Hip hop is not necessarily the musical style that I turn to when I want to sit back and relax with music. I don’t dislike the genre, but I find that I have to either be in the mood for the musical style, or it has to reach me at a different emotional level. The Root’s …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is one of those albums that sonically reaches me at an emotive state.
I say sonically because I don't tend to listen to lyrics, or try to figure out what the song is about. I class lyrics as an instrumental element. I know that may seem strange, but I know that I’m not alone. What I can tell you about this album, from the research I have done, is it presents a satiric view of American culture and violence. Yet, and this is intriguing, I find the album to be relaxed, rhythmic, and placid in tone. No doubt, should I take notice of the lyrics, my opinion would likely differ.
The Root’s …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is the eleventh album by this hip hop group, yet this 2014 album was my first exposure to the band. I kept seeing copies of the album in my local record store and the album cover drew me in.
When I turned to Apple Music and TIDAL, to sample the album, I noticed in both cases three tracks were absent. No doubt this is due to licensing deals, as hip hop generally uses a lot of sampling of previously released material. Perhaps this omission could have been due to other reasons, as iTunes lists these tracks as ‘album only’ purchases, but it is disappointing when this restriction occurs.
In-fact, the removal of these three tracks, from streaming services, severely limited my decision to a purchase the album. While I haven’t always been a fan of streaming services, especially lossy offerings, I do like to listen to new music before buying the physical counterpart. I ended up listening to the album several times, before deciding a purchase was in order.
As a fan of the album format, I was worried that the omission of these tracks would change my opinion of the album. Perhaps I wouldn’t like the tracks, or perhaps the omitted songs would connect the tracks in a way that didn’t make sense when I streamed the album. Despite being able to sample these songs, on the iTunes Store, the lack of continuity within the album experience was still present.
Continuity of the album format is a big deal for me. I can honestly say in retrospect that while I’m grateful that the album is available to stream, the missing tracks did alter my listening experience and I believe their inclusion is warranted to fully enjoy the album.
Yes, I’m well aware my thoughts are bordering on obsessive compulsive behaviour, but as you can tell, I appreciate the album experience given my preferred format is vinyl. The other reason I wanted to hear the album undisturbed, with missing tracks, is that the runtime is only around 33 minutes. While I don’t mind a short running album, it means that every song is selected specifically to match the album feel and theme.
Despite the intricate nature of my pre-purchase thoughts, when the vinyl turned up at AUD$25, I just couldn’t resist and I’m incredibly happy with the purchase. I can say without doubt that this album has to be heard on vinyl. The lows, that are synonymous with hip hop, just radiate through your body. While the TIDAL Hi-Fi version represents the album really well, it is the tonality of vinyl that truly gives this album an immersive experience. The vinyl edition is mastered perfectly and is certainly amongst some of the best sounding records in my collection.
Adding to the vinyl sound is the vinyl presentation. The artwork is simply exquisite. The cover is far from modern, as the mixed media collage was created by Romare Bearden in 1964. The art production team has merged the newly created elements so well that it is the visual equivalent of hip hop sample integration. As a gatefold presentation it was wonderful to see a continuity between the artwork on the foldout and the final scene depicting the shooting on the rear cover. The record sleeve, despite being paper based, is high quality and thereby lacks the fibres that can add pop and clicks to the record playback process. Honestly, even in the dead wax, the record is so quiet. When I receive records that have been produced so professionally, I remember why I collect vinyl. It is a tactile experience that is not suited to everyone, but I certainly feel closer to the music and the artist as I sit holding the record sleeve, with my body moving to the beat.
While I recommend you check the album out, in this situation you would be best served sourcing the CD or vinyl editions, in order to get the missing tracks. Alternatively, you could purchase the entire album via iTunes.
One final note, I would not recommend listening to the ‘clean’ version of the album. If you’re offended by profanity, then this album is not for you. Profanity is not overused, in this release, but it does complement the themes and tone of the album. While I don’t pay a lot of attention to the lyrics, I can assure you that the non-profane topics and themes are more disturbing than the occasional f-bomb.