Finding The GOAT Group: The Roots vs. Atmosphere. Who Is Better?
“Finding the GOAT Group,” the fourth installment of Ambrosia For Heads’ annual competition series features Hip-Hop’s greatest collectives vying for the #1 spot. Sixty-two groups have been pre-selected by a panel of experts, and one slot will be reserved for a wild-card entry (which has been determined), including the possibility for write-in candidates, to ensure no deserving band of MCs and DJs is neglected. The 2018 contest consists of seven rounds, NCAA basketball-tournament style, leading to a Top 32, then the Sweet 16 and so on, until one winner is determined. For each match-up, two groups are pitted against one another with a ballot to decide which one advances to the next round. Though there will be an enormous amount of debate in comments, on social media, in barbershops and text messages, which we encourage, only votes cast in the official ballot count.
Two of the most successful bands in Hip-Hop come to a head. The Roots crew have 25 years in as a Grammy Award-winning force of rhyme, soul, and swagger. Atmosphere, which added instrumentation to its operation in the last dozen years, has elevated a sound birthed in the Underground Hip-Hop boom to the Top 5 spots on the Pop charts. Both hardworking acts now throw hometown Hip-Hop festivals that are destination events for Heads. At the core of each of these outfits—which have had personnel shifts and close affiliates over the years is a beloved MC and a celebrated musical director/producer. Only one band can play on as Round 3 approaches next week. Your vote makes an important decision.
(defeated Freestyle Fellowship in Round 1, 90% to 10%)
The Roots (once known as The Square Roots) came together back in 1987, when MC Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and drummer/producer/DJ Ahmir “Questlove” Khalib Thompson became friends at the Philadelphia High School for Creative Performing Arts. Joining forces with MC Malik B and bassist Leon “Hub” Hubbard, The busked and jammed their way to the studio, beginning with 1993’s Organix. Their major label debut album Do You Want More ?!!!??! followed in early 1995, launching a streak of excellence that still carries on 23 years later. Whereas sampling was in full force, The Roots supplied their own sounds with homegrown abilities, and strong bridges to Jazz, Soul, and some of Hip-Hop’s genre tributaries. Early 1999’s Things Fall Apart represents a benchmark album for Hip-Hop and The Roots crew, met with platinum plaques, Grammy Awards, and a Top 40 song. The last 20 years of the collective have been colorful. The Roots’ personnel has shifted, as has its sound and tone. Questlove and Black Thought remain front and center, while keyboardist Kamal Gray dates back nearly 25 years with the band. With more than 183 album tracks (going by the group’s sequence), the Illafifth are working on their 12th album (and 20th project). In the meantime, the clique that last released 2014’s …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is on TV with Jimmy Fallon five nights a week, rockin’ out.
(defeated Little Brother in Round 1, 60% to 40%)
Together as Atmosphere, MC Slug and producer Ant took something that began as underground to the real estate near the very top of the charts. Co-founding Rhymesayers Entertainment in 1995, the group (which also included Spawn and Stress in the earliest days) has stayed true to the culture with their smooth beats and thoughtful, poetic rhymes. With their unique style and sound, Atmosphere put the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota on the map for Hip-Hop Heads. Outside of its critically-acclaimed music, the duo has done this in cultivating other local voices (Eyedea & Abilities, Brother Ali, dem atlas). Atmosphere’s sound has grown with the lives of Slug and Ant and the industry. The MC chronicled bar-hopping, botched romantic relationships, and the underground scene to evolve to perspectives as a proud father, a middle-aged B-Boy, and life’s simplest pleasures. Meanwhile, Ant moved away from 4-track sampling (Lucy Ford and God Loves Ugly) and into integrating a live band head for a non-genre-specific sound that is less volatile to lawsuits, given the squad’s success (When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Sh*t Gold and Southsiders). With eight albums, five EPs, and 13 coveted Sad Clown, Bad Dub collector series, Atmosphere is poised and prolific as they are poetic.
So who is the better Hip-Hop group? Make sure you vote above.