Dating back to their 1993 debut, Organix!, the Roots have always pushed the envelope as far as hip-hop creativity goes. And on their upcoming December 6 album, fans should expect the Philadelphia band to take things a few steps further.
“We are working on our 13th album; it is titled Undun,” ?uestlove told MTV News when we caught up with him last month at Jay-Z’s fundraising event in New York City. “It is our first concept album. Mostly, our albums are thematic, but this is our first album in which it’s an actual narrative, so sort of like a movie without visuals; kind of like a storybook record.”
On Do You Want More?!!!??!, the Roots set a precedent for live bands in rap. Their 1999 album Things Fall Apart was inspired by Chinua Achebe’s famous novel, and the group’s 2002 album, Phrenology, featured cover art from satirical artist Tom Huck. Safe to say that the Roots usually go beyond standard rap fare, but now that they’re the house band for “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” ?uest believes they can be even more forward-thinking.
“I guess having the security of the Fallon job gives us room to do more experimentation and stuff that we always wanted to do without the fear of, ’Oh my god, what’s our plan B?” he said. “Now our day job is our plan B.”
The famed drummer confirmed that Undun will be released on Def Jam Records and said he considered himself lucky to have the creative freedom he and his band of brothers currently enjoy. “Most rappers, poverty leads them to whatever the public determines and it really prevents them from being real artists, because a lot of artists I meet are like, ’I wish we could be like y’all,’ ” he explained. “We just create music on our own accord.”
It’s that creativity that has ensured the Roots’ longevity, and for that, ?uestlove is grateful. “Not many groups can say they are in their 20th year and on their 13th record, so I’m happy.”
Are you looking forward to new music from the Roots? Tell us in the comments!