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The Roots, "undun"
The Roots, “undun”

Set aside 45 minutes to listen to undun in its entirety. First of all, it’s completely unacceptable to listen to a concept album out of order. Second of all, it’s the kind of record that needs and deserves your full attention.

The Roots’ 13th studio release tells the fictional story of Redford Stephens, a kid from Philly who gets caught up in the drug game and ends up dead. Actually, it tells his story in reverse. ?uestlove’s arrangements are quite possibly his best yet, once again proving his deep understanding of music and endless creativity. Black Thought’s rapping is intensely serious — and all the better because he grew up with kids like Redford.

The name Redford comes from the Sufjan Stevens song of the same name, and the last four tracks are a gorgeous combination of collaboration and tribute. Stevens plays the song on piano, then a string quartet does an interpretation, followed by avant-garde pianist D.D. Jackson unleashing hell on a piano. It all ends with a sad violin and a dark chord on the piano that hangs menacingly in the air.

Check out the intense, beautifully shot video for the first few tracks.