Friday, April 23, 2010

FDF Volume 2 Issue 182 - The Roots Phrenology

By: March

Album - Phrenology
Artist - The Roots
Key Players - Black Thought - lead vocals. ?uestlove - drums. Leonard Hubbard - bass. Kamal - keyboards. Scratch - turntables. Ben Kenny - guitars, Rahzel, Malik B
Produced By - Richard Nichols

Release Date - November 26, 2002

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I always seem to grab their cds when they come out, spin them for a week or so and never get back to them for some odd reason. This was perhaps their biggest cd with/for me, so I decided I'd go with it.

Overview - This is the fifth studio album from the Philadelphia based band the Roots. The album was anticipated by fans and critics, taking over 2 years to complete. The hip hop band would blend many musical genres incorporating jazz, soul and rock. The album would do well on the charts and with fans and the band would become well known for its live performances.

FDF Comments (aka the songs)
- The cd opens with a short (0:18) snippet about having 2 turntables before "Rock You" begins. The bass and drums are in a low mode with the rapping coming up quick and to the point. Its punchy over the scratches and looped drum beat. It was what, to many, would be considered sort of a straight up rap tune. "!!!!!!!" is another very short intrude (a punk/hardcore riff with vocals) before "Sacrifice". This track features Nelly Furtado and has a very fun live drum feel to it. ?uestlove is sort of known for this laid back, but tight drum beat. This has more smooth hip hop beats with percussive instruments and a soul feel. The male vocals come in and it keeps a tight rhyme. Furtado's role is more as a backup singer not a lead. The tight drum work once more brings up "Rolling with Heat" (featuring Talib Kweli). There is a cool keyboard run that plays off the drum portions and once again the lyrics are tight and quick. "WAOK (Ay) Rollcall" (featuring Ursula Rucker) is basically a fake PSA that name checks some hot rap and hip hop artists of the time. The first heavily sampled track comes in. "Thought @ Work" (Sugarhill Gang, Fat Boys and the Beatles to name a few) is a very strong track on the record. Utilizing the back beat samples of horns over a tight drum beat it is done at that "just the right" pace. The rapping is tight and focused, with the lyrics given very quickly. One of the stronger tracks so far on the record. The track that got me to buy the record is next in "The Seed (2.0)". The lead vocals features Cody ChesnuTT and it is vibrant and fun sing along. From the moment of the drum click off it falls into that head bobbing tight groove. It is actually really hard to dislike this tune. Musiq is the special guest on "Break You Off". This track clocks in over 7 minutes and it wastes no time getting right off with the percussive back beats and the vocals coming right up. Its a smoother track, deeper side of the soul on the record. Its a late night track, when the party winds down for sure. The longest track on the record begins as the prior fades. "Water" opens with hand claps and drums dropping the tight punch. The bass and rhythm section are tight and the track. Its is a three part tune with the tight drums leading the first section. The second is a quick change of pace, dropping the back beat for some ambient noise (and heartbeats?). It really tries to find a direction before the drums seem to get working. There are guitar twangs, and phasing between speakers and some buried spoken word passages, but it really doesn't seem to get anywhere for too long an amount of time. It slowly builds back up at the 7 minute mark with ?uestlove working the drums at a frantic pace. It all turns into a sort of spastic jazz jam that will either exite you, or have you reaching for the skip button. "Quills" is more a return to the rap/hip hop found on the earlier tracks. The sample from Swing out Sisters "Breakout" eases you in before the aggressive lead male vocals come over. Its not a hard core rap song, but the lyrics are quick and punchy and right in your face. The track ends with what emulates the tuning on a radio dial before "Pussy Galore" begins. By this point you can really say the band has strong lyrics and good vocal delivery. The topic might be taboo, but the song is about a sign on the times. The rap maintains a good steady pace over the soulful groove. Jill Scott offers up backing vocals on "Complexity". It blends perfectly with the overall feel of the record. A strong track. "Something in the Way of Things (In Town)" is another long(er) track on the record. Opening with some guitar chords before the vocals come in with ?uestlove on the ride cymbal slowly building the music. The lyrics almost sound like they are being read from a book. The final complete track on the record is "Rhymes and Ammo/Thirsty! (featuring Talib Kweli and Dice Raw). We get the nice rat-a-tat from the drums and the lyrics are more a joint venture with more of chorus of rappers on this one. This is a strong album closer. Leaves you wanting more which is always a plus.

Where are they now? - They are still active as a touring and recording act. They are the house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon as well. Ben Kenny left the band after this record and join Incubus. Rhazel left the band in 1999 and Malik also in 99 due to some drug issues.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience)
- I have never seen The Roots live.

FDF Overall Take - Giving this record a long overdue spin I realized what I like, I really like on this record. Some of it is filler, but there are more strong moments than weak. I need to go back to some of the other records once more, but this is a good one for newer fans of the band to check out.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

mp3's have been removed.

Rhymes and Ammo

Tracks taken from Phrenology that you can buy here.

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


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