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.
(RS 911 – December 12, 2002)
(Posted: Nov 19, 2002)
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