Tricks of the Shade by The Goats is an alternative 90’s rap record that blends sounds familiar from Digital Underground & Public Enemy with modern political issues heard in Run the Jewels songs. The Goats consist of OaTie Kato (James D’Angelo), Madd (a.k.a. Maxx Stoyanoff Williams), and Swayzack (Patrick Shupe), three Philly based artists that rapped together from 1991-1994.
Their name “The Goats” pre-dates the slang term “GOAT,” and is a short hand for “the scapegoats.“
Their 1992 debut album Tricks of Shade is more politically relevant than most albums that have come out in 2021. Their song “Burn the Flag” ends with the notion “burn the fuckin flag, I don’t hate the people, but the governments a drag.” The lyrics to The Goats music is largely unresearchable on even the most popular lyric sites, the only way to receive their message is to listen to their music.
In reference for modern policing problems, The Goats have two different songs critiquing policing: “Carnival Cops” and “TV Cops.” Carnival Cops is a skit mocking police portrayed as stupid, whereas TV Cops points to over aggressive policing and its systemic shortcomings.
More politically charged tracks include: Rovie Wade, Uncle Scam’s Shooting Gallery, Drive-by Bumper Cars, Georgie Bush Kids, Typical American, and Leonard Peltier in a Cage.
The entire album portrays America as a dystopian carnival with racist games and easily glossed over violence.
Songs on Tricks of the Shade that aren’t specifically politically titled remain political in theme but less “on the nose.” Songs like Whatcha Got Is Whatcha Gettin’ and Hip-Hopola show artistic range with the addition of horns & their incorporation of 1990’s rock music.
The Goats were ahead of their time in utilizing rock music in their hip-hop. This is not the wonky “Walk this Way” rap-rock that birthed the genre, nor is this the modern 2020’s Juice WRLD & XXXTENTACION style rap-influenced by rock. Full guitar riffs and piano chords follow The Goats MC’s through every song.
This album came to my attention as comedian Desus Nice mentioned The Goats towards the end of episode 239 of the Bodega Boys podcast. The Goats are one of many classic Philly hip-hop acts that the Plain Dealer hopes to cover.