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The worst Roots album is still better than roughly 90% of whatever other modern hip-hop records you are listening to. …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, their highly experimental, conceptual, and exceptional eleventh album is far from their worst record, however many may initially see it that way.

The information age – or, scratch that – more appropriately, the consumption era – has largely changed the way we listen to hip-hop albums. Seven albums ago, The Roots warned us that “Hip-Hop records are treated as though they are disposable,” on their fourth LP, Things Fall Apart. This was before technology would allow you to literally move an album to the virtual trash can, and then tweet to your friends how terrible it is in just 140 characters. (Usually less.)

Which is why …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin will really test the patience of the average fast food junkie. Its set up like a stage play, of sorts, complete with symphonic, musical segues to bridge its parts together with dramatic effect. It hardly follows the standard three-16-bar-verses-and-hooks structure, and some tracks don’t feature rapping at all. Some don’t even have the funky drummer drumming! Blasphemy!

Yes, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is a highly pretentious art piece. However, it’s also good. And it is very digestible, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, marking their shortest LP to date. So it doesn’t require large amounts of patience. Like any solid album, it gets better with each consecutive listen, and its theme becomes apparent the more times you hear it.

[Spoilers ahead.]

The album’s loose-knit narrative doesn’t really identify any particular characters, nor does it have a real “story” to it. But the central character(s), represented by each Black Thought, Dice Raw, and Greg Porn live lifestyles popularized by more famous rappers, such as “Get Rich Or Die Trying” or “You Only Live Once”. The characters find themselves living like there is no tomorrow, then wondering what went wrong the morning after. And then repeating that process, over and over again. It’s a brooding, depressing, and all too familiar tale. Yet one woven together with bittersweet symphonies and ultra high definition, visual lyricism, on all fronts.

In a sense, this album is a bit like a sequel (or prequel) to Dice Raw’s own 2013 solo work, Jimmy’s Back, his brilliant conceptual album about the American prison system. Except these characters only find death, not imprisonment. And the most depressing part about …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is that death is the characters’ only salvation. The album closes with “Tomorrow”, which offers a look towards a brighter, new beginning, but only after death has claimed them.

Easily their boldest release to date, The Roots’ …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin speaks the loudest and most directly, with the message that it attempts to get across. Its experimental, stage-show like structure suggests that there could be a future “Live On Broadway” visual element to accompany it, yet many may miss its points in only its audio form. Nevertheless, The Roots continue to defy expectation for the eleventh time (!), consistently releasing a quality product. Get rich or die trying? Nah. Slow and steady wins the race.

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10 Responses to "The Roots – “…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin” – @@@@ (Review)"
  • The Man the Myth says:

    Big Roots fan here, but I wasn’t really feeling this album enough to warrant anything other than a 3 @. I hate when hip hop albums hardly have any beats and rhymes. Waiting 2 songs to hear a Black Thought verse isn’t a good sign either. The tracks that are straight up beats and rhymes are pretty dope, but there are only like 4-5 of those. People are telling me, “well you just don’t get the concept of the album.” I think the concept of the album is dope, I just think the album itself is just not that good, plain and simply, it’s boring. Black Thought is really the only reson these guys are so dope to begin with, and no offense to Dice Raw and Greg Porn, but they just are not on the same level.

  • ItlnStln says:

    Solid review. I would probably give it an extra 1/2 @ even. I like the conceptual approach of the album and, at the very least, it separates itself from the monotony of the “three-16-bar-verses-and-hooks structure.”

    Meyhem Lauren’s “Silk Pyramids” is a dope album, to be sure, but it’s pretty much like any other hip-hop album in terms of structure, so it’s a little less interesting to listen to, IMO. ATYSYC, provides a nice break from the monotony is a terrific album to boot.

  • Dayz says:

    I appreciate the artistry here but yeah I’m just not into it. The LP is “interesting” just not my cup of tea. Aside from Hip Hop I also listen to quite a bit of Classical and many other genres of music but honestly when it comes to Hip Hop music I prefer the “three-16-bar-verses-and-hooks structure.” Give me Things Fall Apart all day every day. This coming from a fan that has purchased every LP (including this one), EP and single they have released and seen them in concert about 30 times. Sorry but I really really hope they go back to basics on their next go round… Oh and bring back Malik B (can’t wait for his LP with Mr. Green), Scratch and Rahzel (I would say Hub too but I know he has his career as a studio musician now) please and thank you!

  • The Man the Myth says:

    You and me are very alike Dayz. I also am a big fan of all genres of music, but when it comes to hip hop, give me 3 16′s and a chorus or no chorus. Hell most rappers now give us 2 16′s and that’s it. I would take Illadelph, Do you want more or things fall apart any day of the week, to this BS. Concept albums can be dope as hell and executed to perfection, like say Aceyalone’s “Book of Human Language”, other times we get this. I would take Silk Pyramids any day of the week to this also. At the end of the day, this album reminds me of a lot of these artsy films that win Oscars, boring and too artsy for its own good.

  • boogie bored says:

    The more I listen to the album the more I can see it is quality. But the weird musical transitions are a bit much, but i guess it adds a layer of mood to it that defines the world it takes place in. I pretty much agree with the review. I thought Greg Porn really stepped his game up lyrically and had some great lines.

    Not necessarily what I wanted, but solid.

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