…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin Album Review
Def Jam Records
Released: May 19, 2014
Genre: Alternative Hip Hop
Normally, there is a lot to say about a group like The Roots. They are an extremely important group, not only just within the realm of hip-hop, but also in pop culture in general. After releasing countless modern classics (see Things Fall Apart, Undun, etc.), landing a spot as the backup band for Jimmy Fallon, and collaborating with countless artists along the way, The Roots have written a very wordy history for themselves. However, in contrast to everything else The Roots have done, there’s not a lot to say about …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin.
Why do I waste an entire paragraph on the brevity of this album? It’s because the run time of this project is significantly shorter than that of any other Roots LP. It barely clocks in at over a half-hour long, a drastic decrease in time for the Roots; most LPs by this group run for over an hour. Then, you have to consider the combined total of two minutes of interludes, most of which are just samples of other songs or monologues. Copious amounts of interludes don’t always equate to wasted space, however these interludes only contribute slightly to the big picture that this album tries to paint. They don’t add to the dark aesthetic as effectively as they could have, which means that a lot of pressure lies on the rest of the LP.
The subject matter of Cousin is extremely dark and profound, taking an initially cynical viewpoint on love, money, existence, etc. Each MC (Black Thought and guests that include former member Dice Raw and others) has amazing moments spread about throughout this album. There are fiery flows and brutal depictions of depression and violence. The track “The Unraveling” is a high point on this record, artfully juxtaposing emancipation from future sin and imprisonment due to past sin, signifying the song’s character’s bleak existence. Every MC pours their heart into each respective verse, backed by a solemn piano beat. Other highlights include the religion-focused “Understand,” which features a very catchy yet thought-provoking chorus, as well as great Levi’s and True Religion wordplay. The closer also serves as a neat juxtaposition to the dark content of the rest of the album, ending with a very sexy chord progression.
However, one main detractor for this album is when the lyrics aren’t amazing, they’re completely average, like on “When the People Cheer,” where too much time is spent on the sexual lyrical part of the track to back up the moral message that the MCs want to convey. Another major gripe I have is that I feel like the instrumentation on some of these beats could be more varied and lively, which is why I like songs like “Tomorrow” and “The Unraveling” so much, because their beats are lively and different respectively. Once again, the interludes distract more than help on this project.
Fans of hip-hop will find worthwhile moments on this project, but holistically it is a disappointment.
FAV TRACKS:Understand, The Unraveling, Tomorrow
LEAST FAV TRACKS: Never, When the People Cheer