The Roots
Name of Album: Phrenology
Ratings: Personal - 2 General - 3
Release Date: November 26, 2002


The Roots have reemerged after three years of a hiatus since they were last heard of after winning a Grammy for their single You Got Me with Erykah Badu, to produce and release Phrenology. According to Webster's, the title of their album means: the study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it is indicative of mental faculties and character. The album cover aptly displays a pictorial version of this definition and how it applies to the stereotype of the Black Man.

Unfortunately, even if I grew up on old-school rap, I'm not sure I'm qualified to judge its contemporary version as exhibited in Phrenology. The Roots style of machine-gun lyrics which combine a selection of words that are almost randomly associated simply because they rime, leaves me with a feeling less than sublime.

With guest appearances by artists such as Jill Scott, Nelly Furtado, Amiri Baraka, and Jalib Kweli I had no choice but to give them a fair listen. To my dismay I was not impressed, the star-studded cameos could not make up for the lack of anything special evoked by the core of the music on this album. And as a part-time poet I found it difficult to reconcile the consistently trite use of the rhyme in the rap echoing in almost every song.

Ironically, the most interesting entry of 14 songs on this album was the concluding piece entitled Something in the Way of Things, a spoken-word social commentary that actually employs an echo as the protagonist speaks his soliloquy. And even if I could not decipher the dream-like monologue, it was certainly amusing to listen to.

Hence, baring this lonely exception, Phrenology gets a monkey with his hands cupped over his ears and a solid 2 rating from me.