STREET SOUNDS: Band gets back to its roots

Philadelphia hip hop/rock super group, The Roots, take a break from their frenetic pace as talk show house band and non-stop touring act to release album number 11.

It is abstract and experimental, titled And Then You Shoot Your Cousin.

On the album the band acts like classic Motown and Muscle Shoals studio bands did, backing guest vocalists and extending their style into the unknown.

Fortunately for The Roots, their niche of hip hop is as free ranging as psychedelia, funk and classic soul used to be.

And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is a hazy recording with many guest vocalists (Party Crash, Modesty Lycan, Dice Raw, Mercedes Martinez, Raheem DeVaughan, etc.) providing the commentary while The Roots lay down what sounds like thematic sound bites ranging from the indecipherable (Dies Irae) to dark balladry (The Coming).

Shoot Your Cousin is mood music, finding a parallel in beatnik jazz or electronic rock. That’s in spirit, though, as it resembles serious ‘70s ghetto movie themes (The Dark [Trinity]).  The band uses space and sparse instrumentation – mainly piano, drums, bass and percussion, along with strings and samples – to capture a low-key, inner-city vibe that’s both unsettling and engaging.

The restraint of The Roots’ performance adds resonance to the lyrics and atmospheric direction of the songs.  They look inward, pushed along by a sombre groove and uneasy narrative but are outwardly expressive, fusing gospel, hip hop, electronic sensibilities with balladry and neo-soul music.


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