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    • XXL
      • XXL
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The Roots, undun

The Roots may be best known in the mainstream for their nightly gig as the house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and through the years they’ve justifiably become attached to an extrordinary live show. Now, though, they’ve returned to the studio for their latest retail release, undun, where they take a new approach: a concept album, with the storytelling in reverse order.

Recounting the first-person tale of Redford Stephens, a hustler who didn’t make it past 25, the Philly based band begins the record with his death, and tracks the tale backward, as the album’s ill-fated protagonist faces the street life and its often inescapable woes. The crew beautifully arranges harmonic strings, gloomy keys and sturdy drums with seamlessly implemented guest spots from the likes of Big K.R.I.T., Phonte, Dice Raw and Bilal, as questions of fate and free will persist; how much of Redford’s story was already determined due to the circumstances under which he was born?

Multiple voices converging to tell one story results in a far more interconnected listen than it probably should, but this oddity is part of what’s so great about undun. It’s a bit unorthodox but magnificent sonically, as well, as five of the 14 tracks don’t have vocals: the opener, as well as the last four. This allows the necessary means to ease in and out of a heavy album, giving an opportunity to soak in the track-by-track events and story as a whole.

Each song seeps smoothly into the next; most are able to stand on their own, but shine when reinforced by what precedes and follows. A concept album with an equally heavy focus on musicianship and rhymes, undun fantastically transports into the tragic narrative. —Adam Fleischer

  • lil b

    y’all tripping how this didnt get a XXL in orginality and Lyrics…..wtf….XXL all the way.

  • http://twdrapreviews.blogspot.com/ thatwhitedude

    I gotta say I disagree with the mag on this one. 10/10, XXL rating, five stars, whatever you choose this is one of the best I’ve heard all year

  • Hube

    XXL. Album was absolutely fantastic. great storytelling, great lyrics (how many artists talk about existentialism and stuff like that) and great beats. best thing out in a long time, a classic

  • ShaZan1011

    Maybe it wasn’t the greatest album ever made, but this desereved atleast an XXL in Originality and Lyrics. Totally agree with lil b

  • Pat Myaz

    Thats it. I”m going back to the source. I feel like 4 and a half mics means more than an XL rating. How was this not original? ITS THE F****** ROOTS! THEY’RE THE MOST ORIGINAL RAP GROUP OF ALL TIME! HOW WAS THE BEATS NOT AN XXL! THEY’RE PLAYED BY A BAND! YOU KNOW HOW HARD THAT IS TO DO?!?!?! A F****** BAND! AND THE LYRICS NOT AN XXL? BLACK THOUGHT???? BLACK THOUGHT ONE OF THE MOST GREAT LYRICIST OF ALL TIME? GO TO HELL XXL. THE MOST BIASED MAGAZINE EVER.

  • philthedude

    Whenver XXL has a Lil Wayne album to review, they have a lil wayne fan thats apart of the staff review the album. Same with Drake. Same with every other rapper. Thats why these albums aint been gettin nothin but XL ratings. you’re losing your credibility. Its a real biased system, XXL. This album deserved AT LEAST an XXL for beats and originality. Does your staff even know what they’re doing? Your rating system is the least respected in the business. SMH.

  • jrash87

    gotta get that album, love the roots. rising down is my fav

  • damian

    i see hella garbage albums get xl ratings.why this album didn’t get a an xxl rating is crazy to me.

  • http://www.mandugudigital.blogspot.com Akula Akwabi

    C’mmon! XXL! Give yourselves a break and re – rate this album. You know it. I see you! You know it’s beyond a 5!

  • anonymous

    are you kidding me?
    xxl is going the way of the source.
    i mean although incredible, this was not perfect.
    However, considering Drake’s Take Care and 2Chainz TRUReligion both got XL this is about a XXXXXXXL in comparison. this is blasphemy. i am no longer using this site i will only use hip hop dx from now on

  • MindState

    Yeah I have to agree with everybody. This album is at least a XXL. Nothing lower lol

  • jason

    Ok It arguable that the beats and lyrics are an xl, even though I think the songwriting is great, but originality has to be a xxl. Nothing on the market sounds like this.

  • JD

    Lyrics dont get a XXL?? word??

    Fuck getting fucked
    Immaculate conception
    Now what’s beef ain’t even a question
    Calico kisses, cold blood and crime tape
    Flirt with death, every night it’s a blind date
    One night stand, payback’s a bitch
    Shit have you skinny dipping in a pool of your piss
    Blood, sweat, and tears, broken teeth and spit
    Put the barrel in your mouth
    Blow the devil a kiss
    Put the knife in ya back cut down to the red meat
    Daddy should’ve let me be a stain on the bed sheets
    I’m one shot short of a Molotov cocktail
    Kick in the door like welcome to my world
    I’m an evil genius when it comes to this dumb shit
    Half of the time I’mma keep it one hundred
    Don’t play chicken when I’m driving them crazy
    Get hit in the wing thigh breast or drumstick
    We like

    this one verse alone puts it over the top

  • tumi

    hahahaha @ XXL for giving this album a XL. Basically this incredible piece of work is on par with “gems” like C4, Take Care, Pink Friday. This should have been given XXL

  • Rap’L

    Common:
    (The Dreamer/The Believer)
    Warner Bros.
    (c) 2011

    Beats: [XXL]
    [ S ] [ M ] [ L ] [ XL ] [ XXL ]

    Lyrics: [XXL]
    [ S ] [ M ] [ L ] [ XL ] [ XXL ]

    Originality: [XXL]
    [ S ] [ M ] [ L ] [ XL ] [ XXL ]

    Common album is seriously a DAMN! Classic!.
    I’m very Pleased that this album.
    Was definitely made, with the Real Common.
    People slept on him with “Universal Mind Control”, for him trying a new style. Well! No more of that, I’m here to say I’m a “Believer”. Cause He came Perfect on this album.
    I wouldn’t be writing this, if it wasn’t a Pure Classic!

    Next Classics in Line
    I’ll love to See is:

    Jay Electronica, Kendrick Lamar, Nas.
    Thats coming from me,
    a True Hip-Hop Fan
    Named, Raphael

    One Love

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/backinrecess daniel

    XXL

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/backinrecess daniel

    I would actually LOVE to hear why XXL doesn’t think this was an XXL album…maybe I’m crazy, but at least let me know why so I know I’m crazy. Yeah I’m calling out XXL for an explanation

  • vlaizaflygirl

    this album is to hip-hop what toni morrison is to literature.

  • Chris

    I have lost any and all faith in XXL. This is bullshit son. This only gets an XL? Same as Drake? Nicki Minaj? Fucking Tyga? Bullshit.