our score: 4.0 out of 5.0
Philadelphia hip-hop crew The Roots has branched out even further
with its fifth studio album, Phrenology.
exceptionally complicated and diverse album, Phrenology
borders on a level of experimentation more excessive than the
group's previous subtler releases, and thereby at times sounds
detached from its origins (Organix and Do You Want More,
this is not). Of course following up a modern classic like 1999's
Things Fall Apart is hard to do, so The Roots are entitled
to some growing room.
some of Phrenology ends up sounding like bad science.
This is best represented in the 10-minute, annoyingly simple-minded
"Water," which is divided into three parts written at
various times over the past three years. The first movement, which
features MC Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter's crisp lyricism,
is one of the best on the set, however the tacked-on instrumental
segment following his raps is simply noise.
Phrenology isn't all about experimenting, as many of
the tracks, including the lead single "Break You Off"
featuring Musiq, are much more straightforward R&B flavored
rap, with a smooth, jazzy accompaniment that drummer Ahmir-Khalib
"?uestlove" Thompson and the rest of the crew are still
One of the
most successful departures from their signature style on Phrenology
is the hidden bonus track which shows off some of The Roots' experience
on the 2001 Area One Festival, with a rave-ready beat colliding
brilliantly with old school sounds closing out the album on a
team ups on the album include "Sacrifice" with Nelly
Furtado, "The Seed v. 2.0" with neo soul singer Cody
Chesnutt, and "Rolling Heat" with Talib Kweli, as well
as appearances from Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Dice Raw and Tracy
Moore of Jazzyfatnastees among many others. However, none of these
collaborations are as striking as the group's breakthrough with
Erykah Badu and Eve, "You Got Me," off Things Fall
Apart, but they all groove along at a nice pace.
In the end,
Phrenology does not rise up to the level set by its predecessor,
but it will hold its own with devoted fans. And once again, The
Roots have released a truly timeless album of superb hip-hop.
2. Rock You
3. Sacrifice (feat. Nelly Furtado)
4. Rolling With Heat (feat. Talib Kweli)
5. WAOK Roll Call
6. Thought At Work
7. The Seed 2.0 (feat. Cody Chestnutt)
8. Break You Off (feat. Musiq)
11. Pussy Galore
12. Complexity (feat. Jill Scott)
13. Something In The Way Of Things [In Town]
(feat. Amiri Baraka)