02. Make My (Featuring Big K.R.I.T.)
03. One Time (Featuring Phonte)
04. Kool On (Featuring P.O.R.N. & Truck North)
05. The Jump (Featuring P.O.R.N. & Bilal)
06. Stomp (Featuring P.O.R.N.)
08. I Remember
09. Tip The Scale
Drummer ?uestlove sat down with Spin Magazine to discuss Undun:
Tell us about undun. Why do a conceptual LP now?
It's funny: Back when SPIN chose the Top 20 records of 1999, there were only a few hip-hop entries and Goodie Mobb's World Party and Prince Paul's A Prince Among Thieves were among them. Being the obsessive quasi journalist that I am, I went out and listened to those records and dissected each one. I was pleasantly surprised by A Prince Among Thieves. It's a concept album with a narrative about a young man and his struggle in life. It has always sat in the back of my mind — I knew one day I would like to try that idea out. So, here we are 13 years later.
How does the story on undun unfold?
It's basically a tale about someone who makes one decision that completely undoes their entire life. And we tell the story backwards, so when you hear the record it starts at the very end of this character's life. We wanted to tell a cautionary tale but didn't want to do the cliché tale of a 'hood kid who does the wrong shit and then just dies.
So who, exactly, is the protagonist Redford Stephens?
Well, the album's name is inspired by the Guess Who song "undun." But we named the character after the Sufjan Stevens song "Redford" from his Michigan. We imagined Redford as being like Avon Barksdale from The Wire. He's a good guy who could have just gone to college and been a great engineer or something. But he makes a bad decision and pays for it. We tell that story in 10 songs, under 44 minutes. Actually, Sufjan makes an appearance on the album, too.
We've always loved the song "Redford" from Michigan. So we close the new album with a cover of "Redford." We stretched it out into this four-part movement. Part 1 is Sufjan at the piano performing it. And then Part 2 is a string quartet that we had interpret it. Part 3 is myself and D.D. Jackson, who is an avant-garde piano player. He's probably one of the most dangerous pianists — I don't know how he doesn't have carpal tunnel now. But he just destroys, literally, destroys the piano. The final movement, which ends the record, is essentially the beginning of the story. But it's the last thing you hear. It's a very powerful piece of work. Dare I say that undun is probably as good as it's going to get for the Roots. Our songwriting can't get better. Our production can't get better. I hate to sound like Kanye, like "This is the best…" But as a music consumer, I always make records that I would like to purchase.
You've probably witnessed similar stories in real life many times.
Oh yeah. Redford is definitely compiled of five or six people that we've known from Philadelphia. [Rapper] Tariq's [Trotter, a.k.a. Black Thought] entire family, his cousin and brothers, have literally all been this guy. Tariq is the only one that has escaped the fate that most of his family have encountered. The narrative definitely hits home with him more than any other member of the band.Here's the full interview.
Undun is scheduled for a Dec. 6th Release.