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The Roots

Phrenology arrived in 2002 after an almost unbearibly long wait for new Roots material. The previous album, 2000's Things Fall Apart, marked the release of the Roots' first major single, "You Got Me," which featured a soulful Erykah Badu. Phrenology moves away from the sound of that album, exploring the dimensions as done by Common on Electric Circus.

This oddly numbered (87-100) disc starts out with "Rock You," a short introduction of things to come from Roots MC Black Thought. This unusually rough-edged track mellows out with the smoothness of "Sacrifice," which features hip hop lover Nelly Furtado, who has recently been featured on other current [2002] releases from Jurassic 5 and Swollen Members. More of the Roots' traditional hip-hop feel is applied to "Rolling with Heat," which features Talib Kweli, and an old school style is played on the Kool G Rap tribute "Thought @ Work." The defining moment of Phrenology soon follows in "The Seed V. 2.0," the Roots' rendition of guest vocalist Cody ChestnuTT's solo single sharing the same moniker. ChestnuTT's soul-drenched vocals add an ultra-sweet flavor to the jammy Roots overtone.

"Break You Off" disturbs this great moment, a kind of low point on the album out of its high MTV playability rate. "Water" is an honest look at the drug addiction of a friend an ex-member of the band. "Quills" shares the same smoothness as the earlier-mentioned "Sacrifice," which is followed by "Pussy Galore," which takes a critical look at a sad society (ours). This hard topic is soothed by the calming vocals of Jill Scott on "Complexity." The album finishes (or at least we think at this point it does) with "Something in the Way of Things (In Town)," a spoken poem recited by creator Amiri Baraka himself. A hidden track (an updated "Rhymes and Ammo") eventually follows to put an end to one of 2002's best albums.

Although Phrenology doesn't quite reach that level administered by Things Fall Apart, Phrenology is still a solid album that proves some things may fall apart, but some things have a way of holding on strong.
Crystal at 11/18/2004 01:55:00 PM

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