Real Talk: The Top 15 Albums Of 2011

By: 12.30.11

Who: The Roots
What: undun
Why: 4 Cigs
Label: Def Jam | Producers: ?uestlove, James Poyser, Sean C & LV, Richard Nichols, Ray Angry, Khari Mateen, Rick Friedrich, D.D. Jackson

The Good: Having always been known as consummate musicians, The Roots upped the ante with their latest album, undun. From the moment that listeners press play and hear the simulated flatline turn into a heartbeat, everything is sequenced beautifully. Lead character Redford’s world is presented in vivid detail both from the instrumentation and the vocals the emcee’s recorded over them. You can’t help but marvel at the final product including the sorrowful “Sleep” and bubbly “Lighthouse.”

The Bad: With so many voices and no real defined roles, it takes undivided attention to keep up with everything that’s going on. undun is a concept album, which allows some room for interpretation, but the simple premise of running back the events of Redford’s demise could have been a bit more elaborate. Additionally, it would have been nice to hear more of Black Thought given how focused and potent his bars were whenever he stepped up to the mic.

The Lovely: At this stage in The Roots’ career no one would have been mad if they had just mailed in another album. God knows how they pulled this off in between their permanent gig serving as Jimmy Fallon’s house band and touring. Very few people have put in more work than the legendary Roots crew and that short list doesn’t even include any side projects. Instead of idling, The Fifth Dynasty challenged themselves musically and kept things fresh. — MZ

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