Release Date: 11.26.02
Record label: MCA
Genre(s): Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B, etc.
Things Come Together
by: carmela wiese
Now legendary Philadelphia hip-hop crew The Roots has branched out even further with its fifth studio album, Phrenology.
While, an 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.
Unfortunately, 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.
Of course 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 masters of.
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 energetic note.
Other successful 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. 20-Dec-2002 2:00 PM