Questlove gave a nice long interview to the Globe and Mail. Itâ€™s a fascinating insight into the evolution of the Roots and into the production of Undun, and is well worth the read.
Questlove, on the narrative theme and structure of Undun, a song-cycle that comments on the often short, tragic lives of African Americans, some who die from bullets and some from bad diets. The album begins with the sound of a cardiac flat-line, chronologically working its way back in reverse: â€œThereâ€™s age 23, and thereâ€™s 48. Violence is the hooded stranger of death thatâ€™s around the corner that you have to avoid. And then thereâ€™s your heart. High cholesterol is that same monster waiting for you at age 48. We wanted to tell a story, not personalizing it where the listener would have pity. We didnâ€™t want the protagonist to be a villain or a hero. We thought it would be more interesting to do the album as the voice inside of his head. Also, it was a challenge to tell a story backward in reverse linear fashion, and to tell it in a short manner. Most of our albums are sprawling 78-minute magnum opuses of sound and rhyme. We wanted to cut it by half, but to have the same impact.â€
No mention of the Redford Stephens character that the album is supposedly designed for, but there is a little hint at an album that could have been with the late Amy Winehouse. He says â€œShe wanted to do an artistic jazz record, with the two of us and Mos Def and Raphael Saadiq.â€ That would have been amazing.