• Record Label: MCA
  • Release Date: Nov 26, 2002

Universal acclaim - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 23
  2. Negative: 0 out of 23
  1. Blender
    Phrenology is a celebration of self-determination, a nonstop joyride through some very complicated brains. [#12, p.149]
  2. Mojo
    The Roots have created another masterpiece. [Jan 2003, p.100]
  3. They've found it in their talent to put black music's long tradition of tune and structure into practice.
  4. With Phrenology, the cool Philly troupe remain head and shoulders above the rest by sticking to their well-defined course of smoky live beats, serious lyrics, stunning guests... and not one ounce of production from the Neptunes.
  5. Mainstream and casual fans will remember them best for Things Fall Apart, but probably only hardcore fans will be able to see the value and dedication that much of Phrenology holds.
  6. Phrenology is the hardest-hitting Roots album to date, partly because it's their most successful attempt to re-create their concert punch in the studio.
  7. 90
    By taking a new path with their music the Roots succeed in both staying relevant and momentous.
  8. The album combines a deep reverence for rap's visceral power with a desire to move the genre beyond its primordial synthesis of beats and rhymes.
  9. Phrenology reveals pulsating growth--a surprising bump on our skulls that some didn't feel before, while others banged their grapes wishing for it.
  10. Phenology is stunning, ranking right up there with the best hip-hop music of today.
  11. Entertainment Weekly
    Not all of the experiments work, but drummer ?uestlove's Clyde Stubblefield-cum-Chemical Brothers grooves and rapper Black Thought's mighty flow never waver. [29 Nov 2002, p.106]
  12. Phrenology completely realizes The Roots' talents and potential, maintaining its cohesiveness despite its many disparate elements.
  13. With their fifth studio record, Phrenology, they finally become what we've always hoped they would be: a hip-hop band that strikes a very funky balance between righteousness and humor, between headbanging grooves and truth-telling.
  14. The band's most challenging--and rewarding--album.
  15. What is different about the overall feel of this messy and ambitious album is that it marks The Roots' liberation from genre, the neo-soul meanderings of 'Things Fall Apart' only appear when they're wanted and never outstay their welcome.
  16. Q Magazine
    It is their way with a collaborator, though, that sets them apart. [Feb 2003, p.97]
  17. Spin
    The Roots have never sounded this raw on record, this much like an actual band playing in an actual room. [Jan 2003, p.95]
  18. Mixer
    Undoubtedly the toughest music yet from the six-member crew, Phrenology may also be their best work, characterized by a powerful, head-nodding groove that carries through the entire album. [Nov 2002, p.78]
  19. All the experimenting produces inevitable indulgences (take Amiri Baraka--please!), but even throughout them, each backbeat from drummer ?uestlove hammers an exciting new sound into place.
  20. With Phrenology, The Roots have finally made an album that lives up to their potential.
  21. This is the best hip-hop album I will never love.
  22. Uncut
    Thankfully, Phrenology is more therapy than quack science. [Feb 2003, p.86]
  23. In their quest for paper, The Roots have lost their way.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 54 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 49 out of 54
  2. Negative: 4 out of 54
  1. Apr 25, 2012
    This album made me fall in love with the live hip hop sensation that is the Roots. It starts a little slow, but the middle tracks (7-12) areThis album made me fall in love with the live hip hop sensation that is the Roots. It starts a little slow, but the middle tracks (7-12) are all worth listening to. Full Review »
  2. j30
    Sep 28, 2011
    Just a great Hip/Hop record. From start to finish, it's an intoxicating, exhilarating album that gives you hope in Hip/Hops future.
  3. Mike
    Jan 1, 2006
    This could be my favorite hip-hop album ever.