Best Albums of 2011: #5

The Roots - undun

In an interview with AdWeek, drummer ?uestlove said, in talking about their new album, that "I definitely feel like How I Got Over was our first record, and now Undun is our second album." In many ways, I can see why he says that. As they settled down as the Jimmy Fallon late night band, How I Got Over felt like a reinvention of The Roots -- a simplified and refined version of themselves. In undun, they pursue a more complex conceptual topic, but still keep the beats simple and raw.

When ?uestlove would later say that this is the best Roots album yet, he really wasn't kidding. Black Thoughts' flow has never been better and the guest spots by Big K.R.I.T., Greg Porn, and Dice Raw are perfectly integrated. The conceptual material of the album doesn't feel like anything new -- after all, how many rappers have made albums about growing up in the hood and entering a life of crime? Yet, The Roots still give the story their own existential, cringe-free spin and produce what is in my mind the best rap album of the year. The Roots' ability to continue to refine their sound and push forward creatively is kind of mind-blowing to think about considering undun is their 11th studio album. If undun is a sign, they show no sign of slowing down any time soon.

Best Tracks: "Make My", "Tip the Scale"

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