Redford

Album: undun (2011)
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Songfacts®:

  • This is the closing track of American Hip-Hop/Neo Soul band, The Roots' eleventh long player, Undun. It is the group's first ever concept album and is essentially a biographical narrative about a fictional character called Redford Stephens who died in 1999 at the age of 25. It tells Stephens' story backwards from his death to his birth. Drummer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson explained to Spin magazine: "We named the character after the Sufjan Stevens song 'Redford' from his Michigan record. We imagined Redford as being like Avon Barksdale from The Wire. He's a good guy who could have just gone to college and been a great engineer or something. But he makes a bad decision and pays for it. We tell that story in 10 songs, under 44 minutes."
  • This song is essentially an extended cover of Sufjan Stevens' 2003 track, which he wrote about Redford Township, a western suburb of Detroit. Questlove explained to Spin magazine how they stretched it out into a 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."
  • Questlove told Spin magazine Redford is "definitely compiled of five or six people that we've known from Philadelphia." He added that Rapper Tariq 'Black Thought' Trotter's entire family, "have literally all been this guy. Tariq is the only one that has escaped the fate that most of his family have encountered. The narrative definitely hits home with him more than any other member of the band."

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