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Phrenology

The Roots

2002

Phrenology
Album Summary

Phrenology is the fifth studio album by American hip hop band The Roots, released on November 26, 2002, by MCA Records. Recording sessions for the album took place during June 2000 to September 2002 at Electric Lady Studios in New York. It was primarily produced by members of the band and features contributions from hip hop and neo soul artists such as Cody ChesnuTT, Musiq Soulchild, Talib Kweli, and Jill Scott. Although it did not parallel the commercial success of the band's previous album, Things Fall Apart, the album reached number 28 on the US Billboard 200 chart and sold steadily, remaining on the chart for 38 weeks. On June 3, 2003, it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of 500,000 copies in the United States. Upon its release, Phrenology received universal acclaim from music critics, who praised its musical direction and lyrical themes, and it was included in numerous publications' year-end lists of the year's best albums.

Wikipedia

Rating

3.27

Votes

11630
Genres
Hip Hop

Reviews

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Wed Feb 17 2021
4

What a ride. Coming off of their breakthrough (and my favorite Roots album) "Things Fall Apart," this was incredibly ambitious to make. It veers in a lot of directions, but I feel like the message gets across no matter which way it takes you. I read something once that said "The Roots are not a band you put on for your backyard BBQ." We've got straight forward hip-hop, neosoul, punk, hard rock, and the closer "Thirsty" is some hard house all about the Black experience. So yeah not great sunshine feel good tunes. Black Thought, for me, is one of rap's all time greatest lyricist, so I felt he really captured aspects of the culture that shape the Black mindset in America. A repurposing of the racists study of Phrenology. Gotta love "The Seed 2.0" and the Talib Kweli feature on "Rolling With Heat." I've had the pleasure of seeing them live a few years ago, and I felt like they brought a lot of that energy to this record. It does feel a little jarring and disjointed at times with the abrupt stylistic shifts, so for that I'm going with a 4. This is a fantastic example of what a hip-hop album can be as a work of art.

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Tue Feb 16 2021
4

Ambitious, mature. The Roots never settle. For me this album suffers from a bit of the same issues I have with later Roots albums...almost too much scope, leaving it feeling fractured and lacking cohesion. Black Thought's lyrical skills combined with their expert instrumentation at times feels like drinking from a sonic firehose. But nonetheless, for 2002 this was such a genre-busting effort.

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Mon May 10 2021
1

I 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 dont like rap

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Wed Jun 30 2021
3

Sounds nice. Nothing for me. Reliance on n-bombs makes it hard for me to enjoy all but the most trancendant rap

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Thu Jan 14 2021
5

I really like the combination of rock, hip hop, and some whacky electronic influences. Quite a few bangers on this album.

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Tue Jan 19 2021
3

Why this album by the Roots rather than “Things Fall Apart” which contains the Grammy-winning romantic rap ballad “You Got Me”??

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Wed Mar 22 2023
1

Half an hour was as much of this mysogynistic tripe as I could stand.

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Fri Mar 26 2021
5

I mean. It's a top 5 hiphop album for me for sure. The whole album is just packed with top-of-the-game, unrelenting, socially-concious spitting backed by power beats. Impossibly good.

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Thu Jan 21 2021
5

Har aldri hørt dette albumet b2b før. Men, WOW, for en overraskelse! Særdeles variert med alt fra "klassisk" rap, til hardcore punk ('!!!!!!!'), frijazz-aktige-greier ('Water') og techno ('Thirsty!'). Favoritter: Quills, Rock you og Thought@Work.

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Sat Feb 05 2022
5

Fantastic hip hop album! More electronic than I was expecting.

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Fri May 27 2022
5

It's funny I was just listening to this album the other day digging through albums that had sampled The Incredible Bongo Band. And they did sample "Apache" in the song "Thought@Work." This is The Roots' fifth studio album and has a lot of contributors including Ursula Rucker, Nelly Furtado, Talib Kweli, Cody Chesnutt, Musiq, Jill Scott and poet Amiri Baraka. The album is named after the discredited pseudoscience of Phrenology which was the study of head shapes to determine intelligence and character and rationalized racism in the 19th century. Wow! Learn something new everyday, some which make you shake your head or worse. Anyway, subject matter-wise, I did not hear a songs about racism per se, but on a variety of other subjects: anti-ganster, certain aspects of the inner city and hip hop culture, relationships and band member issues. Yeah, covering a lot, as does the music described as hip hop incorporating elements of rock, jazz, techno, hardcore punk and soul. This is a big album trying to do a lot and it accomplishes it with everything I heard. It is not really sprawling but has a focus to it as you listen. Lots of good songs on this album. As previously mentioned, " Thought@Work" samples "Apache" and has a great groove. Talk about a great groove, "The Seed (2.0)" featuring Cody ChesnuTT and remixing his song sounds like vintage 1973 Isley Brothers with a very soulful feel. The song is based on Muddy Waters' "The Blues Had a Baby and Named it Rock and Roll" using that forvhip hop to neo-soul in a very innovative way. The first single off the album "Break You Off" is another great soul-based song about trying to steal someone's girlfriend. A great majestic orchestra ending. This album is 77 minutes but does not seem nearly that long and is well- worth the listen.

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Wed Apr 07 2021
4

The Roots? Like from the Jimmy Fallon talk show? Unfortunately, this will be many people's initial exposure to these east-coast hip-hop legends. While this isn't the most prominent album in the discography, there is still great music here. There's clear Mos Def influence here, and I fuckin love Black On Black so I'll happily listen. And for the most part it's great! Around the mid-point it does seem to get a little aimless and experimental, which causes it to lose steam for me. This, combined with the 70 minute runtime, makes for a overly long album that maybe could've been broken up into two separate releases (maybe an experimental EP?) and reorganized for a more concise listening experience.

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Tue Nov 02 2021
4

The Roots’ greatest strength is also their greatest weakness; their exemplary musical skill means they can play any style and genre - but just because they can, should they? The album is ambitious, but at times lacks a cohesive satisfying overall mood. But when they’re good they’re very good - The Seed 2.0, Rolling with Heat, Rhymes and Ammo are straight up fire and Black Thought solidifies his reputation as one of the great - but slept on - rappers.

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Fri May 07 2021
2

Old school rap con algunas canciones experimentales, pero no me gustó mucho. Liked songs: Seed Break your way off Something in the way of things

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Mon May 10 2021

a lot of variety with some good sounds, but fairly inconsistent

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Sun Jan 31 2021
5

I heard this album in my RA's room not long after it came out, and at the time I didn't really know much about The Roots. It blew my mind then, and it blew my mind again today. Black Thought is the best lyricist in the game imo. Best track: Thought @ Work

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Thu Jan 14 2021
5

My favorite Roots album and one of my favorite hip-hop albums.

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Sun Jan 17 2021
5

I've listened to this many times, great album!

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Mon Apr 05 2021
5

Own this, bought on NASA Glenn trip. Not quite as good as their previous but still amazing

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Fri Apr 23 2021
5

Wow, this album is all over the place and also somehow ...not. I like it.

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Sat Jan 30 2021
5

Man. The Roots are great. I loved this album.

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Fri Feb 19 2021
5

genuinely a revelation - infectious hooks and instrumentals, great vocals, hooray !

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Sat Jun 05 2021
5

LOVED this. Wasn’t expecting The Roots to have a hardcore punk song. Loved the variety

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Mon Jul 19 2021
5

This has vecome my favorite rap album atm. And also the best rap album I've at heard so far after about 100 albums on this list. It's nice to listen to and also experimental and special in many ways. About 4.5 to me butI'll give it a 5 because it's the only really good rap album I've heard so far. (On this list)

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Sun Jun 27 2021
5

This music pulled me in. Some of the tracks are great. A few are not to my own liking, but that's just a matter of taste. Really talented group.

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Tue May 04 2021
5

I love everything by The Roots ❤️. Hadn’t listened to this in a long time and was glad to do so again

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Mon May 10 2021
5

Необычно. Это джазз-рэп, нео-соул или что-то подобное. есть саксофон, МНОГО бэков. Я морж который почти не понимает рэп на слух, пыталась полезть в джиниус но там много диалекта, если прям зацепит то позже переведу. Неожиданно замечен тот самый популярный сэмпл барабанов. Пока 10/10 буду переслушивать. Оао хватит ли мне времени слушать каждый день альбомы из списка¿

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Mon Jun 14 2021
5

I like the hell out of this. It has a great sense of rhythm and changes up style frequently so that you don't get bored. It's unique and I dig it.

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Sun Jul 11 2021
5

Very very good album, with forwardthinking beats, experimental songs, emotional power, incredible rapping from Black thought and a new aesthetic for the Roots. Also great to see some hiphop on this very dadrock focused list. Aside from a few weak hooks this is perfect, my score would be a 9/10 but you can't do that in this systen so i'm giving it a full score.

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Thu Jul 29 2021
5

I’ll never forget the sousaphone solo when I saw them live. Top notch

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Mon Aug 02 2021
5

Really varied both instrumentally and vocally. I love the focus on live instrumentation. The lyrics are great too.

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Wed Aug 04 2021
5

one of the best roots albums of all time.

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Wed Sep 08 2021
5

Loved it the whole way through

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Thu Sep 16 2021
5

Great hip hop album with a lot of variety that transitions into different genres at times. Big fan of The Roots!

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Wed Nov 10 2021
5

Seed 2.0 is always solid...love this album cover...the lyrics are powerful, but the beats make me long for the times when more rap sounded this way - powerful lyrics + a unique beat

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Fri Jan 21 2022
5

Might as well become my fav genre lmao 5/5

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Mon Jan 24 2022
5

Maybe it's Philadelphia-bias, but this is The Roots at their best.

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Wed Jan 26 2022
5

I love this one and I've love The Roots in general so this can't be objective. I remember hearing 'The Seed' for the first time and just howling, like, what the hell am I listening to? If 'The Chronic' is a Netflix-era Michael Bay movie, this one is a late 80s John McTiernan movie. It's just as fun, but it's got something to chew on, too.

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Thu Mar 31 2022
5

The Roots are just so solid. One of the best bands out there.

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Thu May 05 2022
5

Amazing. Best hip hop album I’ve heard in years. Maybe ever.

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Thu Aug 18 2022
5

I mean, it’s The Roots….it’s great

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Fri Aug 19 2022
5

Well this is from 2002, so is doubtlessly awful. Except it isn't. This is hip hop that goes in unexpected and rewarding directions. Tracks that tickle your earballs delightfully. Tracks that make you feel slightly uneasy. Tracks that flow. Tracks that pop. I will be listening to this again. Given the year - unbelievable!

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Thu Aug 25 2022
5

9/10. This was really good, I'll have to listen to it again.

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Sun Sep 11 2022
5

I never managed to get into The Roots, which I will admit is on me – as anyone who (like me) knows them as "that band from Jimmy Fallon" is not late to the game, they missed the whole tournament. What stopped me from really being into them was never listening to this record.

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Sun Sep 18 2022
5

Fucking hell... this one of the most far reaching albums I've ever heard. Insane experimental fusion of Hip Hop, RnB, Soul, Prog, Techno, Metal, Jazz, Funk... I want this on Vinyl

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Tue Sep 20 2022
5

Heavy use of AMAZING samples. Amazing features. Has a great blend of deeper, lyrically impressive tracks and songs that are more laid back and almost psych

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Fri Sep 23 2022
5

Apart from their debut album and the John Legend collab, this is quintessential Roots

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Wed Sep 28 2022
5

Truly unbelievably good album from the best musical act out of Philadelphia. Album starts out hot, stays hot through the middle, dips a little before the end, and ends on a high note. So many great tracks, but my favorite has to be Rolling with Heat

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Thu Oct 13 2022
5

Damn, I regret not sitting down with The Roots before. Of course the performances are perfect, but I honestly was shocked by how strong the album was over a longer duration than I typically prefer.

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Thu Oct 13 2022
5

The Roots are always such a delight. They were one of my first forays into hip hop, back when I was still a classic-rock purist, so they will always be a little special to me. Not to mention ?uestlove might be one of the most important drummers of the last 30 years, if not the most important. Loved this.

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Wed Nov 09 2022
5

Stupendously funky and awesome.

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Wed Nov 16 2022
5

If there is a perfect contemporary music group out there, it is The Roots. Every member is a god damn genius, and mind-meltingly skilled. And the songs on this joint? Damn. A great listen from start to finish. Favorite Track: "Something In The Way of Things" which is straight up beat jazz complete with spoken word. Fantastic!

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Wed Dec 14 2022
5

Oops all bangers. Some really good hip hop through and through.

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Wed Dec 21 2022
5

Very good album. Each beat is amazing and each feature delivers. The lyricism and word play is a strong highlight of the album. Every song is good

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Fri Dec 30 2022
5

Hip hop van rond de eeuwwisseling voelt voor mij altijd gauw outdated. Weinig albums van rond deze tijd die nou echt must listens zijn, maar The Roots zijn echter de uitzondering. Things Fall Apart en Phrenology zijn albums die vandaag de dag uitgebracht kunnen worden en niemand zou merken dat ze 20 jaar oud zijn. Ik geef dit album een 5, vanwege de diversiteit en creativiteit. Een nummer als ‘water’ laat zien dat ze niet bang waren om het anders te doen. Het gaat van boom bap naar jazzy hip hop en een soort punk interlude er tussen, en daardoor is het album geen moment saai. Een nummer als ‘break it off’ zou vandaag de dag - uitgebracht door de juiste artiest - makkelijk de charts toppen.

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Mon Jan 09 2023
5

amazing one of favorite bands implementing all kinds of music and still being able to gain a reputation, all the songs are good, have unique personalities, the drum beats are good, the vocals, when they implement a new genre into a song it’s like it’s still part of the album but it’s just another song the style switches are so clean, the album is great. the jazz, hip hop, RNB, and more genres coming together to make this the only in this album, but some of the songs don’t hit as hard but some don’t some do it just depends on feelings, the album should be very praised the amount of versatility they have is incredible 10/10 would recommend a listen

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Mon Feb 13 2023
5

The percussion on this is worth 5 stars on its own.

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Sat Apr 08 2023
5

I was going to give this review a sort of intro as I expected to write a lot for this album but simply I’ll just say this record is incredible and honestly I expected nothing less from The Roots. This is quite a long album spanning 1 hour and 7 minutes over 16 tracks however this doesn’t take away from the quality that is imbedded all throughout this record. The first stand out track is ‘Rock You’ where Black Thought is spitting braggadocious lines over this hard hitting beat pattern that runs through the track, this is really prime Thought rapping. Phrenology really shows off Thought’s versatility too as the next stand out track ‘Sacrifice’ has him harmonising with pop singer Nelly Furtado over a smooth sounding track about the Sacrifices one has to make to succeed in life. Some other key moments on the record are the collaboration tracks with none other than Talib Kweli. The first track ‘Rolling With Heat’ is a funky smooth track where Roots member Dice Raw opens with the hook and Talib follows with a fantastic verse. The other track ‘Rhymes And Ammo’ is a bit more classic hip hop especially with the chorus with Thought and Talib going back and forth “Pump that, Shit up”, “Stand up, Get up” is such an infectious moment in the record. The true peak of this album is quite fittingly the middle of the album which is nice to see considering it’s more common to see albums these days put their best songs between the 2-5 song mark, well the singles anyways. This starts off with ‘Thought @ Work’ which is layered with instruments and some classic hip hop sounds that cumulates to such a groovy instrumental, in the background you can hear some small drums and more prominently later in the track some brass instruments that give this track some nice groove. This is followed by the highlight off the album ‘The Seed (2.0)’ which is a mix off some hip hop drums and this almost western guitar in the back giving the track a fairly cold tone, and of course the sample of Cody Chesnutt is fantastic, gives the track some extra soul. This is followed by an equally incredible track ‘Break You Off’ which is a story told by Thought about him trying to steal someone else’s girl. The hook, performed by Musiq Soulchild, gives the track a slightly R&B touch and with the piano fill in the background it makes for an incredibly smooth track. The last 2 minutes of instrumental in this track are equally beautiful where some strings are introduced to calmly close off the track. The final grand track that makes up the middle of this album is ‘Water’ where Black Thought displays his feelings about former member Malik B who had to leave the group due to drug problems, it’s a reminder to everyone of how they met and how talented Malik B is when it comes to rapping. The latter half of this track is an instrumental mix possibly an audio visual into drug affects on the body as we hear some heartbeat sounds and some disorganised instrumentals. Lastly I’d like to mention the closing track ‘Thirsty!’ which stands out because it’s not really a hip hop track, it’s more of an electro-dance track with some small verses from Black Thought. I’m not entirely sure if it’s relevance with the rest of the album but I guess it’s another display of the versatility shown already. Honestly, I could write a lot more about this album but it’s something that over time I want to digest even more. This has probably been my favourite first listen so far and I hope others would agree with me when I say this album is a work of art. 5/5

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Tue Apr 11 2023
5

From which so much has grown.

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Tue Apr 18 2023
5

I've been a fan of The Roots so this may be biased.

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Sun Apr 30 2023
5

A classic from the Legendary Roots Crew

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Mon May 01 2023
5

Awesome experimental rap album with interludes I actually liked so that was cool. Enjoyed every song even the long ones. There's just a lot going on instrumentally and lyrically that I really enjoyed and I'm gladly adding it to the playlist. Also seeing a Nelly Furtado feature made me laugh. Score: 90 Art: 80

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Sun May 21 2023
5

I really enjoyed this album. The production and rapping are both stellar. (That’s really all I have to say.)

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Sun May 28 2023
5

I have heard the Roots perform often with Jimmy Fallon and their talent was obvious. But this album really surprised me how incredibly good they are! These songs move and groove and have an interesting range of styles. The time flew by listening to this and when it ended I immediately started it over to listen again. One of the best hip hop albums I’ve had the pleasure to listen to. Phrenomenol!

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Sun May 28 2023
5

Great mix of styles and voices. Enjoyed it mucho.

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Sun May 28 2023
5

Some top-notch hip-hop here. I have neglected to check out The Roots previous to this. I have been missing out! Such a variety of styles. I dig it!

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Fri Jun 02 2023
5

Top tier hip-hop - like the Radiohead of rap. Crossed with pretty much all other styles of music too, making for a really varied and interesting album. Wonderful

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Fri Jun 30 2023
5

I love this album; it's a perfect mix of every genre of social justice, from funk to punk. Creative, hooky, chock full of not only talent, but also pop sensibility. Listen actively or play it in the background, it's The Roots at their best.

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Wed Jul 19 2023
5

I was first acquainted with The Roots when they became the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I was way behind the game, as this group has been putting out albums since the late 90s. I was aware of their plans to disband following mediocre album success. Phrenology is a masterpiece, IMO. "The Seed 2.0" is one of the catchiest songs of all time, a perfectly blended smoothie of soul, hip-hop and rock-and-roll. A steady, slapping beat, Black Thought's thoughts, and Cody Chesnutt wailing come together nicely. Some other notable songs: Rock You (Black Though is mad), Sacrifice (Black Thought is smooth) and Break You Off (Black Thought is in love). This group has gone on to do big things. Questlove just won an Academy Award for best documentary. Five stars for Phrenology.

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Sun Sep 03 2023
5

First one I downloaded to my library to keep

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Sun Sep 17 2023
5

Tight classic early 2000s hip hop. Great band dynamic with brilliant lyrics.

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Wed Sep 20 2023
5

5/5. A solid collection of conscious and bopping rap and R&B. Smart music and real easy-going while also being present and direct. Instrumentation is top notch, so many little noises and drums that drive and differentiate this album. It's almost a 5 but it was good enough that it deserves it. Gonna play it back again.

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Mon Oct 09 2023
5

Tight, well put together hip-hop album.

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Wed Oct 18 2023
5

Black Thought top 10 mcees. RIP Hub

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Mon Oct 30 2023
5

"Phrenology" by The Roots is a musical journey that ventures into uncharted territories, which offered me and others for sure a distinctive blend of hip-hop that pushes the boundaries of the genre. This album is an avant-garde masterpiece, with the lyrics both thought-provoking and challenging, exploring a wide range of topics, from identity and politics to personal introspection. Tracks like "Water" and "Thought @ Work" showcase the group's lyrical prowess, delivering sharp insights and commentary which makes its abstract nature adds an intriguing layer to the overall listening experience.

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Thu Nov 16 2023
5

This is hip-hop virtuosity right here with little filler or misstep. I might give it 4 stars but I gots to love my 215 brethren. What can I say? I’m a Philly homeboy.

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Wed Dec 13 2023
5

My favorite hip-hop album that was released after 2k. Yeah... even better than Kendrick. Black Thought is criminally underrated as an MC. Unfortunately I feel they lost some respect being a late night backing band. The featureson this album were all welcomed additions... ESPECIALLY the inclusion of beat poet Amiri Baraka. Also known as LeRoi Jones. He passed about 10 years ago. RIP

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Mon Dec 25 2023
5

My first time hearing The Roots, and I enjoyed it. The start of the album comes out swinging and never really lets up. It has plenty to say, both lyrically and musically. Plenty of variety between tracks so it never gets boring.

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Thu Jan 11 2024
5

Unbelievable range in the tracks - seemlessly shifting from boom bap to funk to jazz to hardcore to techno to soul and back again. Features were perfect and definitely suited the song they were on. Overall just a really enjoyable and quality record. Definitely want to review this one more fully.

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