The Roots '…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin' Review: Dark Concept Album Is Disjointed, But Intriguing
Depressing and existential, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin by The Roots is a dark, satirical narrative behind the violence in Hip Hop. The album opens with a minute and thirty seconds of Nina Simone singing “The Theme From Middle of The Night,” which provides a kind of exposition that contrives the dark tone for the rest of the album. Overall, the album comments on the different stereotypes that are imposed on hip hop. Themes of poverty and striving for success are present in songs like “When The people Cheer.” “Am I a douchebag or just another doo-rag?/ Tryna get ahead on some brand new-wave shit,” Greg Porn raps, wondering if he’s just a reject from the hood who’s trying to succeed by jumping onto the next new thing.
The album is more or less a grab bag of songs on the shorter side, some lyrical while others are jarringly different instrumentally. “Dies Irae” for example, is pretty much a synth machine vomiting noise that clashes with the rest of the album, having no clear connection with other songs; a shiver inducing memory of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music rears it’s ugly head in my mind. Although some songs can be out of place, the album is more on the artsy side, making strange decisions and expressive movements that give the absurdity of some of these songs a pass, the same way an abstract painting can get away with being ambiguous. Pianos, violins, and voices blend together in an interesting way to create 60’s like aesthetic with rapping and poetry, akin to the style of CocoRosie.
The album is shamelessly dissonant and it doesn't seem to want to take any sort of familiar form that average hip-hop fans look for, save for in a couple of songs that are jazzy and compelling. But the roller coaster of nonsense one goes through listening to the entire album isn’t for everyone. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the kind of valor artists have when they choose not to play it safe for their music to appeal to those with more artistic sensibilities. But The Roots’ recent album is mostly a miss for its jarring structure and weak melodies.
I wasn’t a fan of The Roots until I listened to their older work, such as How I Got Over, which gave me positive vibes from the band. In contrast, I was only merely intrigued by …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin. Still it shines and compels in smaller doses. I would recommend listeners to give “When People Cheer” a listen for its more traditional hip-hop form before they venture into the rest of the album’s ambiguous tracks.