BWW Reviews: THE ROOTS '...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin'
|BWW Interview: An Evening with Joe Ely|
November 18, 2015
"...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin" is a dense, complex and, at times, confusing listen. Sometimes it is difficult to handle complexity with finesse. Against all odds, The Roots have done just that. From the concept to the music to the arrangement of the album, The Roots have proven their talent yet again. "...and then you shoot your cousin" is a concept album that is meant to provide a satirical commentary on violence in Hip Hop and the general state of Black America.
For a Hip Hop album this is a tall order, yet The Roots execute on the concept masterfully. Listeners might think that their newfound fame via their involvement with Jimmy Fallon has given The Roots a more positive outlook. Instead, the album shows The Roots at the most cynical they have ever been. "...and then you shoot your cousin" is by far The Roots bleakest material. As the title suggests, the album is intended as a commentary on violence in Hip-Hop.
But even more so, the album is meant as a look into the state of Black America. The portrait they paint is unrelentingly grim with a clear message: Rap has abandoned poor, Black Americans. The Roots may have a point. In recent years the majority of Hip Hop has moved away from the portrayal of a struggling person trying to make ends meet, and towards one of luxury that many people can only dream of. In that context, The Roots' weary lyrics make perfect sense.
As a group they have always focused more on telling the stories of the "little people;" those who may have had tragic lives about which no one knows about because they were never successful. Those are the people Rap served early on: the people who saw relentless violence and wondered when it would cease. The music on this album is also some of their most ambitious. Blending the sounds of classical, soul and jazz, The Roots have concocted an album free of filler.
They've also made an album that is musically complex and dexterous. Rather than populate the album with songs that have a traditional song structure, The Roots create tracks with full fledged instrumental solos that frequently only include a single verse. As with each of their previous albums, The Roots show here that while their style may not be common in Hip Hop, they are a force to be reckoned with.