Its unresolved like everything I had at stake
Illegal activity controls my black symphony
Orchestrated like it happened incidentally
Oh, there I go, from a man to a memory
Damn, I wonder if my fam will remember me
undun is the tenth studio album by American hip hop band The Roots released in 2011 by Def Jam Recordings.
Recorded in various recording studios in Philadelphia and New York City. The production work would be handled primarily by Questlove, the band's record producer and drummer. Musically, undun further develops upon the indie rock and neo soul stylings of its predecessor, How I Got Over, having major influence from indie artists such as Sufjan Stevens (whom of which, they would collaborate with on the record). Lyrically and thematically, it was a concept album following the short, tragic life of Redford Stevens. A fictional character whose life is documented on the record in a reverse chronological order to showcase the life of Afro-American man descending into a life of crime due to the circumstances surrounding his upbringing.
The album would receive modest commercial success, but great critical acclaim, with the record being considered one of the band's greatest records, with it being praised for its dense subject matter, diverse influences and thematic cohesiveness.
- "Dun" (1:16)
- "Sleep" (2:15)
- "Make My" (4:27)
- "One Time" (3:55)
- "Kool On" (3:48)
- "The OtherSide" (4:03)
- "Stomp" (2:23)
- "Lighthouse" (3:43)
- "I Remember" (3:15)
- "Tip the Scale" (4:17)
- "Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)" (1:52)
- "Possibility (2nd Movement)" (0:55)
- "Will to Power (3rd Movement)" (1:03)
- "Finality (4th Movement)" (1:31)
Will to Trope
- Age-Progression Song: The entire record can be considered one, with each song trailing Redford's life and descent into crime and eventual death
- Album Closure: The last four tracks (collectively known as the "Redford Suite") are a four-part movement which are meant to represent a kind of birth cycle for Redford.
- Album Intro Track: "Dun"
- Back to Front: The record tells the story of Redford Stevens life and death starting from his death and ending with his birth.
- Concept Album:
- Death Song:
- "Make My" has Redford consider his criminal life and choices he's made in it and sees him ultimately decide the things he's done in pursuit of it do not outweigh his want to overcome the struggles set against him at birth and he kills himself.
- "Sleep" is basically his postmortem with him reflecting upon his life after death.
- Deconstruction: The entire record can be seen as a deconstruction of Gangsta Rap and the oft-glamorized persona of a drug kingpin.
- Downer Ending: The album ends with a four-part musical suite representing Redford's birth, which is made sadder when you know what his eventual fate will be and by the fact that he never even really had the chance to change it.
- Driven to Suicide: "Lighthouse" has him consider suicide, but "Make My" is where he goes through with it.
- Instrumentals: "Dun" and the "Redford Suite" (last four tracks).
- Flatline: The opening track, "Dun", opens with this.
- It Gets Easier: "Kool On" and "The OtherSide" depict Redford living successfully as a drug dealer. However, with the album's context it's clear that they are also attempts at self-delusion on his part.
Whats keeping me from breaking out like Benadryl
- "I Remember", specifically the last lines of its final verse are more straightforward:
When my baptism of fire resulted in a kill
Sometimes its as cut and dry as a business deal
You gotta cause the blood of a close friend to spill
But you remember still
- Meaningful Name: The title is a reference to the circumstances of Redford's life, alluding to the fact that being an Afro-American man he may not have had that many options in his life to begin with and therefore his life was, undone, before he even had a chance to live it.
- Miniscule Rocking: All of the instrumental tracks ("Dun", "Possibility", "Will to Power", "Finality") barely make it to two minutes.
- Mood Dissonance: "Kool On" is quite sonically different from the other tracks on the album, sounding less grim and more like something you'd play at a cookout with lyrics celebrating his drug dealing lifestyle. This is justified, however, considering the fact that its mostly him trying to cope with his amoral lifestyle.
- Ode to Youth: "I Remember" is a particularly morose example, seeing him reflect on his life before he became a drug dealer and presumably murders someone.
- One-Word Title: "Dun", "Sleep", "Stomp"
- Record Producer: Questlove (the band's drummer) would be the main producer of this record, with assistance from James Poyser (the band's keyboardist), Sufjan Stevens, Richard Nichols (the band's manager) among others.
- Shout-Out: Redford Stevens was inspired by and named after the Sufjan Stevens song "Redford", of which he would do an instrumental variation of on the record.
That soul is in the atmosphere like airplay
- "Make My":
If there's a Heaven, I can't find the stairway