The Roots: ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

The Roots: ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

(Def Jam, 5/13/14)

"Tomorrow"

With its last album, the highly lauded 2011 concept album Undun, The Roots referred to Def Jam as its “evening job,” citing its newfound Jimmy Fallon gig as a security net to try new ideas without fear of being dropped by the label. The result was an adventuresome output that may have taken some fans off guard.

Just as potentially unexpected is …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, another concept album that takes a satirical look at hip-hop stereotypes. This time, Black Thought’s raps are few and far between, wedged between passages both dense and sparse that touch on old soul and blues balladry, with piano and string arrangements throughout.

“The Coming” turns a poppy but minor-key piano tune into a dark, dissonant avant-chamber chase sequence. At other times—the very next track, in fact—the backing music excels with minimalism. “The Dark (Trinity)” features little more than a few piano chords over a bare beat, presenting a musical canvas for raps about life in a concrete jungle.

A somber string passage concludes the track, which is only another melancholy jam away from the whistling positivity of the final song—an odd conclusion to an album that expands The Roots’ reach even further.