The Roots - undun

The Roots’ new album undun is a concept album about a man named Redford Stephens, and as it turns out, that particular concept comes from another concept album — a very celebrated one at that. To hear Roots drummer/bandleader ?uestlove tell it, the band named the character after “Redford,” a short instrumental piece from the Sufjan Stevens album Michigan. And on the final track from undun, also titled “Redford,” the band takes Sufjan’s instrumental, and, with some help from Sufjan himself, they turn it into a sprawling four-movement work. We’ve got three of those movements streaming below.

On the first movement, “Redford,” Sufjan plays the song alone on piano. And in the ensuing two movements, Questo, a string quartet, and an avant-garde pianist all offer their takes on it. Listen to the tracks and read Questlove’s explanation below.

Here’s what ?uestlove told Spin:

We’ve always loved the song “Redford” from Michigan. So we close the new album with a cover of “Redford.” We stretched it out into this four-part movement. Part 1 is Sufjan at the piano performing it. And then Part 2 is a string quartet that we had interpret it. Part 3 is myself and D.D. Jackson, who is an avant-garde piano player. He’s probably one of the most dangerous pianists — I don’t know how he doesn’t have carpal tunnel now. But he just destroys, literally, destroys the piano. The final movement, which ends the record, is essentially the beginning of the story. But it’s the last thing you hear. It’s a very powerful piece of work.

You’ll have to buy undun to hear that fourth movement. It’s out 12/6 on Def Jam. Check out the arty videos for “Make My,” “Tip The Scale,” “Stomp,” and “Sleep.”

Comments (12)
  1. You titled the song Redwood…

  2. Haha, ditto the first comment. “REDFORD” not “Redwood!”

  3. This is cool and all, but the first part is just “Redford” exactly like it is on Michigan, and then “Movement 1″ and “Movement 2″ are each only a minute long each. These aren’t samples, right? Because, while very nice, this hardly seems like enough substances to warrant excitement.

    I am of the opinion that a track is not a song unless it’s longer than a Guided by Voices track.

  4. The Roots, the Wilco of rap?
    By that I mean that they can make albums however and whenever they want and will remain relevant.

  5. If you don’t listen to the song you might not drop like such a boon into the ground floor. just when you see the cars on hydraulics pouring down into your face

  6. first 2 movements were really beautiful but then the piano fell on the fucking drum kit come on boys.

  7. Not a bad analogy at all. Strangely enough, I had the opportunity to see The Roots and Wilco at Red Rocks a few years back. One of the most compelling, ear-pleasing concert lineups I’ve ever seen.

  8. the last 3 movements go along with the album. It’s your choice to pick the ending. You will see. The album is a masterpiece. This took the roots 3 years in the making. After they made HIGO they said they weren’t going to make anymore albums. We need to be Thankful that there still making albums. Yes it’s a short album but it’s a soild one. Also get use to the short albums from the roots cause that’s what there going to keep on making. Peace

  9. This album is streaming from a german website right now. Here are instructions on how to access it if you aren’t from Germany:

    1. On Firefox, download this plugin: and install it
    2. On the stealthy icon on the right side of your browser, set ”DE” as your country code. Click OK (make sure to click the icon so that it is green.
    3. Go to and enjoy :)

    It’s great.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.

%s1 / %s2