For a legendary hip-hop band with nearly three decades of legendary albums, it is only natural for The Roots to eventually hit a wall in terms of creative output. With mostly underwhelming production style, their new record …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is not much more than a hurried concept album with vague moments of continuity.
A good representative for the album is the track “Never,” a dreary jazz beat accompanied by Patty Crash’s shrill voice. The song follows a gradual buildup as the instruments become busier, only to be cut off quickly before reaching any sort of climax. This is the atmosphere for most of the album, the music and verses sounding just below the brink of their full potential. With an average song length of 2-3 minutes, it appears there is not enough time given to address the album’s complex issues of teenage angst in an unprivileged society.
Aside from the more expected collaborators, like Dice Raw and Greg Porn, …And Then You Shoot features a smattering of other artists, from contemporary jazz vocalists and pianists to an obscure Icelandic-American pop singer. This has a similar effect as The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, an album with too many disjointed contributors to patch together a unified theme or idea. In the case of The Root’s new record, however, the rappers, singers, and instrumentalists are underused as well, resulting in a weak and disorganized sound.
The best song on the album is one that also highlights the band’s strengths, both instrumentally and creatively. “Understand” has a stunning amount cohesiveness due to the contrast between the upbeat backing track and the morose lyrics. The organ and drum beat sit perfectly under the lines, “I pray, I pray, All Dogs Go To Heaven, or to a new hell with a Wi-Fi connection/ So I can pay for my sins on PayPal, or own a holy ghost, a greyhound.”
Unfortunately, however, moments like this are rare in the otherwise stale sounding album, appearing like the band either wasn’t giving it their all or they have already ‘done it all,’ so to speak. Perhaps Fallon can give them a month off next year for the album’s much needed remix, but regardless we will always have masterpieces like Things Fall Apart and Game Theory to entertain us.