This morning The Roots officially announced the December 6th release of their new LP undun on Island Def Jam. A sort of novel in audio form, undun is “an existential re-telling of the short life of one Redford Stephens (1974-1999).” In some ways the culmination of the play between street legal rap and high art that has always characterized The Roots’ music the record explores “the intersection of free will and prescribed destiny as it plays out on the corner,” beginning with Redford’s death and moving backwards in time to deconstruct all that has led to his (and our own) coming “undun.” Or as The Roots’ drummer and spokesman Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson puts it:

“At this point in our career we’d like for our work to have a unifying theme, and an experiential quality. We’ve been intentionally making our albums shorter in length so that they can be experienced as a continuous work. The music is band-oriented with an eye on the moody cinematic. As a DJ, I am the King of playlists, but I don’t want our albums to feel like a playlist or a mixtape for that matter. We want to tell stories that work within the album format and we want the stories to be nuanced and useful to people. Undun is the story of this kid who becomes criminal, but he wasn’t born criminal. He’s not the nouveau exotic primitive bug-eyed gunrunner like Tupac’s character Bishop in Juice… he’s actually thoughtful and is neither victim nor hero. Just some kid who begins to order his world in a way that makes the most sense to him at a given moment… At the end of the day… isn’t that what we all do?”

See our accompanying post to catch the World Premiere of the first leak “Make My” featuring Big K.R.I.T.  “Make My” hits iTunes November 1st and The Roots will be playing New York’s Highline Ballroom on Nov. 29th-30th and again on Dec. 5th Dec. 6th to launch the album with a bang. Get the full tracklist after the jump and stay tuned for more!

1. Sleep
2. Make My
3. One Time
4. Kool On
5. The Jump
6. Stomp
7. Lighthouse
8. I Remember
9. Tip The Scale
10. Redford


  • I can’t wait. If any group of artist can pull this off, it’s the Legendary. Let’s Go!!!

  • Imran

    Hmmm, a story of a kid becoming a criminal, album’s called undun… I wonder if there’s any connection to “Unwritten” from How I Got Over.

  • Imran

    *Rising Down

  • Rickyrose

    I shed a tear read this…beautiful

  • Rickyrose


  • hmmmm

    nice…im looking forward to this…

  • plb

    “… to order his world in a way that makes the most sense to him at a given moment… At the end of the day… isn’t that what we all do?”

    “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. ” -Proverbs 14:12

  • plb

    Two things:

    1. ‘Unwritten’ is one of my favorite Roots tracks, so this is exciting.

    2. Philly emcee R-Swift employed a similar reverse narrative idea (albeit in a single track) on his 2009 album ‘Anthem.’


    I feel like J Dilla’s picture was up when they was makin this in the studio

  • Raw B

    10 songs?

    come on man.

  • TheLegendaryRootsFan

    I don’t see those shows posted on Highline Ballroom’s website. When will tix go on sale?

  • -M@

    It doesn’t look like they’re playing the Highline on those dates. Unless they’re playing really early or really late..the place is already booked. Don’t see shows booked for The Roots at ANY of the main venues in the city on those dates yet. Hopefully they’re confirmed soon so I can get tix

    • FYI we got confirmation on the Highline Ballroom shows for 11/29, 11/30 and 12/6 (that’s December 6th, not 5th–as was written in the original press release and above). Those dates should be good, i’m told.

  • El Rey

    Wondering who is playing bass with the Roots now. Is Damon Bryson taking over all bassly duties?

  • Hate to burst your bubble Roots, but this album has already been done, and done very well by an experimental artist by the name of Gavin Castleton. His EP A Bullet, A Lever, A Key is the same concept and was released back in 2007. Everyone should check it out because it is a great, well thoughtout EP.

  • Chris

    I’d like to echo Johnny D’s comment that this concept has already been brilliantly interpreted by Gavin Castleton and that was in 2007. A 7-song EP, A Bullet, A Lever, A Key follows the narrator from the time of his suicide at age 76 backwards to when he was an aspiring and struggling 28 year old musician. It is an extraordinarily powerful album with brilliant writing. I strongly recommend anyone remotely interested in this Roots album to check that out first.

  • Mark Dominguez

    Letting the echoes reverberate, Gavin Castleton’s “A Bullet, A Lever, A Key” is magnificent. It’s articulated excellently, heartfelt, honest, and as musically/lyrically sound (if not more so) as anything else out there. Like Johnny and Chris said, if this Roots album announcement piques your interests, it would be well worth your time to go check out Gavin’s EP via Johnny D’s link.

  • Wes

    Agree with previous posts about Gavin. He is a super cool guy and deserves way more recognition. His music is unexplainable and genious in my opinion.

  • LB

    Again Again, I live on the other side of the country as Gavin, found him and have been blown away by most all of his work. true rock star and fur sure worth at least ten minutes of you time. find him.

  • this would be a great idea if gavin castleton hadn’t already done it 4 years ago on the album “a bullet, a lever, a key.” that album is as powerful a hip hop album as you will ever hear.

    • red

      gavin castleton is not the roots the only thing in comon is both of the characters die the music will take on a life of its own people

  • RedDogSlim

    After checking out all the posts that gave Gavin Castleton his due props on this album concept and i dont guess im defending the Roots just offering a few suggestions. One, crazy things happen in the creative world, Im a writer and back in the early 90’s I had an idea to write a poem about a black man that lived for hundreds of years and the poem was going to be his story of the world then, Forrest Gump came out. Second, knowing the Roots, they know who Gavin Castleton is and im sure this is in ode to the work just their own rendition and then again from a creative standpoint it could be a coincidence.

  • Personally, I find it unlikely that The Roots are familiar with my music; I think the similarities in album themes and presentation are just coincidental. That being said, I appreciate those comments trying to introduce other people to my work (Lord knows I can use the help), and I look forward to hearing this new Roots album, as it will no doubt be another amazing record.

  • Gavin’s just being modest. What he doesn’t know is that Quest and the gang are also working on a zombie / love story concept album.

  • spook01

    absolutely no info on the NYC ballroom site about the shows. wtf?!

  • Ahmed J. Alessa

    from the comment of Ahmir Khalib, i sense an intriguing work coming out, i can’t wait ….