Undun - The Roots
User Score
9.3

Universal acclaim- based on 108 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Mixed: 0 out of 108
  2. Negative: 1 out of 108

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  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. Expand
  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. Expand
  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!
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  4. Dec 30, 2011
    10
    Wow I've been listening to The Roots for 20 years. all of their albums have a sonic vibe that is consistently innovative but this may be their best "sounding" album yet. Regardless, it's another triumph.
  5. Dec 8, 2011
    9
    Great instrumentals, witty lyrics, and a powerful theme. Songs have brisk running times and are super easy to get into. This is my first Roots album, I don't listen to much hip-hop these days. Liked it, you will too. It's hard to pick a favorite, all of the songs work well, but listen to the single, "Tip the Scale," on Youtube for an idea of what to expect.
  6. Dec 13, 2011
    10
    Easily the best hip hop album of the year, and possibly the best album of any genre for the year. This album is superbly done, and it is a must buy for anyone that likes music.
  7. Dec 6, 2011
    10
    This Album is amazing. The is probably their best album to date. This is one of my top 5 best albums of 2011. It's classic. Although it's a short album, they always have something up their shelves. I like the song "Kool On" because it's funk and high energy. I also like the last 3 instrumental songs. The Roots is one of my favorite Hip-Hop groups of all time.
  8. Dec 10, 2011
    10
    If there is a band that has provided a soundtrack to my adult life, it's the Roots. I've ridden with them from Things Fall Apart. They've never disappointed. One or two (for them) average albums punctuate an otherwise stellar career, pumping out beats, lyrics, reflections, statements, and asking probing questions about the human condition, the lay of the land we call Earth, your position on it - these contributions defy time, genre and any rating. UNDUN is exceptional. Considered narration with music as a medium, this is art my friends, not an ego trip. A concept album like no other, and better than most. It's a collection of beautiful music without a flaw. Put it in our ears, let it settle on your brain, and penetrate your soul. Expand
  9. Dec 9, 2011
    10
    Ever since high school, I have followed the Roots with wonder - finding in their music a true gem of blended hip hop and rock/funk elements. This album epitomizes the excellence of those elements, leaving behind a simple, yet unparalleled masterpiece of sound. This is truly the hallmark of their already inimitable career.
  10. Dec 7, 2011
    9
    Not quite perfect, but darn close. This is an insanely good album overall, songs like "One Time", "The OtherSide", "Lighthouse", "Kool On", and "Tip the Scale" make this probably their best album yet. This is proof that taking risks can pay off. A must have album.
  11. Dec 9, 2011
    10
    A fantastic album. The magnum opus, up to this point, of the Roots's career. Breathtaking. A truly magnificent statement and album. It's spectacularly beautiful.
  12. Dec 7, 2011
    10
    Magnum Opus. Spotlesots album. First concept album by The Roots sows their Superb Rapping Techniques and Dmivers ified Lyrnnical themes. A melancholy touch to the album keeps the Listener Hooked on for the entire ashulffblum. You cae your iPod while the album's on, If u are a Rap Aficionado that is.
  13. Dec 8, 2011
    9
    Undun is a great album, and coming out this late in the year it is definitely a contender for one of the top 5 albums of 2011. The reasoning behind me giving it a 9 is because, like mentioned in some of the professional reviews, the album starts to lose some steam during the second half. It starts out so phenomenal, that when it gets to these least spectacular tracks (they are still great), they just don't quite match up to how well the album started. Expand
  14. Dec 9, 2011
    9
    I've never been a huge fan of the genre, I'm much more drawn to lyrics that are either downright oblique or something that draws me in directly. Personally, I find the song structure to feel derivative of my general impression of the genre...which I directly attribute to my lack of immersion and following of the genre over th years....bare with me here, I didn't score this randomly.

    After hearing the cooperation with John Legend, and good reviews of this new album, I felt, as a lover of music in general, that this was the time to check out what The Roots are capable of. I'm fortunate to say I took that chance. The first round through, I thought, there's some catchy choruses, and excellent musicianship...scratch that, superb musicianship. You could remove the lyrics and have a great album on it's own here and for that alone, it's worth a listen...but it didn't grab me as something I could identify with.

    With my bias against the genre stated above, I felt this album still fits the basics of how I perceive it, that being said I haven't stopped listening to the album in the past two days. If nothing else, that's a testament to it's ability to grow and draw you in. The longer this plays and plays, the further I'm starting to be drawn in to the story line of this bleak yet beautiful tale. A downtempo 'here's my world' indie tale, that finds a perfect emotional balance between striving for something more and overturning the beauty before your eyes. The universal truths we all encompass start to seep through if you are willing to invest the time to listen. Initially I was thinking this is around a 7/10...but the more I wrote about it, the more I realized that it deserved more.
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  15. Dec 9, 2011
    10
    Their is really nothing I can say that would give this most current effort by The Roots justice but this is definitely one of their most cohesive efforts (given it's a concept album). Everything from the great instrumentation to the high level lyricism by not only Black Thought but all of the features make this by far one of the best albums to come out in the past bunch of years. The last four movements of the album are one of the best endings to an album that I have ever heard in the genre. Honestly the album speaks for it's self....buy it. Expand
  16. Dec 18, 2011
    10
    This is easily the best album of the year and I don't even like rap music all that much. This is a masterpiece. Check out the Rap Genius website to read the lyrics and the meaning of some of the lyrics. If Michelangelo used a brush of hip-hop music, this would be the Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel. Yes, this is that good. I am also a big Sufjan Stevens fan and it was nice to see contrition to this album. Give this album a chance but you must listen from start to finish. I have listened to this 15-20 times straight. Expand
  17. Dec 22, 2011
    8
    This is a really good album! Musically it's magnificent. It's sure that when you work with people like Sean C & LV, James Poyser and Questlove, the prod can't suck. Lyrically, Black Thoughts is, like always, damn good! The fact that they had Big K.R.I.T. and Phonte can just help them (By the way, english is not my first language.. sorry!)
  18. Jan 2, 2012
    10
    I decided to make an account just to write a review of Undun. It has been a sad few years for hip-hop and rap. There has been been a surge in the club banging beats that have managed to divert attention from what the creators of hip-hop had in mind...a message. I feel like this album represents a 'Lighthouse' for the genre that has conveyed the troubles of an entire race, as well as the joys that are experienced. Everything from the instrumentals to the lyrics just takes one back to the days when a rapper cared more about the message than money and **** The concept of Undun may not be completely original, but it hasn't been done this well in a while. It's easily the best hip-hop album of the year. Expand
  19. Jan 6, 2012
    10
    We could make it quick and say that Undun is the kind of rap people should listen to before judging the whole genre: it would be unfair. This last The Roots works is much, much more than one of the best rap albums in a long time: it is probably a new classic, a comeback to the origins of storytelling and at the same time one of the last bulwarks against this new generation of MCs who has nothing to say. Listening to The Roots, and especially to Undun, means reconciling with high quality music and musicians, which is, actually, a true rarity. God save these atmospheres. Expand
  20. Jan 4, 2013
    10
    An instant classic, Undun is a severely underrated concept hip-hop record by The Roots. It is quite possibly The Roots' best album; every song works together, the beats almost ooze consciousness, every note is perfectly placed.
  21. Feb 2, 2013
    9
    Undun is by far The Roots' most accessible record yet. each track stands alone in it's own creative piece of art. The lyrics tell an engrossing story and the chorus' are all fantastic. The beats are perfectly layered and the musicianship is great. All In All, Undun is a near-perfect album and essential hip-hop listening. A-
  22. Feb 14, 2012
    9
    Superb Album. It's hard to believe that music of this caliber often goes unnoticed my most. Every track emits a certain feel, a certain level sophistication. Best hip-hop album of 2011.
  23. Mar 28, 2012
    8
    This is a really enjoyable album with a classic feel that not a lot of hip-hop has these days. The Roots are one of the few groups from the golden age for rap that was the 80s and 90s, and they still manage to create great and soulful music. There is an great meaning behind this album along with a bunch of catchy hooks and great rhymes, so I recommend it.
  24. Jan 30, 2012
    10
    The Roots are an amazing band. Throughout a career that has spanned nearly two decades, they have proved on wax and live that they can play and do anything. Undun is the sound of a band taking an artistic risk and coming back with something that is transcendent of anything else released in 2011, maybe since the start of their career. Undun is the Roots' masterwork, a tour de force, their magnum opus. If you like the Roots, buy this album. If you like music buy this album. If you have ears, buy this album. Starting with an introuduction, 9 songs which are musically and lyrically brilliant, and closing with a four part orchestral suite UNDUN is a heartbreaking, beautiful and unbelievably catchy album. In twenty years you'll look back at this album and tell your children: I was there. I was there when Undun was released on the world. I could go on for days about how great this musical treat is. An instant classic. Expand
  25. Dec 7, 2011
    6
    This album is alright for rap i dont get too much into rap but ost of the songs follow the same structure and the lyrics are all the same: tough times and cursing. That aside "Kool On" has some awesome music to it. Good bass line and funky guitar and the lyrics are good. The instrumentals def show a different side of the Roots. Violins and edgy and soft piano mixed with some crazy drum beats???? Awesome. Going from gangsta to classical music? Gotta give the Roots some prop, seems like they would be the only ones to get away with it. Expand
  26. Jan 14, 2012
    10
    This album is a brilliant risk from the Roots - one of the most diverse musical groups of our time - reminding us that they should never be shrugged off as a late night tv band. If anything, it seems that working for Jimmy Fallon has given them even more inspiration and drive to create something new and different. Every single track on this record is catchy, groovy, and thought-provoking. Whether you simply want to groove, or whether you've been craving some hip hop with more depth than the norm, Undun has something for everyone. Easily a contender for best 2011 album, and not only was it released just in time for such an award, but it was released with perfect timing according to season, for something about Undun feels extremely appropriate for the cold winter months. I've written some more initial listening thoughts here: http://goingonrecord.blogspot.com/2012/01/undun-roots-2011.html Expand
  27. Feb 10, 2012
    9
    Wow, The Roots are the epitome of artists. This is their 13th album, and they're all good?!? That is unheard of especially in the rap genre. But seriously this might be the best Roots album yet, it's just so hard to choose my favorite but this is top 3 for sure. I love the concept album and that it works backwards, you cannot go wrong with this album or The Roots for that matter.
  28. Feb 24, 2012
    10
    I wasnt a big Roots fan before this album. This album is a masterpiece. A classic that we'll be talking about for generations. The Roots made probably one of the best albums we've seen since Kanye's College Dropout". I dont think The Roots will make another album like this one. Its a unique album that cant br replicated
  29. Feb 8, 2012
    10
    I've been a fan of hip-hop every since I can remember. Born in the 80's, and raised during the "golden" era of hip-hop/rap in the 90's, so I hold this genre to high standards. That being said, you know you've stumbled upon a brilliant album when it puts nearly every single rap artist/album of the past 5 years to shame. The rap genre should be embarassed for themselves. There is no question that Undun is the best album of the year in any genre. It may be the best album the Roots have ever made, and that's a bold statement I feel comfortable making. This isn't so much a concept album as it is a cohesive album with a central theme (a nearly extinct idea in rap). The album is centered around a fictional character who is born into poverty, violence, and general hopelessness. What makes it more interesting is that the story of him is told in reverse. "Sleep" the opening song of the album is the end of the road for this character as he deals with the paranoia of reflecting on his life. It's a brief song that ends with Black Thought saying, "There I go, from a man to a memory/ Damn, I wonder if my fam will remember me". From there on the album is brilliant. There are only 9 real tracks on the album, a nearly mute intro, and a 4 track instrumental to close the album. Black Thought is so focused on this album (as he always is) and his lyrics are so dense that it takes several listens before you can really appreciate them. It's not so much is wordplay that makes his lyrics so impressive, but rather the fact he stays true to the theme of this album the whole way through. On "Kool On" he raps, "Holding fast money without running out of patience/moving silent, without runnin' up in places/cake by the layers, rich but never famous/hustle anonymous still remain nameless". I was blown away by his ability to paint a picture of this fictional character, heading towards his inevitable downfall, without giving specific details about this person. Black Thought had never been an expert of hard details, but he is flawless when it comes to conveying emotions or thoughts. On this album, he has a consistent script to follow, and it brings out the best in his lyrics. The album is very brief (the core 9 tracks breeze by in less than 30 minutes) but it's impact is heavy, and there isn't one weak song on the album. What makes the Roots so great is the group as a whole, as they are just as much a band as they are rappers. All the songs are perfectly arranged, and one track blends perfectly into the next. After "Sleep" the album kicks into high gear with the smooth laid back, "Make My" (featuring Big KRIT). That track bleeds flawlessly into, "Other Side" (featuring Phonte) which is hits a lot harder than "Make My". Then that song leads in to arguably its best song "Kool On" which is the funkiest and most accesible song of the album. It sounds like it's straight out of the '70s. There are several instruments the Roots use throughout the album, but nothing ever seems out of place and the numerous instruments give each song it's own identity. "Lighthouse" is another strong song with the catchiest chorus on the album, "If you can't swizim than you bound to dridown/passing out life jackets, bout to go didown/get down with the captain or go down with the ship/before the dark abyss I'm a hit you with... this. It's the 3rd to last of the core 9 tracks, and fits perfectly there. The song represents the paranoia of the album's character becoming overwhelmed with the pressures in his life. No song states this pressure better than the final of the core 9 tracks (and first "single") "Tip the Scale". It's meant to be the beginning of the character's end in a sense, and makes the character fill very human. The chorus, "Some think life is a living hell/some live life just living well/I spend mine trying to tip the scales my way" is powerful, and sets up the story perfectly, or in the case of the album, ends it perfectly. Even the instrumentals at the end of the album (including a cover of Surfan Stevens) are excellent, and are damn near hypnotic. If this album wasn't a masterpiece, I wouldn't bother writing a review that is damn near 5,000 characters, but this album deserves it. It's an album of substance, and really requires and rewards the listeners full attention. It's rare to find a RAP album so meticulously crafted, and it's clear the Roots truly care about their art. Most rappers are ego-tripping before they even release a song or album, but the Roots are still the most humble rap artists in the game, nearly 20 years since their debut album. I'll be playing this CD for the next 10 years. It's a pure classic. Expand
  30. Apr 9, 2012
    9
    Holds court with Wyclef's Carnival
    The Roots have finally produced an album that transcends a collection of songs. Undun is true musical genius. By telling the story of a man at his point of death and reflectively moving back through is life as study in circumstance and motivation, Black Thought and Co. have produced something much akin to real art than music. While the storyline moves
    backwards, the music moves forward in flows and ebbs.
    Songs stand up individually, but the art is in the sum and not the parts, and this is what sets Undun apart from all prior Roots offerings.
    Highly Recommended.
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  31. Jun 28, 2012
    8
    OK first, when the Roots drop a new album, its on my "must listen" list of music. Their style is far from anything else in hip hop rite now. This record though was all over the place-almost like an experimental type of thing. While pushing the direction of hip hop I can appreciate, the music that resulted here was not for me. I really liked only 2 or 3 tracks-despite many guest appearances. This is not classic The Roots but worth having in your collections. Expand
  32. Aug 16, 2014
    10
    In my opinion, the best rap album of the 2010's. Everything about this album comes together perfectly to draw the listener into the world of the fictional character Redford Stephens in a way that most concept albums can never truly accomplish.

    One of the most brutally honest looks into modern American urban poverty ever done in Hip Hop.
  33. Mar 8, 2013
    10
    Will go down with the rest of The Roots' discography and Kendrick Lamar's hit good kid maad city as hip-hop classics. An everlasting testament to the fact that hip-hop can be meaningful in the deepest sense possible.
  34. Feb 18, 2014
    10
    This album is a masterpiece! My personal favourite album by the roots. I had goosebumps from the start right through to the end. It tells a powerful story and completely blew me away! I am seriously lost for words when it comes to this album. Listen to it if you haven't! You would be doing yourself a massive favour!
  35. Sep 14, 2013
    6
    Wow, everyone hear loved this? I know it got some critical love, but this was a big letdown for me. I don't begrudge the Roots for their ambition here, but I think it mostly amounted to a somewhat dull album. How I Got Over, its predecessor, took me a few listens but I really came around on that one. Never happened here.

    One problem the band seems to have developed here is overuse of
    their choruses and hooks. "Kool On" is nearly excellent, but it repeats the soul scream about twice as much as they should, taking away from its effect and even bordering on annoying by the end. That's the best example, but they overuse it throughout. The album contains a general lack of funk and immediacy, two things they've never been short on before. Lastly, and I'm sorry to say it because I'm sure they put a lot of time into it, but the story isn't particularly compelling to me, maybe because of how they tell it (not terribly well). It all seems more like a failed noble experiment to me, though being the Roots it's never really in danger of being outright bad. Expand
  36. Oct 8, 2014
    10
    This is brilliant. It's one of the best concept albums ever in my opinion, and I think it can even go toe-to-toe with albums of extreme calibre such as Sgt. Peppers or The Dark Side Of The Moon. The concept backwards is an extremely interesting idea.
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 5, 2012
    70
    The Roots manage to craft another interesting hip-hop experiment with undun.
  2. Jan 4, 2012
    70
    The listener need be an equally astute one.
  3. 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.