Finding The GOAT Group: A Tribe Called Quest vs. Souls Of Mischief. Who Is Better?
“Finding the GOAT Group,” the fourth installment of Ambrosia For Heads’s annual battle 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, 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 battle, 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 or those using the official hashtags on social media count.
The opening battle gets things started in a big way. A Tribe Called Quest faces off against former Jive Records label-mates, Souls Of Mischief. What’s the scenario when two Rap collectives step to each other in Round 1? Your vote says it all.
A Tribe Called Quest
A Tribe Called Quest stands tall as one of Hip-Hop’s most trusted and consistent sources of music. For nearly 20 years, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad (and sometimes Jarobi White) released six distinctly-themed albums and two handfuls of additional songs via soundtracks and Native Tongues features. In all of it, Tribe oozed originality. Lyrically, they covered unique and universally accessible subject matters with whimsically inventive rhyme routines. Songs about lust, resisting oppressive governments, and coping with stress were intermixed with elite Rap illustrations about collecting props and besting lesser MCs. In step with their song themes, the group was at the forefront of free-form sampling, eventually drawing extensively from Jazz in a way that re-purposed record crates for producers across the genre. Lou Reed, Funkadelic and Ramsey Lewis records were sliced precisely in a way that showed respect for musical forefathers, without relying on their grooves. The interplay with Tip and Phife epitomized chemistry with distinct voices and personality, as Ali spoke with crisp cuts. The Queens, New York collective produced its music, especially the biggest hits. Through the journey from teenagers, to proven Rap stars, and reunited family after an 18-year hiatus, Tribe was on a Quest to be something different in the musical space. All six LPs achieved gold or platinum status, with 2016’s We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service earning a #1 on the group’s final award tour. Having retired the group in the wake of Phife’s death, A.T.C.Q. is an immortal Hip-Hop brand that made the Rap group like its coolest in four different decades.
Souls Of Mischief
Opio, Tajai, Phesto, and A-Plus galvanized a sound and chemistry that showed another side of Bay Area living, apart from the pimping and hustling lifestyles glorified by label-mates Too Short and The Click. Part of the Hieroglyphics family, the Souls Of Mischief were second up to bat after with Del The Funky Homosapien. Without much of a set-up introduction before declaring that they were in the game from “93 ’til Infinity,” the group carved a distinct lane. After 25 years, no one can deny the claim from the Oakland, California quartet that eventually pivoted into solo work, along with hefty Hiero group roles. Especially on the group’s first two albums, it balanced didactic battle-barbed raps with weed-scented, Jazz-dripping cool-downs from the land of breezes and sunshine. Amidst a crowded collective, the four MCs drove their voices in ways that stood out, with individual aesthetics and contributions. In recent years, S.O.M. has tapped Prince Paul, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and others to provide its sound, but within (especially A-Plus and Opio), the group is gifted at concocting beats (structured around Jazz samples) that endure as much as the rhymes. Like so many meaningful Rap crews of the early 1990s, the Souls has proven to be a sum musically greater than its parts. A quarter of a century later, this quartet still records, tours, and chills together like they did when they were teenagers. The chemistry is palpable, and the song concepts show no limitations.