Music review by
David Brown, Common Sense Media
Phrenology Music Poster Image
Mature themes in sophisticated hip-hop.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

Socially conscious and positive most of the time.


Some references to fighting and guns.


Explicit sexual references (especially "Break You Off," "The Seed," and "P----y Galore").


It's no Quentin Tarantino film, but there's some swearing.


The Roots avoid flaunting the gaudy lifestyle usually brandished in popular rap.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this album contains some mature content (sex, violence, drug abuse), but strays from the stereotypes that burden most commercial hip-hop. Instead, we get something more creative, intelligent, and eclectic.

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What's the story?

The Roots are truly an anomaly in the world of hip-hop. They pride themselves on being a live band. Their beats originate from drummer extraordinaire ?uestlove (questlove), who is supported by a guitarist, bassist, and keyboard player. Their lead emcee, Black Thought, is one of the most under-appreciated rappers today, and their \"vocal magician\" Scratch uses his voice instead of turntables to fill the role of DJ. PHRENOLOGY is a great album with plenty of variety. Tracks such as \"Rock You\" and \"Thought @ Work\" have driving beats and hard, direct lyrics. Other cuts such as \"Sacrifice,\" \"Break You Off,\" and \"Complexity\" are smoothed out with Neo-Soul singers and catchy hooks.

Is it any good?

Parents should be warned about a few of the songs: "The Seed" -- about wanting to get a woman pregnant so as to have a family -- is quite graphic. The song "Water" addresses a band mate's drug abuse. And "P---y Galore" is explicit while exploring the ways sex is used to sell products. Yet it's hard not to appreciate how Black Thought delivers verbal agility and socially conscious lyrics, and how the rest of the band backs it up well with creative compositions. Though topics are inappropriate for any but the most mature teens, if your teens are older and looking for talented musicians in the world of hip-hop, they should like this album.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their pick of interesting issues addressed by the album's lyrics: love, friendship, determination, sacrifice, drug abuse, violence, and sex in marketing.

Music details

  • Artist: The Roots
  • Release date: November 26, 2002
  • Label: Maverick
  • Genre: Hip-hop
  • Parental advisory: Yes
  • Edited version available: No
  • Last updated: July 15, 2015

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