Undun - The Roots
Metascore
88

Universal acclaim - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 32
  2. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. Jan 3, 2012
    100
    [An] excellent record that anyone who wants to hear the graceful way by which hip-hop should age should add to their collections right away.
  2. Dec 6, 2011
    100
    With the tight, concise, ferociously focused Undun, however, the immensity of the project's ambition is matched by its seamless, masterful execution.
  3. Dec 5, 2011
    100
    This is a work to prove that they could do it, and they've done it tenfold.
  4. Dec 2, 2011
    100
    If an album can be both chilling and beautiful at once, Undun is it.
  5. 100
    The Roots' 13th album may be their best.
  6. Dec 1, 2011
    100
    The result is a remarkable display of creative unity and a stellar masterpiece sitting alongside the group's best work.
  7. 91
    The Roots have always been at their best expressing quiet desperation and spinning old-school tales of struggling upward.
  8. Dec 8, 2011
    90
    undun clocks in at well under an hour, Questlove said he wants it to be "ADD proof", a running time that also magnifies the importance of the third of the album that's purely instrumental. It's on these vocal-free tracks that The Roots truly show what they're capable of.
  9. Dec 5, 2011
    90
    Musically, Undun flows easier and slower than any other Roots album.
  10. Jan 3, 2012
    89
    The Roots are the best hip-hop band today and ever, no questions asked, and Undun is Black Thought's greatest mark.
  11. Dec 14, 2011
    88
    Black Thought comes as brutish as ever, and their now-standard cast of collaborators (P.O.R.N. and Dice Raw) sound more at ease over these lanky beats than they did on more combustible previous efforts.
  12. 88
    It's both bleak and unexpectedly beautiful.
  13. Dec 6, 2011
    84
    undun is a brilliant reminder of the power of the emcee as storyteller, the possibility of 40 minutes of music lending itself to a thoughtful character and plot.
  14. What I get from the album as a whole isn't a feel for the fictional Redford Stephens. It's the pop refrains, Euro orchestrations, and simplified drumming absorbed by a sound that shows no sign of standing pat.
  15. It's the broader story through which Undun gains its strength; through the musings and rants of Black Thought and Dice Raw (who, this time around, has near as large a presence as the group's leader).
  16. Dec 21, 2011
    80
    The album is complete in itself. It's just 39 minutes, made brief to be listened to as a whole.
  17. Dec 20, 2011
    80
    If one can express disappointment in undun, it's that it sets out to tell a story and tells it well, but delivers a short story or a novella where fans of The Roots would have undoubtedly preferred a full length novel.
  18. Dec 12, 2011
    80
    In some ways the album works better as a slightly blemished and broken piece, because like its protagonist it exits quietly while still leaving so much to say, and it's those pieces of work that weeks later are still being debated over that stand the true test of time.
  19. Dec 6, 2011
    80
    A concept album with an equally heavy focus on musicianship and rhymes, undun fantastically transports into the tragic narrative.
  20. Dec 6, 2011
    80
    Despite its various faults, undun is righteously solid.
  21. 80
    All told, the story undun tells is sometimes chilling, often thrilling, and always illuminating.
  22. 80
    It's a downer, but timely and affecting, with moments of beauty.
  23. Dec 2, 2011
    80
    The most cohesive LP in at least five years and its darkest, most urgent, most intense work to date.
  24. 80
    The music is astounding, threading erudite raps through ghetto soul jams and panoramic orchestral interludes.
  25. Dec 1, 2011
    80
    If any rap group could pull off a project this unwieldy, it's the Roots, and they make it seem effortless.
  26. Dec 6, 2011
    73
    This isn't the Roots' most accessible album, and it's definitely their most downbeat, but it comes from a place that isn't always easy to dwell.
  27. Jan 5, 2012
    70
    The Roots manage to craft another interesting hip-hop experiment with undun.
  28. Jan 4, 2012
    70
    The listener need be an equally astute one.
  29. Dec 6, 2011
    70
    Unfortunately, Black Thought's skilled but stolid rapping adds nothing new to the idiom [of the morally ambiguous gangster tale]. Sonically, though, undun is a knockout.
  30. Dec 6, 2011
    70
    The Roots work hard and play hard on undun, but there's not enough pleasure to balance out Thought's business-like, consummately bland reading of the character who's supposed to bring the entire album to life.
  31. Dec 5, 2011
    70
    If it's not as immediately galvanizing as, say, Rising Down, it lingers.
  32. Dec 1, 2011
    60
    What it isn't--quite--is the magnum opus it could be. The second half loses impetus.
User Score
9.4

Universal acclaim- based on 102 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 34
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 34
  3. Negative: 0 out of 34
  1. Dec 31, 2011
    10
    I'm usually not the kind of person to take the time to write a 'user review', since they usually end up being clearly biased, poorly worded fan-speak. But in this case, with this album, I feel like it's some sort of civic duty as a fan of music to spread the gospel of this album's perfection. I won't start an inflammatory discussion that this is possibly the best album of all time, in the sense that the usual definition of album is an unaffiliated collection of songs - I'm sure that most would give that distinction to myriad Beatles, Dylan, Radiohead, etc albums, and it's largely a matter of age and personal taste, anyway. What I WILL start the discussion of, is that this IS possibly the best "album" of all time - I use the quotes to stress a different definition of what an album is; in this definition, a cohesive collection of songs that are linked by a common lyrical or aesthetic genesis. I cringe at the label of "concept album", as that seems to invoke a knee-jerk assumption that the album is either about some science-fiction fantasy or that it's a directionless piece of instrumental junk that uses the "concept" moniker as a free pass to, well, suck. What The Roots have created is an album that tells a story in amazingly communicative detail, without beating you over the head that you're being told a story. Left to their own devices, the listener would probably have an 'aha!' moment somewhere about 20 listens into this album that the songs were in fact all connected, and in a linear [albeit backwards] fashion. This not only respects the intelligence of the listener to figure it out, it keeps the emphasis on the music where it belongs. They have created an album that bridges the gap between meaningful connection between the songs, and the ability for each song to be a successful, enjoyable single in its own right. You can rock each of these tracks out of order at a party and nod your head with the grooves for an hour, or you could listen to it in proper order in a classroom and have a 2-hour debate about fate, responsibility, and socio-economic politics. You need to own this album. As a collection of great hip-hop tracks, as a provocative story, or simply for its importance in keeping alive the hope that music can still mean something. Full Review »
  2. Dec 6, 2011
    10
    I do not have that much to say about this, but it's a classic and I find it unacceptable for it to be anything below a perfect 10, so i am just doing my part to give this the rating it deserves. Do you know that HipHopDX, which I consider to easily be the most reliable hip hop reference, gave this it's first perfect 5 since 2007? The Roots are genius musicians, and cannot be fit into any genre. Maybe the best concept album of all time. Epic. Buy it and you won't be disappointed. Full Review »
  3. Dec 6, 2011
    10
    I've thought back before to mistakes I've made, decisions I've made and how it influenced my life and how it impacted my ending up in the very room I sit right now writing this review.

    If I had done things differently, would I be here right now? Would I have ended up in another state? Perhaps gone to college, got a helluva job? Met someone, settled down, had kids, and the stereotypical American Dream?

    Or was I always destined to end up where I'm at now? I thought about that as I listened to Undun, because it made me wonder whether Redford was doomed from the beginning. Whether his ending was predetermined from jump street and that he realized that and simply embraced what he felt was his destiny.

    It's definitely an interesting conversation piece, I think. And that, ultimately, is what separates The Roots from your average hip hop artists out there. The Roots stay coming correct with their intelligent and introspective works, while many others tend to focus on more materialistic gains.

    Unfortunately too many people would rather Watch The Throne, rather than get their heads into some real solid intelligent hip hop music. And that's sad, but unfortunately a part of life.

    As the album ends, it has it's final piece, a cover of singer Sufjan Stevens' song Redford, split into four "movements", and tell the "beginning" of Stephen's life. The first part is Sufjan himself on the piano, followed by a string quartet interpreting the song. After that you have Roots' drummer Questlove and pianist D.D. Jackson going to work, and then the final movement, which actually represents the beginning of Redford Stephen's life.

    As I'm listening right now to the final four tracks that form this sort of orchestral movement it's absolutely stunningly beautiful! I mean I've read online where there were some who heard the album and didn't like the final four tracks and felt that it would have been better ending on the 10th track.

    I think those who feel this way are missing the whole idea of a concept album, and how every piece fits. Every piece tells a part of the story. Every piece serves a purpose. And personally, I actually thought I'd be moved to tears by the 12th track "Possibility". It was amazing in a way that words can't express.

    To sum up, this is yet again, another potentially classic album by a group that we've come to expect excellence from. However just because we have grown to expect this type of brilliance, doesn't negate or diminish the quality of this album.

    Some of the usual suspects show up for appearances including Dice Raw, Phonte, P.O.R.N. and Truck North, as well as Big K.R.I.T. who has a great future ahead of him in hip hop.

    I also liked some of the vocalists on here including Bilal, Livingston and even Mercedes Martinez & Tracy Moore, of Jazzyfatnastees fame, who contributed the vocals to "I Remember" which is outstanding!

    All in all, if you like good hip hop music, if you like good MUSIC period, you need to do yourself a favor and pick this up!
    Full Review »