Finding The GOAT Group: Black Star vs. The Roots. 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.
Since the 1990s, Black Star and The Roots have been running in the same circles. These groups of artists are collaborators, former label-mates, and allies in the Soulquarians movement. Whereas Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli have one album and two handfuls of additional collaborations, The Roots crew has more than 11 group albums, and 181 songs by the official tracklist tally. One group has two full-time MCs, while another has one steadfast lyrical giant and some occasional relief on the m-i-c. Just as Black Star is currently making a rare and nostalgic run for its album’s 20th anniversary, The Roots play live on television sets five nights a week and have done so for years. Neither group is guaranteed a spot in the Elite 8, and this one will inevitably prompt debate. Make your voice heard by voting and discussing the reasoning for your choice.
Mos Def and Talib Kweli formed Black Star in the late 1990s, injecting Hip-Hop with socially conscious lyricism at a time when violence and materialism were prominent in the mainstream. They were a keystone of Rawkus Records’ influence on the underground, releasing their album Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star in 1998 before splitting off to build highly respected solo careers and release side projects over the next several years. Even as solo artists, they’ve still maintained that strong chemistry displayed on their first album whenever they collaborate. While their output as a group has been sparse over the years, opting for quality over quantity, the duo has announced that a second album may be in the works, with production from Madlib. Currently, Yasiin and Talib are waving the Black Star flag during performances to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their classic LP.
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.
So who is the better Hip-Hop group? Make sure you vote above.