A good idea for one album, the Goats became an out-of-control lesson in rap excess on the tours and album that followed it. Two of the group’s three rappers — Madd and Swayzack — met while working as street vendors in Philadelphia. After trading rhymes for a while, they began to make appearances at local hip-hop throwdowns, ran across white rapper OaTiekato and wound up in the offices of then-embryonic Ruffhouse Records, where producer Joe (The Butcher) Nicolo set out to capture their hard-hitting activist rap on tape.
Tricks of the Shade is a concept album, a series of liberal treatises on the welfare state stitched together with brief (and often not funny) skits involving an orphan child wandering through a carnival in search of his “Uncle Scam.” Performing with a live band, the three rappers earned a reputation for haywire energy — as memorable as the punkish rant “Typical American” and the anti-racism chant “Not Not Bad” were on record, the live renditions of these songs could become funkified, George Clinton-style marathons.
Following an extended season of touring, Oatee — the Goats’ most activist-minded member — left the group. The others pressed on, but downplayed the political rhetoric in favor of gangsta-style agitation. The new approach yielded a less challenging, more run-of-the-mill sound — No Goats, No Glory is an all-too-familiar peek into the lives of crazy cut-up rappers, and a faint echo of earlier Goats glory. The group disbanded in 1995.