Album Review: The Roots - ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

In this age of personalized playlists and 99-cent singles, there seldom comes an album that dares to command one’s full attention from start to finish. It seems however, that The Roots' latest effort, a concept album titled …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, is striving to keep the tradition alive.

For a project so short and sweet (barely breeching the 30 minute mark) Cousin is dense with profound themes. Unlike The Roots’ previous release Undun (also a concept album) Cousin does not follow one character through a continuous story line. Rather, the album examines hip hop culture as a whole though the eyes of the characters whose stereotypes perpetuate the culture.

Sweeping orchestral interludes and skittish jazz breaks lay the somber yet chaotic backdrop atop which verses by Black Thought along with a cast of features (including Greg Porn, Dice Raw and others) bring each character to life: the gluttonous celebrity who only feels validated when surrounded by screaming throngs, the faithless dreamer whose desperation leads him to gang life despite his disdain for it.

Then of course there is the most reoccurring character throughout the album: God.  Whether they profess thanksgiving, “Send a message to God in Heaven / 
I'm thankful to be alive”, or express total skepticism, “Everybody acts like God is all that
 / But I got the feelin’ he ain’t never coming back,” some of the most compelling moments on Cousin are in the tracks which explore the many perspectives from which our society interprets God.

…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is not the type of album any two people are going to feel exactly the same way about. Furthermore, seldom will listeners digest the album the same way the first time they listen to it, as they might the 10th time around. By using hip-hop to critique hip-hop, The Roots have found a way to level with their audience while also urging them to think. And though you may have to keep an internet tab open to Rap Genius as you listen (I know I did) …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin has something to say to everyone—regardless of if you are an artist, a trap lord or simply a fan of music.

Click here to purchase ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

-Syron Townsend, Contributor