The Roots, And Then You Shoot Your Cousin: Conscious Content (2014)

Courtesy of Def Jam

Courtesy of Def Jam

We all understand that click-bait is the reality of the marketplace.

Front-loaded keywords. SEO. Landing pages. The whole nine balls of wax. But entertainment need not always be so bent on damaging our souls.

What sells is rarely what it is good for us anyway.

So while cars drive by with trunk rattling trap music that often glorifies all the depravity of the day, what happens to artists like The Roots and their ilk who still bring message to their music.

Shouldn’t we favor that which attempts to heal while it soothes and inspires, instead of tending towards instant thrills?

Listen, no one wants to be preached to: sometimes you just want to light a spliff and drift. Pop a molly and get hyped, drink a six-pack and wyle the fuck out.

But what is your behavior when you indulge in these things, what sorts of decisions do you make?

Feel the energy of the planet right now. Does it seem positive?

The Roots latest set—their fifth on Def Jam and 14th including recent collaborative efforts with John Legend, Betty Wright and Elvis Costello—continues down their typical left-hand path, especially in the realm of hip-hop.

There’s nothing lightweight or airy in the eleven tracks here. There is pain and dissonance, songs of struggle and inner-city blight.

The story arc builds around tension from the outset with the haunting Nina Simone opener, “Theme From The Middle of The Night” which folds into the album’s showpiece, “When The People Cheer.”

 

Modesty Lycan guides this track with a poignant hook: “Everybody acts like God is all that/But I got the feelin’ he ain’t never coming back.”

Whoa. Shorty took the words right out many of our mouths.

Things reach a morbid crescendo with “The Dark (Trinity)” with Greg Porn and Dice Raw painting vivid portraits of urban despair. Porn hits us with “I’d rather O.D. than be an O.G.” while Dice flips a trapper cadence: “I wonder if Allah take debit/cause a n***a got real bad credit…”

There is some loosening of the knot with the final two tracks as Raheem DeVaughn seeks answers and looks to tomorrow on “The Unraveling” and “Tomorrow.”

This is a challenging album and while it illuminates all of modern life’s ills, it does not revel in the muck.

So maybe next time you’re at the bar and you reach for that last drink at the end of the night, looking to spit game to some drunk girl.

Just don’t do it.

Call a cab. Go the fuck home. Because odds are, she’s not gonna go home with your sloppy ass anyway.

That way you can avoid driving drunk, picking a fight and further contributing to the madness that continues to swirl around us every day and in every way.

Point A to Point Z.

Rating: 82 out of 100

 

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