The Roots
...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin


3.3
great

Review

by Aziz STAFF
May 24th, 2014 | 66 replies


Release Date: 05/20/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: undun.

With claim to classics upon classics, not to mention the heralded distinction of being one of the only hip-hop acts to avoid the pitfall that was the new millennium by disgorging brilliance at every turn, nobody should have expected this. It really seemed effortless for The Roots to maintain the mantle of “most consistent hip-hop act of all time ever”; they released strong albums every few years like clockwork, with nary a misstep, from 1995 all the way through to 2011. I’ll admit this is a foreboding intro, and things probably sound bad, but they really aren’t – this is The Roots after all – it’s just not the same group that we’ve so long admired. …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is more a product of Questlove’s band than Black Thought’s Legendary Roots Crew, which is to say, it’s more like the jangly free jazz riffing the group worked into undun’s final “Redford” suite (“Will to Power,” specifically) than essentially anything else the group has ever done. Frankly, to call …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin a hip-hop album would be a bit misleading – Black Thought contributes a grand total of 6 verses on the album, and is usually accompanied by Roots veteran Dice Raw and youngblood Greg Porn – the album’s smattering of experimentalism is almost suffocating, rendering delineations like ‘hip-hop’ almost inconsequential.

This isn’t all to say that …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is straight out of left field; a track like “When the People Cheer,” with its delicate piano backdrop and desperate, debauched storytelling rap wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place on 2011’s undun. And the funky, groove-heavy “Black Rock,” so long as it isn’t rendered unlistenable thanks to Dice Raw’s dreadful singing, sounds like a sonic evolution of the style The Roots have been developing over their last two albums. In fact, most of the tracks Black Thought appears on are solid offerings that would work really well within the context of a consistent, cohesive album, but …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is unfortunately rife with brusque interludes that punctuate the album more like, unnecessary commas than, something like, say, a smooth and illuminating semicolon; an interlude like “The Devil” makes sense within the context of the story the album attempts to tell, but sonically, as a transition from “When the People Cheer,” it feels more like tripping over the jagged ridge sullying an otherwise picturesque prairie. “Dies Irae”, Michael Chion’s electro/avant-garde/field recorded warcry of an interlude has some of the most interesting sounds of the album, but at under a minute, it feels emaciated, sledged between two of the album’s stunners (“Understand” and “The Coming/The Dark”) for seemingly no reason. At a measly 33 minutes of runtime, there’s plenty of occasion for development, which leaves us wondering why Questlove didn’t expand, sand, and varnish some of these clunky transitions.

The album picks up towards the late stages though; the raucous free jazz ‘solo’ of “The Coming” swaggers into an oppressive effluvium above which Mercedes Martinez reiterates her fragile chorus until the noxious air clears and flows blithely into “The Dark (Trinity),” the album’s lyrical centerpiece, with its heavy, deliberate verses and outstanding, singular flows from both Thought and Dice. “The Unraveling” is a somber release for Black Thought’s character within the album’s story, but moves almost jarringly into the major key and upbeat whistles of “Tomorrow,” whose final minute of undulating keys set the album to rest gingerly, if not serenely. It’s a taut and succinct wrap up to an album whose primary intention almost seems to embody these very descriptors.

I’ve briefly alluded to the ‘story’ of the album; …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is another concept album from The Roots, but the problem is that unlike in undun, its set up and delivery is muddled, and with only a handful of verses peppered across the album, it becomes difficult to follow the ideas presented here, especially given the various interludes insulating all the themes. More to the point, much like Childish Gambino’s latest album Because the Internet and the latter part of Coheed and Cambria’s career, there isn’t enough here sonically to make a listener care enough to discern the story. It’s almost ironic, given how …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, with its sudden musical precipitations and developments often sounds like the score to a movie we’re supposed to see. But the audiovisual elements of the songs fail to incite our imagination, and we’re left struggling to comprehend the work’s plot. As solid an effort as this is from The Roots, a 33 minute album with such adventurous intentions means that parts of it feel sparse and wanting. Add to this that the album suffers from the minimal involvement of the group’s workhorse and undisputed star, Black Thought, and the final product is maybe the most disappointing release in The Roots’ long and decorated discography. It’s still a strong album with several standout moments, but these great moments are often hampered by the inchoate themes and parched ideas surrounding it, making the album feel at times unfinished. But I guess even the legends get outed as human sooner or later.




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Chart.
3.3
great
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Comments:Add a Comment 
GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2014


6188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

0.1 point for every minute.

if the review seems harsh understand that this is coming from a huge roots stan who expected nothing short of AOTY.

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 24th 2014


10543 Comments


nice

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

Underflow
May 24th 2014


2589 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Hate to say it, but I agree with most of this. I haven't felt this unaffected by a Roots album since The Tipping Point.

someguest
May 24th 2014


21205 Comments


huge roots stan


I love the freudian slip

Arcade
Contributing Reviewer
May 24th 2014


3177 Comments


Good review, I've been meaning to jam this

Digging: Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

Gyromania
May 24th 2014


15967 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i'm really enjoying this so far

jtswope
May 24th 2014


2437 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Gotta jam this again to decide how I feel about it.

RadicalEd
May 24th 2014


2744 Comments


I agree with the this review....... I think. Gotta listen more. But I'm pretty sure I'm not really
sold on this, especially since I also had really high expectations for a new Roots album.

qwe3
May 24th 2014


21369 Comments


i didnt enjoy undun much so i was pretty much expecting this

Guzzo10
Contributing Reviewer
May 24th 2014


1069 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

hip-hop? NEG




BUT FO REAL DOE. This is really disappointing :[

Pizzahut
May 24th 2014


113 Comments


This is real disappointing. The rapping is just lazy.

Chrisjon89
May 24th 2014


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

it definitely feels slight. 3:12 of the 33 are interludes too. some dodgy hooks again. some decent stuff though. i liked it a bit more on the second run through.

it feels cohesive and cool for the first few tracks, then they kinda lose that. pretty quiet album for the guitarist too. think it would've been a good idea to switch out some of the simpler keys in the second half in favour of guitar.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
May 24th 2014


10355 Comments


My boy Aziz and his favorite word, 'emaciated' :]

How you doin man

PistolPete
May 24th 2014


3642 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is everything I was gonna put into my review, so no need for me to write something up anymore. Very well-written! I agree with pretty much everything said here.

Digging: Skyharbor - Guiding Lights

Underflow
May 24th 2014


2589 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

How they thought letting Dice Raw sing on Black Rock was a good idea is inconceivable.

PistolPete
May 24th 2014


3642 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I thought a lot of the choruses were kinda lame. It felt more like a Jay-Z album, in that they tried to cram as many featured artists and guestspots as possible. And then you end up with songs that don't even feel like Roots songs anymore. The choruses on Never, Black Rock, and Tomorrow are all either god-awful or nothing special.

Underflow
May 24th 2014


2589 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Agreed. The best hooks on this album are mediocre.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
May 24th 2014


4951 Comments


i gave up on the roots after how i got over. that record was okay, but definitely not up to the level of game theory

Gyromania
May 24th 2014


15967 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wow, you guys seriously suck ass

Gyromania
May 24th 2014


15967 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

idk what's not to like about this. never is one of their most innovative and prettiest songs, when the people cheer will be loved by pretty much anyone who liked undun (whose choruses also were a little meh at times but still a very enjoyable record), understand sounds like classic roots, the coming is beautiful and twisted, dark trinity is grimy and sees roots in fine form, the unravelling has one of the best choruses, and so on. only song i'm not too crazy on is black rock because holy fucking shit dice raw sounds terrible



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