…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin
Almost a Trojan horse now, The Roots have with …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin surely completed their deconstructed mission, tearing down hip-hop from within. Well, my fingers are crossed.
Where Undun was concept-heavy but rich too with pathos, with sympathy, empathy, with emotional stirrings emanating from the lyrics, grooves and strings And Then You Shoot is just concept-heavy; almost ploddingly so at times.
I’ll always applaud this band for many things – and recently that includes somehow putting so much into albums that run in at just over half an hour. Both Undun and Shoot Your Cousin feel a lot longer than their trim running times as you play through them. That’s a compliment for Undun’s emotional weight, not so much so for And Then You Shoot Your Cousin.
Black Thought, the band’s frontman has been reduced to a custodial role in his own band. We hardly hear him, the credits tell us he has a co-producing duty on nearly every track but worse than not hearing him we can barely feel him. In fact that’s the issue with this album, we can no longer feel The Roots. Perhaps their day job, er, night job as The Best Band In The World As Seen On TV has them slipping so deep inside the song as to no longer exist as a personality. You go and see The Roots live, you listen to their best – sparkling – tracks and it has always been about personality. This feels academic; too clever for its own good. Too clever and not all that good.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t one or two very good tracks but you don’t head to Roots albums – or return to them, rather – for just one or two good tracks. You can get one or two ‘good’ tracks anywhere these days. You head to The Roots for heart, for soul, for a sound and a feel. This is all so detached as to mostly just be head-scratching. An exercise. It doesn’t jump up off the paper, it doesn’t live beyond the record. It falls flat. And feels exhausting.
You wait a couple of years these days for a Roots album. You figure it must be great. For that alone And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is quite possibly the great letdown of recorded music in the year 2014.