Sometimes accidents leave indelible impressions on your mind for unpredictable reasons. One such happy accident was the night MTV aired an uncensored version of The Goats’ “Typical American” music video. To this day I still wonder how a mistake like that could have been made. Did they receive a promo tape with both versions and forget to rewind it to the right one? Did a disgruntled employee sympathize with their political views and decide it was their time to strike? Did the record label themselves forget to edit the clip and send it out that way? Regardless of whose fault it was, I was fascinated that my VHS tape filled with random episodes of Yo! MTV Raps contained this accidental gem, and I watched it multiple times absorbing every word of the song.

“Pop goes your head like the top of a daisy
You’re +Ghost+ when the word hits like Patrick, Swayze
Crazy this shit about a plausible denial
North takes the rap and you clap at the trial”

Some of the context of this politically charged song has probably been lost to time. North was/is Oliver North, a senior military officer who took the blame in the public’s eye for the Iran-Contra affair, getting President Ronald Reagan off the hook in the process. All manner of controversial figures from the era get name checked — Norman Schwarzkopf, Darryl Gates, et cetera. The overarching theme though is that Uncle S(c)am is a lie and military service gets you “sent home in a box (with) green drawers, green pants (and) green socks.” It seemed like The Goats were a new Public Enemy for the 1990’s. They got a letter from the government and ripped it the fuck up.

Tricks of the Shade” didn’t relent on those themes in any way. The racially mixed trio of Madd (M-A-double-D), Oatie (OaTie Kato) and Swayzack turned up their animus toward hypocrisy on track after track. Whether it was the ironic sampling of Schoolly D on the chain snatching/body catching “Whatcha Got Is Whatcha Gettin'” or the intentionally loud Five Stairsteps drums of “Cumin’ In Ya Ear,” The Goats consistently turned the volume up to 11. Unlike Onyx they didn’t have to yell to sound angry though — their ire at politricks and weak-minded hip-hop gave them the energy they needed.

“Save that shady shit for somebody’s Uncle Tom/I ain’t relatin’, you hate it when I drop a bomb.” Damn! In case you still managed to miss their point though, The Goats peppered the album with skits like “Georgie Bush Kids,” a pointed parody of the Lollipop Gang from The Wizard of Oz. “Fuck you! How’d you like me to turn your trust fund into a rectal thermometer?” I admit I would have liked to see The Goats try!

In hindsight “Tricks of the Shade” feels like the happiest kind of accident. “Leonard Peltier, Leonard Peltier/Who the hell is that, why the fuck should I care?/In jail, in jail, in jail like a dealer/Fuck George Bush says my t-shirt, squealer!” Songs like “¿Do the Digs Dug?” were my jam through and through, and I don’t think I would have learned who people like Peltier were without them making me ask “Should I care? Who is he anyway?” One unintentional uncensored airing of “Typical American” did more to promote their album for me than a hundred hours of radio edited airplay ever could have.

Unfortunately I don’t think this Philly trio was long for the world. Their strident political stance and consistent (though hardly excessive) use of profanity made radio edits difficult anyway, and without the built in cult following of Public Enemy, the anti-authoritarian anti-establishment raps of The Goats never gained traction. That’s a shame given songs like “TV Cops” were discussing the concept of cop washing long before John Oliver or Vox Media shined a light on the practice.

By the time they released a follow up album two years later, the group had shrunk from a threesome to a twosome with the departure of Oatie. Two years later still they had shrunk to… nothing. There was no third album and presumably there never would’ve been, except Oatie apparently “found some lost footage” in his basement and turned it into a live album. Never mind the providence of this random act — were there enough fans of The Goats left 25 years later for it to be worth profiting from? I find that unlikely, but then again, so was the reason I got into The Goats to begin with.

The Goats :: Tricks of the Shade
8.5Overall Score