Philadephia's revival as a city at the forefront of music can be directly attributed to The Roots. An abundance of DJs, musicians and poets who now hold fort in the city and across the world, have either been inspired by or collaborated with the band since their inception more than ten years ago. The City of Steel can now hold its own with the musical oasis of London and New York, and a serving testament to its wide musical array and beauty can be found on "Phrenology".
Guest vocalist Amira Bakara offers spoken word on the warm, light breeze of "Something in the Way of Things", as soft jazz-funk melts into 'toasted'vocals. As the music gathers speed, the poetry intensifies, like a gruffer version of jazz vocalist Mark Murphy. Drummer ?uestlove, earmarks the track with live drum n' bass rhythms, a similar trick he carries out on the single "Break You Off", turning the sweet harmonies and choice vocals inside out with his sonic percussion. "Break You Off" is preceded by "The Seed". "The Seed" is dirty, spaced out, funk; LA fly guy Cody Chestnut delivers sweet soul over a rocky rhythm judging by this cut Sly Stone is very much alive. The track is simply incredible...........and then you realise that this album is made by a Hip Hop band. Hip Hop is covered on the album with "Rock You" which eschews the traditional big build up of previous Roots opening tracks and flips you one hundred and eighty degrees into organic Hip Hop; a supreme mix of out there rap, nasty bass, heavy drums and the most 'hypnotic'of riffs. "Sacrifice" opens with an aquatic turn of sound leading to Malik B's commanding rap, backed up by vocals by Nelly Furtdao. "Rolling with the Heat" is the standout Hip Hop track. Raw 'funky drummer' beats sit happily with an old school feel, and Talib Kweli's contributing vocals are something else.
The Roots have been at the forefront of innovative music for the last ten years. "Phrenology" is a record of a band at the height of its powers.....a musical explosion of sweet soul, touching jazz, funky rock and lots of serious Hip Hop.........from Philly with love.