THE ROOTS Phrenology (MCA) Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
Like the name implies, the Roots have long been about organics, stripping hiphop back to its core through live instrumentation and old-school verbal sparring. Occasionally, the Philly crew's battles with hiphop complacency outweighed their actual music, but no more. Rather than simply bark about how terrible the genre has become, the Roots just rebuild the music as they see fit. Phrenology begins with the hardest beat the group has ever created, then follows with a 30-second hardcore song, excursions into rock, raw soul, jungle, spoken word and a free-form jam with guitarist James Blood Ulmer. That the Roots can float between styles with ease is a given by now. What's remarkable is that Phrenology never sounds like anything but the Roots, and they've done it without calling in the Neptunes. Phrenology rocks in every sense of the word.