The Goats were (and, contrary to popular belief, still are) a ground-breaking rap group from Philadelphia. The things that set this group apart (apart from their talent, of which they had plenty) are numerous and eye-catching: To wit, they were one of the few multi-racial rap groups of their time, used a live band for musical backing, and had a cogent political edge that went beyond the simple expressions of rage that characterize the music of angry young men.

They were the first group signed to Ruffhouse Records (who later nailed a distribution deal with Sony), and one of the earliest acts produced by well-known rap and hip-hop incubator Joe "The Butcher" Nicolo. They were, unfortunately, also a short-lived act. Though there were a number of EP's and singles, only two LP's - the concept album "Tricks of the Shade" (1992) and the more mainstream-friendly "No Goats, No Glory" (1994) - were made. Early on, Oatie Kato (one of the three core members, along with Madd and Swayzack) left to escape what he saw as the band's over-the-top offstage antics.

Since then, Oatie went on to produce acts such as Jimmy Luxury and the Tommy Rome Orchestra, Madd formed Incognegro, and members of the band have been travelling and living in Brazil. According to the band's official web site, they will be releasing a new album in late 2002.

The Music

Their first album, "Tricks of the Shade" was a story-driven concept album about the quest of two orphans of the welfare state to find their "Uncle Scam", a through-the-looking-glass anti-avatar of America.

In the end, the duo's capers are merely a vehicle to take The Goats to the political territory they want to visit. The well-crafted raps on this album score political points on issues from abortion to welfare to gun violence to flag burning to the War on Some Drugs, and detail the trio's vision of all the ways in which the American deck is stacked against you if you're not wealthy, white, and male.

Their follow-up, "No Goats, No Glory", covers more familiar turf within the rap genre - while by no means apolitical, not every song is issue-driven, and the group has some fun with light-hearted themes such as drug use and violence. This album produced two of their more popular tracks, "Wake 'N' Bake" and "Rumblefish".

Both albums are characterized by excellent instrumental work (not just sample loops and drum machines!) and an aggressive MCing style that ranks up there with anything Public Enemy or Body Count ever did. Listeners who prefer some politics with their music (instead of the other way around) will not be disappointed.

For More Information

For more information, try the band's official web site at http://jimmyluxury.com/thegoats.htm. They have info, MP3's, and a mailing list you can join. You can also try searching for them on Google with the keywords, "goats rap".

To acquire their music, you're going to have to search the various P2P file-sharing services, or try your luck at a used record store - their entire catalogue is currently out-of-print.