Phrenology marks a new musical high point for pioneering hip hop band The Roots. The highly anticipated follow up to their 1999 Grammy winning breakthrough Things Fall Apart, the new album finds the acclaimed group at the height of their powers -- invoking varied and creative influences in a synthesis all their own.
Theres a challenge after a big record, says drummer/producer ?uestlove. Theres an instinct to try to duplicate it, or if you cant then to abandon your sound. But I feel the challenge is to evolve.
This creative evolution is apparent from the first notes of Rock You, announcing the arrival of a new Roots sounds with a thick and insistent drum loop. A punk-tinged interlude leads seamlessly into the bubbling soul of Sacrifice, (with backing vocals from Nelly Furtado). Named for an early discipline of psychology in which bumps in the skull were thought to indicate personality traits, the albums title echoes the distinct array of textures employed in its creation, from smooth, layered soul to the hardest-edged battle rap.
The Seed fuses a driving garage-rock beat with hip hop sensibility on insistent verses from Black Thought and soulful choruses from guest vocalist Cody Chesnutt. The albums centerpiece is the ten minute plus track Water, with a heavily syncopated beat and bubbly and driving bass line underpinning a lyric both personal and aggressive - before veering into an experimental sonic landscape unprecedented in the bands career. On the first single, Break You Off, the album demonstrates it can be as danceable as it is cerebral, with a tightly arranged groove and fluid R&B vocals from Musiq.
Other guest appearances include Talib Kweli, Jill Scott, and poet Amiri Baraka, who contributed the poem Something In The Way of Things (In Town) specifically for the record.
Several of Phrenologys tracks were debuted live on the 2002 Smokin Grooves Tour, which The Roots co-headlined. Scorching material... If Phrenology makes good on the promise of [the Smokin Grooves] preview, The Roots have a chance... to execute a long, slow build from critical darlings to household names. said the Newark Star Ledger, a sentiment echoed by critics nationwide. The Roots have developed some of the most richly textured, sensual grooves in hip hop, said the New York Daily News.
In addition to the 14 tracks of new songs, Phrenology will be released as an enhanced CD with exclusive content including live performance material, music videos, and other exclusive behind-the-scenes footage.
Phrenology is The Roots sixth album overall - their fourth major label studio album following Do You Want More? (1995), Illadelph Halflife (1996), and the RIAA-certified Gold Breakthrough Things Fall Apart, (1999) which earned the band a Grammy for Best Performance By a Rap Duo or Group for You Got Me.
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