is the record at this point. But I don’t think it will be any longer than 36 or 37 minutes in its entirety. So in that, it’s short enough to digest, but it’s gonna be dense. So dense that maybe in one sitting you’ll listen to it and only listen to the piano and string arrangements, and then you’ll listen to it again and you’ll get into the actual words that are being said, and you’ll listen again and get into some of the other musicality. There’s very many layers to this record, but it doesn’t take place over very much time.”
The album is slated to be released via Def Jam Records; as of press time, there was no official release date. The Roots’ breakthrough album, 1999’s Things Fall Apart, celebrated its 15th anniversary last Sunday (Feb. 23).