Album Rating System 3 1/2 out of 5 records
You can never really wrap your mind around creativity. Maybe because its not meant to be fully understood as opposed to being appreciated. But then, when creativity meets social awareness it becomes a statement. The Roots eleventh studio album, & Then You Shoot Your Cousin, is an intellectual posit of Hip-Hop’s downward spiral. It bleeds outside of mainstream music’s “assembly line” context, into a satirical look at millennial-Hip Hop’s nonsensical culture of debauchery and violence, and their relation to it.
The album starts off with a Nina Simone performance from Theme From The Middle Of The Night, with other complimenting interludes from jazz pianist, Mary Lou Williams, and French composer, Michel Chion, peppered throughout the album.
Black Thought, as usual, leads the vocals with his raspy, educated rap. This time he brings along MCs, Greg Porn and Dice Raw to accompany his revolutionary conquests.
Thought raps in The Dark (Trinity), “The law of gravity meets the law of averages/Ain’t no sense in attempting to civilize savages/Even though I wish I could be spared my embarrassment/I’m a nxgga, other nxggas pale in comparison/We out in Paris yet but still a nxgga perishing/No idea how much time’s left, fxck trying to cherish it/A life in times unchecked, now that’s American/Inherit the wind, pressure in everything.”
ATYSYC has a running time of 33:22, about as long as an EP. In that short amount of time The Roots succinctly make their position as being non-conformists.
With the album title I can’t help but to think of Slick Rick. If you’re old enough to remember Rick shot his cousin in 1990 over a dispute, which landed him in prison for five years.
It’s like what KRS-ONE said in Step Into A World, “MC’s more worried about their financial backing/Steady packing a gat as if something’s gonna happen/But it doesn’t, they wind up shootin’ they cousin, they bugging.”
Though ATYSYC can be extremely melancholy it’s just what you expect from a Roots album – live instrumentation, introspective rhymes, and that Boom-Bap feel. However, I feel with such heavy content there is so much more to say. It almost feels like a paper that is a good read but could have been fleshed out more.
In recent months, The Roots drummer and frontman (to some degree) Questlove, took up the task of writing a series of proses on Hip-Hop for Vulture.com, where he questions the relevancy of the genre in todays culture. In these proses he suggests that almost anything “black” is associated with Hip-Hop, and because of this Hip-Hop and blackness are defined by extremely small borders.
The Roots prove that blackness and Hip-Hop are compatible, separate, and vast in this avant-garde, cool piece of work.
© Copyright Eddie Savoy Bailey III, 2014
Written by: Eddie Bailey of The Savoy Media Group