. . .And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

Brutally bleak, shrouded in screwed hues, with a narrator "on my existential grind doing consequential dirt," this 33-minute concept suite is rap's own Downward Spiral. With zero aspirational tales, the Roots' 11th album explores a hopelessness where the trap is something you're stuck in. The band seems fueled by a moody, circa-1961 record collection, recontextualizing life before funk: Pianos and strings clash in explosions of third-stream jazz, French electro-acoustic pioneer Michel Chion brings noise, deep-blue tones vibrate like Miles Davis' Porgy and Bess, and a 90-second chunk of Nina Simone plays like opening credits.

From The Archives Issue 1210: June 5, 2014