Bio: Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah teaches at Bard College. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Observer, Transition, and Rolling Stone.
Undun is not just a very good album; it is, to me, the Roots’ most thoughtful, important album. It does what we expect great albums to do, what Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back or Prince’s Sign o’ The Times or Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin' On all do: It tells a story that we rarely hear.
Like those albums, undun is tasked not just with being music but also with delivering up a counternarrative. What it produces is an elegy for a group of men whom America has largely forgotten. And I suspect that when we look back on these strange years of our first black presidency, during which nearly half of all young black men who do not have high-school diplomas also do not have jobs, when one in five black homeowners in America is living under the threat of foreclosure, when the execution of Troy Davis, an almost certainly innocent black man, shifted the international gaze to our deeply flawed justice system—well, I suspect that once the "post-racial" rug that poor black Americans have been swept under is lifted, undun will be the record that reminded us to watch not the throne but the streets instead.
Postedsdfon December 14th, 2011 9:35am