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The Roots

Phrenology

RS: 4of 5 Stars Average User Rating: 4.5of 5 Stars

2002

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Like smart bands since the dawn of time, The Roots could be accused of being more fun to think about than to actually listen to. With their fifth studio record, Phrenology, they finally become what we've always hoped they would be: a hip-hop band that strikes a very funky balance between righteousness and humor, between headbanging grooves and truth-telling.

They kick it off with "Rock You," mainly a furious rap by MC Black Thought and a percussive riff that sounds like a garbage can smashing into a police car. From there, the group spins through a startling array of hip-hop reinventions, including the hardcore-punk scree of "Track 2" and the thrilling, rave-rap hybrid of "Track 18." The neosoul of "The Seed," which features the marvelous guest singer Cody Chesnutt, is mind-blowing -- a stark, angry blueprint for twenty-first-century pop music that replaces the unprocessed fury of gansta rap with bullish compassion. But Phrenology's best moment comes with a straightforward hip-hop number, "Pussy Galore," when Black Thought spits, "The world is a sex machine," turning a James Brown quote into a Cliffs Note about the commodification of sexual desire. The Roots don't matter because they're smart; on Phrenology they matter because they make themselves understood.

PAT BLASHILL
(RS 911 – December 12, 2002)



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