Review Summary: 'Cuz everybody's got an angle, and everybody wants tomorrow right now
When it was revealed that ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin would again be a concept album in the vein of 2011's undun, this time focusing on multiple characters instead of just one, concerns were raised. Black Thought's ineffectuality at providing intimate detail multiplied by 11 sounded like a recipe for a very scattered and underwhelming affair. Well let me and all others eat their words and tip their hats, because The Roots have unequivocally proven us wrong with a startling, kaleidoscopic effort. There is no struggling for precise detail because there is no need for precise detail; the slight vagueness to events stands to strengthen the work and the point it is trying to make because it is a panoramic view.
Basically, this is the aural equivalent of Cabin in The Woods. A seriocomic satire of hip/hop that is funny, sad, beautiful and ugly. Keeping in mind with both the Cabin in The Woods analogy and the mention of vagueness, the scene that most comes to mind is that of the terrifying and exhilarating elevator ride when all of the different monstrosities are shown off, one after the other. It doesn't linger on one horror for too long, because that it isn't the point. It is the effect of accumulation. The Roots take these basic and familiar rap tropes and characters and offer succinct, lasting snapshots. It knows exactly when to wink and when to make a sobering point. On top of that, The Roots also throw these familiar ingredients right in the middle of raucous, abrasive songs to once again subvert expectations. That's exactly what makes lead single, When The People Cheer, so brilliant. It's subject matter is so well-worn and tired by now in hip-hop; it's The Roots giving you a song about money, fat asses, and strippers. But The Roots are better than your standard luxury rap and absolutely know that, and so the confidence is infectious and playful, with a kiddie keyboard beat, a cutting wink of a chorus, and all capped by a standout verse from Black Thought. To realize also how much of a sturdy critique of rap tropes the song is is only an added bonus, and that's really the story of the whole album: Comedy and tragedy are on each side of the coin, as well as critique and entertainment. That's what makes interlude Dies Irae, a riff on useless rap skits used as filler, so funny. I think this will prove to be an important album for the things it says and how it chooses to say them. So wake up, and listen.